The Right Coast

May 03, 2004
Likud Shoots Itself and Israel in the Foot
By Mike Rappaport

The news from Israel is unfortunately not good. The Likud rejection of the withdrawal from Gaza puts a serious monkey wrench in the works of Sharon's, in my opinion, masterful disengagement plan. The opponents of the Gaza withdrawal had two main arguments. One was simply that they believe Israel should continue to control all of the occupied land -- not only the West Bank, but also Gaza. The second argument, which appears to have been the main public argument of the opponents of the plan, was that it was a bad idea to withdraw from Gaza in the face of terrorism.

These arguments don't work, especially given the enormous benefits that the overall disengagement plan (including the security fence and the United States support for the plan) was likely to produce. Gaza simply does Israel little good, and its population is virtually all Palestinian. It will be much easier for Israel to defend itself once it gives up the settlements there. The second argument needs to be taken seriously, but it is only part of the story. When Ehud Barak withdrew from Lebanon, it invigorated Israel's opponents, but a big part of the reason was the way Barak withdrew -- abandoning Israel's supporters in the area and appearing to leave out of weakness. By contrast, Sharon has made every effort to leave Gaza in strength -- much as Michael Corleone left New York at the end of the Godfather -- killing two leaders of Hamas in a single month. In my view, it was not likely that the Palestinians would have viewed Israel's withdrawal as an act of weakness. They understood, as do the great majority of Israelis, that the overall disengagement plan would leave Israel far better off.