Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Why didn't Disengagement from Gaza work?

As the war in Gaza moves to the conclusion of its fifth day... as thousands of Kassam rockets, as well as Katyusha and Grad rockets, have rained down on Israel since the 2005 disengagement... as the government of Gaza continues to refuse to recognize Israel (as anything other than a target)... I think it's fair to say that Ariel Sharon's Disengagement plan failed.

Why did it fail? Here's a column I published in the Allentown Morning Call in 2005, when Disengagement was just a plan on the drawing board.

In the column I tried to be very balanced:
I didn't assume that anyone's intentions were evil.
I didn't talk about the horror of evicting thousands of families from their homes.
I credited the Palestinians for everything they claimed to be doing, whether I could verify that it was true or not.
In short, I tried to judge the Disengagement plan not from the perspective of a Jew, but from an independent perspective, as though I were the mythical creature known as the unbiased European.

I concluded that any successful peace plan would require:
1) Cooperative governments;
2) Democratic approval by the populations involved;
3) Impartial international support.

Disengagement went 0 for 3, and we can see the results for ourselves.

Here's the column:

Middle East peace process repeats Oslo's failures
Albert Einstein is reputed to have defined Insanity as doing the same thing multiple times but expecting different results. So, I must ask: Does the current round of the Israel-Arab peace process, as a repeat of 1990s' Oslo peace process, fit Einstein's criterion?

Experience teaches that a viable peace process must be supported by three components:

1. Cooperative governments;
2. Democratic approval by all affected populations; and
3. Impartial international support.

None of these components was present for Oslo. Yasser Arafat frequently declared that peace would only be a stepping-stone to a Greater Palestine. There was no democratic approval; Israeli citizens were never permitted to vote on any of their government's offers of land and money, and Palestinian Arabs never voted to approve any changes in their national approach toward Israel. The international community certainly was not impartial; European governments, left-wing Americans and the United Nations perennially insisted that the entire fault for the crisis lay with Israel. The result was seven years of falsely raised hopes, and the past four years of bloody war in Israel. Thousands have been killed, the price of a sloppily arranged ''peace coup.'' Have things changed, or are we madly pursuing the path of ruin again?

There is evidence to support a sunny view. There are signs of a cooperative government on the Palestinian Arab side. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has made concrete moves in the right direction, such as reducing the anti-Israel venom on Palestinian airwaves, and cutting back financial support of terrorist groups.

Israel's government also seems bent on proceeding. It has committed to withdraw from land it viewed in the past as needed for security, and it is refraining from responding to terrorist attacks with military force.

We are a long away from democratic approval on either side, though. True, the process has been more open and transparent than Oslo — which was negotatiated out of the public eye by Shimon Peres and Palestinian Arabs — but neither population has been democratically consulted.

Polls continue to show that the majority of Palestinian Arabs are not committed to any process unless they receive certain demands that Israel has already declared to be off the table — such as resettlement of the extended families of every Arab who ever lived in Israel before 1948.

On the Israeli side, the government has refused to allow a national referendum on whether to transfer Israeli families out of their homes in Gaza. The implications of this move are enormous. Israelis do not have the option of remaining in their homes, so that Gaza will be the only place in the world that is fully judenrein, Jew-free. We wouldn't tolerate that in America, we would file angry protests if it were in Europe, we would rage at it in Saudi Arabia, but Israel is about to engineer this situation itself, willingly, without allowing its population to vote; the needed democratic element isn't there yet.

For the third pillar, the international community, led by the United Nations, is still not involved in an unbiased way. Just last week, the U.N. Security Council took the nearly unprecedented step of condemning the murder of five Israelis — but refused to include the name of the Arab group that carried out the attack, even though the group, Islamic Jihad, actually took credit for the bloody murder.

Similarly, England was host to a March 1 conference, ''The London Meeting on Supporting the Palestinian Authority,'' and even before the conference began the British had decided that the convention's final statement would not mention any obligation by a Palestinian government to prevent attacks on Israelis.

The media are equally to blame, for they sketch an unbalanced portrait of events. One of the catalysts of the war carried on against Israel these past four years was the shooting of 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura during a firefight between terrorists and Israeli soldiers in September of 2000. A French cameraman had shot video purporting to show that Israelis shot the boy in cold blood; the pictures were published worldwide, including in The Morning Call. The boy's death became a cause celebré. Both the French paper Le Figaro and The Atlantic Monthly belatedly concluded that the boy was shot by Arab terrorists, but other news outlets, including The Morning Call, have not reported the corrected story.

To term this round of the Israeli-Arab peace process ''insane'' would be premature; there is time, yet, for improvement. But until we see a process between cooperative governments, with democratically involved populations, supported by an unbiased world, we are doomed to a repeat of Oslo's bloody disaster.

And so, here we are...

[For the record: I was hotly criticized by another rabbi, in a Letter to the Editor, for using the term judenrein. But if the shoe fits!]


  1. I'm trying very hard to keep my cool about the reporting of the current war, but have to keep turning off the radio because it disturbs the toddler when i yell at it.

    Arg. And I'm listening to NPR.

  2. Well, there's the problem, Tzipporah. Turn off NPR - problem solved. Works for me every time.

    I don't think NPR is evil, but it is irresponsibly naive. They are knee-jerk for the underdog, and they rarely take the time to analyze who, exactly, is the underdog.

  3. Rabbi, this is a reaction to your wonderful new posting above, about what Jews in exile can do to support Israel. If one would read my previous comments and your replies, they might conclude I'm sort of a right winger, out of tune with more sophisticated thinking. What Jew or person of books could support Bush and even Palin? In your new post you use the term "disproportionate response." This buzz phrase comes from the liberal media, which steered the Jewish vote in November. Those who thought Tina Frey's impersonation of Palin was to die for, who think John Haage is a fat moron, have put their intellectual ego ahead of what's best for Israel. I'm commenting on this posting, because my intention is not to take issue with your new posting, which i thoroughly enjoyed. as they used to say in the mission impossible tv show, feel free to delete this comment if too offensive.