Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lifting an Extremist Stone to Drop on One's Own Foot

To understand how hardline Israeli policies are self-defeating, you simply must read the details in this hard-hitting, taboo-breaking Israeli review in Haaretz by Nehemia Shtrasler of the last four years of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict:

Analysis / Israel wrecked Arafat, crowned Hamas, and gave birth to Al-Qaida in Gaza

Shtrasler's key analysis for an international audience:

This week marked four years since the Gaza disengagement, and it seems that the Strip is becoming increasingly radical - that peace is more distant and the settlers who were removed from the enclave are more embittered. Did Ariel Sharon and the majority of the Israeli public that supported the move make a bad deal? …
The evacuation could have been handled differently. It could have been used to enhance the status of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but Sharon didn't agree to speak with him. He didn't allow Abbas to gain any advantage from it and carried out the evacuation in an arrogant and unilateral manner, even though Abbas is the most moderate Palestinian leader ever.

At a meeting of the Kadima party leadership a few months after the disengagement, Sharon confidant Dov Weissglas said: "We will put the Palestinians on a diet, but not make them die of hunger." Everyone present burst into laughter. But when the Palestinians discovered that Abbas hadn't managed to ease the suffering and that there was no chance of a normal life on the horizon, they opted for a more extreme leadership - Hamas.

During the entire period of our rule in the territories, we have destroyed the existing leadership, which led to the rise of more extreme leaders. We destroyed the Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat, who had agreed to a two-state solution and was capable of "delivering the goods." And we brought about Hamas' seizure of the Gaza Strip. Now we are cultivating the third stage: Al-Qaida.

That's because on our side people don't want to understand that when the oppression increases and there is nothing to lose, the adversary doesn't surrender and grovel. Just the opposite. He becomes more radical. Hate wins out and the desire for revenge becomes the only hope. So when poverty in Gaza increases and unemployment is on the rise, Al-Qaida will take control. It will happen either in a coup or through elections, and we will long for that terrible Hamas.

The Gaza withdrawal was the right decision. It relieved us of a huge burden and could have been a significant step leading to a permanent peace agreement. But the withdrawal was wasted because we carried it out negligently and poorly. But maybe all this was planned in advance, because when Al-Qaida people from Pakistan and Afghanistan take over Gaza, we will be able to say with full confidence that there is no one to talk to. Then we can live by the sword until the end of days, because, in the words attributed to early Zionist leader Yosef Trumpeldor, "it's good to die for our country."
The parallels between Israeli policy toward Palestine and Israeli policy toward Iran are mind-boggling: the empowerment of extremism blindly used to justify more of the same in an endless insistence on lifting stones and dropping them on one's own feet.

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