Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's daily talking points are becoming increasingly delusional. Standing before foreign audiences and journalists he libels his political opponents as "radical extremists" who have stolen the Likud from him. Between attacking them personally and deriding Israel's democratic process generally Sharon found the time to launch a weird rhetorical offensive against Hamas.
In New York over the weekend the premier said that Israel would not facilitate the elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council in Judea and Samaria next January if Hamas participates in the poll – although he plans to do nothing in the face of Hamas's ascendancy in Gaza. Sharon argued that to be considered a legitimate political party Hamas would first have to disarm and amend its charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel.
This new plan makes sense on the face of it. After all, Hamas is a deadly terrorist organization and, as a US State Department spokesman noted, there is a "fundamental contradiction of groups wanting to keep one foot in the political process and one foot in the camp of terror."
The problem is that this fundamental contradiction describes not only Hamas but every Palestinian political party. Fatah is both the largest terrorist group and the ruling party in the Palestinian Authority. Indeed there are no Palestinian political parties of note that are not terrorist organizations. So why the sudden interest in Hamas?
If anyone had any hope that Sharon would stop appeasing Israel's enemies in the wake of the implementation of his withdrawal and expulsion plan from Gaza, his speech last Thursday at the UN, like his obscene attacks on his political opponents, show clearly that Sharon has no intention of stopping his appeasement bandwagon. If reelected he will make "painful concessions" in Judea and Samaria – meaning further land giveaways to Palestinian terrorists – just as he just did in Gaza.
For Sharon, then, Hamas is a convenient "enemy of peace." As opposed to Fatah, it has never tried to hide the fact that its goal is the liquidation of Israel or obfuscated its ties to state supporters of terrorism like Iran and Syria. For Sharon's campaign advisers, opposing Hamas's participation in the elections is an easy way to hide from Likud voters the fact that Sharon's entire policy is based on appeasing terrorists.
And look at what its implementation in Gaza has brought us. In the space of one week Gaza has been transformed into the largest, best-armed and best-financed terror base in the world.
THERE WERE two security justifications for Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. The first was that by retreating, Israel would be setting the conditions for forcing the Palestinians to fight on a conventional battlefield. The argument was that in Israel's absence, the Palestinians would be in charge of territory and any action against Israel from that territory would be seen by one and all as a clear act of aggression Israel would be perfectly justified in retaliating against.
Unfortunately, this is not true. Since Israel's retreat we see an exact reenactment along the border with Gaza of Hizbullah's strategy in south Lebanon. There, in the wake of Israel's retreat, Hizbullah deployed along the border as the Lebanese Army stood back. In Gaza, Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad have deployed their terrorists along the border and the PA militias have stood back.
And so the PA has set the conditions for plausible deniability. Mahmoud Abbas can simply say that his forces cannot control the terrorists.
Proponents of Israel's withdrawal also argued that by leaving Gaza, Israel would shorten its defensive lines. This has also worked out to be incorrect. Now, rather than securing the 240-km. border with Egypt by controlling Gaza, Israel has to control the entire border directly at the same time that its own border with Gaza remains breached.
Military sources say that building the infrastructure necessary to secure the border with Egypt from terrorist infiltrations will cost NIS 500 million. To date, the government has allocated nothing.
Aside from this, Gaza itself is becoming a strategic threat in a manner never seen before. In the space of one week, Gaza, with full Egyptian backing, has become the best armed terror base in the world.
The massive build-up in Gaza is – in a word – terrifying. In the one week since IDF forces left the area, thousands of tons of weaponry have been brought into the area. These weapons reportedly include Strella anti-aircraft missiles, Katyusha rockets, anti-tank missiles, hundreds of thousands of rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition.
The result of the massive build-up was evident at Hamas's parade in Gaza City on Sunday. The march of 10,000 uniformed, armed Hamas terrorists was the single largest Palestinian show of force ever. The PA itself has never mounted such a spectacle. Before Israel retreated, Hamas never had more than a few hundred armed terrorists marching in the streets.
And it is not just Hamas that is bringing in weapons. The PA is as well. And it is not just Hamas that is calling for a new round of war. Abbas and his associates have repeatedly threatened us that if the government does not withdraw from yet more areas of Judea and Samaria it will renew the fighting.
It is only a matter of time before an excuse is found to launch a new, even deadlier phase of their terror war.
FOR ITS part, Egypt is not the least embarrassed that it completely failed to secure its border with Gaza and has enabled more than 100,000 people to cross between Gaza and the Sinai – including terrorists from Sudan, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Syria. In fact, Egypt is demanding that Israel allow it to expand its role as mediator between the various Palestinian terror groups by having a military presence in Judea and Samaria.
Egypt's hutzpa is in keeping with the general international climate regarding the withdrawal from Gaza. Israel has received no support from anyone for its right to build in Judea and Samaria, or to secure borders. From Washington to London to Paris to Cairo, there is a consensus that the withdrawal and expulsion policy in Gaza was merely a first step to Israel's relinquishing of all the areas it liberated in 1967.
All this just shows that Israel is in serious trouble. Our borders are less secure than they have been since before the Six Day War. What can we do?
On a remedial level, the IDF has already begun shifting its forces to the Negev. This must be speeded up. Today, in the absence of a secure border perimeter, the only way to protect the Negev is to mass our forces along the border.
But more importantly, we need new elections. Sharon, who is the author of our current crisis, is so invested with the withdrawal and with advancing his platform of appeasement that there is next to no chance he will admit his mistake and take the necessary corrective action.
And even if Sharon were willing to admit he was wrong, his presence at the helm of the government prevents Israel from defending its need to change course to Washington.
Sharon sold his unilateral withdrawal and expulsion plan to a skeptical White House. But having bought into it, US President George W. Bush is now personally invested in the policy. He will not accept a retreat from this policy if asked to do so by Sharon – the man who got both Bush and Israel into this mess in the first place. Only a new leader not stained by this preordained disaster has a chance of turning his back on the avenue of appeasement.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.