Ignoring failure in Gaza

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Monday will mark the third anniversary of the forcible expulsion of the Jews of Gaza and northern Samaria from their homes. Those expulsions were followed weeks later by the withdrawal of IDF personnel from the Gaza Strip.

Unlike the Rabin-Peres government's decision to embark on the Oslo peace process with the PLO in 1993, Ariel Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza did not take years to be discredited. It took moments.

As the last IDF personnel left Gaza, the Palestinians began torching the synagogues Israel abandoned. Within minutes of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza's border with Egypt, the Palestinians blew up the border wall. They immediately began transferring unprecedented quantities of heavy weaponry into Gaza – a practice that has continued to this day.

Another important distinction between the Oslo policy and the withdrawal policy is that at least Oslo asked the Palestinians to give Israel something in exchange for the land, money, arms and political legitimacy Israel lavished on them. As events would show, Israel asked the Palestinians for too little. But at least Israel asked them for something. The withdrawal policy, in contrast, demanded nothing from the Palestinians. It was simply an unconditional surrender of land. As a result, Hamas — the terror group which has distinguished itself from Fatah by refusing to even pay lip service to peace — was the chief beneficiary of Israel's retreat.

The first harbingers of Hamas's ascendance to power came the day after Israel completed its withdrawal. Tens of thousands of armed Hamas terrorists, clad in spanking new uniforms, goose-stepped through the streets of Gaza in their victory parade. The then-ruling Fatah government's own parade was dingy and poorly attended in comparison.

Hamas's pageantry was followed with the jihadist group's decisive electoral victory over Fatah in January 2006. This led to the further weakening of Fatah in March 2007 with the signing of the Mecca accord that rendered Fatah a junior member of Hamas's ruling coalition. The Mecca accord also signaled a shift in the Arab world's sympathies from Fatah to Hamas. That agreement then paved the way for Hamas's violent ouster of Fatah forces from Gaza in June 2007 and its rising challenge to Fatah's leadership in Judea and Samaria.

It should be pointed out that Hamas's victory over Fatah was not a victory of extremists over moderates in any real sense of the terms. Both Hamas and Fatah share the aim of destroying Israel. This was made clear most recently in the lead-up to the Annapolis conference last November. As US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the coming of peace, Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas refused to recognize Israel's right to exist.

Moreover, there is little to distinguish between the groups' embrace of terrorism as a means of achieving their aim of destroying Israel. Fatah forces have carried out more attacks against Israel than Hamas has.

Hamas's refusal to even pretend that it is willing to live at peace with Israel is what distinguishes it from Fatah. And the Palestinians' embrace of Hamas after Israel withdrew from Gaza demonstrated that the withdrawal increased the popularity of the prospect of continuous war against Israel among the Palestinians.

Hamas's rise to power has changed the nature of the Palestinian conflict with Israel in a fundamental way. It is not simply that Hamas has abandoned the rhetoric of Arab nationalism for the rhetoric of Islamic jihad and so changed the nature of the Palestinian war from a limited struggle to an unlimited war for Islamic domination.

Unlike Fatah, which was beholden to several Islamic countries at once, Hamas is a wholly-owned Iranian proxy. Consequently Gaza, like Lebanon, has become an Iranian colony. And as Hamas's star rises in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and within the Israeli Arab community, Iran's influence over events in those quarters rises. This was made clear this week with the revelation that Khaled Kashkoush, an Israeli Arab from Kalansuwa, last month became the latest Israeli Arab arrested for spying for Hizbullah.

GIVEN THE absolute, obvious failure of the Gaza withdrawal, what is most distressing about the initiative is that three years on, Israeli society has managed not to discuss why it failed or to learn the lessons stemming from its failure. There has been no chastening of the political leaders involved. No heads have rolled. There has been no official inquiry into how decisions regarding the withdrawal were made. Indeed, many of the plan's chief proponents have prospered.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert succeeded Sharon to power due in large part to his support for the plan. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni built her entire political career on her role as one of the architects of the expulsion of Israeli civilians from their homes. And today she is the frontrunner to succeed Olmert as head of Kadima and replace him as prime minister until the next elections are held. Her chief opponent, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, was defense minister during the operation and an active participant in implementing the ill-conceived initiative.

In contrast, those who opposed the withdrawal remain in the opposition. They are never recognized for their attempts to divert their country from this disastrous course. Indeed, they continue to be castigated as somehow extremist for the fact that they oppose basing Israel's national strategies on capitulation and faith in other people's willingness to defend us.

There are three main reasons that there has never been an accounting for the failure of the withdrawal from Gaza. The first reason is luck. Sharon got "lucky." He was felled by a debilitating stroke and slipped into a coma before the dimensions of the failure of his most significant policy became widely understood.

Since Sharon pushed the withdrawal plan through against the wishes of his government colleagues, his voters and his party by turning the plan into a popularity contest that pit himself against his opponents, once he was gone, there was no way to hold him to account. And his incapacitation itself made discussing the failure of the withdrawal somehow unseemly. After all, it was said, the poor man can no longer defend himself, how dare you add insult to injury by noting that his most significant action while in power imperiled the country? In this manner, not only Sharon, but all his supporters in his government, were immunized from criticism and the need to account for their strategic imbecility.

Israel is presented with a similar situation today with Olmert. Like Sharon, Olmert has not had to face the voters to account for his failures in the Second Lebanon War; for his refusal to act against Hamas's Iranian-backed regime in Gaza; or for his apparent willingness to expand on those failures by seeking to withdraw from Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and so enable Iranian proxies to surround Israel on all sides.

And now, with his announcement that he will leave office not for his substantive incompetence but for his suspected criminal activities, Olmert has removed the substantive causes of his failure in office from the national agenda. In so doing, he has immunized his cohorts, and particularly Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, from the need to account for their continued strategic imbecility.

IT IS the Olmert-Livni-Barak government's serial incompetence that ironically serves as the second reason that there has been no accounting for the failure of the Gaza withdrawal plan. Quite simply, the government has moved from failure to failure so quickly that there has been no opportunity to confront the results of the last failure before the next one is spun out of the government's policy chop
-shop.

The most recent example of this high-speed bungling is the government's penchant for releasing terrorists from prison. The public has scarcely had a chance to digest the colossal stupidity and inherent danger of the government's terrorists-for-dead-hostages swap with Hizbullah last month. No serious review of that policy – which enhanced Hizbullah's popularity sufficiently to compel the Lebanese government to formally accept its right to attack Israel at will – has been conducted. And already on Wednesday, fresh from that failure, Olmert announced his intention to expand it by releasing another 150 terrorists from prison by the end of the month.

THE FINAL reason that the failed Gaza withdrawal has not led to any change in either the public discourse or in the general tenor and direction of government policy is because of the debilitating impact the withdrawal had on Israeli democracy. In order to build the public's support for his inhumane and strategically irredeemable decision to expel 10,000 Jews from their homes and destroy their communities in Gaza and northern Samaria in exchange for nothing, Sharon and his colleagues worked systematically to demoralize, disenfranchise and criminalize his political opponents.

He demoralized them by castigating them as criminals, extremists and enemies of the people in general. He disenfranchised them by ignoring the results of the Likud's referendum on his plan that he himself initiated.

In all his activities, Sharon received crucial assistance from the law enforcement system and the media which were themselves corrupted by his plan. As Ha'aretz's left-wing military commentator Amir Oren noted five months after the plan was carried out, Sharon was given a free ride by Israel's elites due to their common "hatred of the settlers."

To enable Sharon to carry out the expulsions they so desired, the state prosecution, backed by the Supreme Court, was willing to close corruption probes of Sharon. As retired Supreme Court justice Michel Cheshin explained, "If Sharon had stood trial, there would have been no disengagement."

More egregiously, as public protests against the withdrawal gained force, Israel's law enforcement system became a tool of political repression, and the media became apologists for that repression. The police conducted mass arrests of law-abiding demonstrators, used brutal force against them and suspended the civil rights of opponents of the plan. The state prosecution and the courts sent thousands of protesters – including children – to jail for weeks and months without filing charges against them.

Then too, Sharon's personalization of the withdrawal distorted the country's public discourse by moving it from substantive discussions of government policies to superficial discussions of personalities. And this transformation has remained in effect until today. It was most recently in evidence in the media's rendering of the debate over the terrorists-for-dead-hostages swap as the personal struggle of the Goldwasser and Regev families against the government.

Sharon's successful repression and castigation of his opponents, and Olmert's successful repetition of Sharon's behavior both in the brutal repression of demonstrators at Amona in February 2006 and in his dismissive attitude towards the protest movement in the wake of the Second Lebanon War, have imbued the public as a whole with a sense of powerlessness. This sense manifested itself with the historically low voter turnout in the 2006 elections.

Israel's prolonged failure to reckon with the disastrous outcome of the Gaza withdrawal bodes ill for the country's prospects. Until the country reckons with the mistakes that led to that withdrawal, and forces those responsible to account for their failings, we will be doomed to repeat those mistakes with those same incompetents leading us over and over and over.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post

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10 Comments

  • leib ben yisrael 08/08/2008 at 17:24

    internationally strategic errors continue with Peres’ praise of China and his downgrading China’s military threat. It was reminiscent of his July 1994 speech to Jewish educators in Jerusalem where he said that the collapse of the Soviet Union has made previous strategies irrelevant. This led to the justification for Oslo as if Soviet clients were no longer connected to Moscow and as if Moscow no longer was a threat to Israel and the West. Yet Russia’s role in arming Iran and Syria and supporting Hamas and Fatah and entering Lebanon and Gaza with troops or security forces as Caroline Glick has reported shows how wrong at all levels the policy of strategic retreat and the air brushing of our enemies is.

    Reply
  • Marcel Cousineau 08/08/2008 at 17:56

    An otherwise gret article except you ignored the elephant in the living room.
    ‘the withdrawl policy’ You’re kidding right ?
    Did you forget about the R-O-A-D M-A-P,the personal vision of President Bush, his own dream of a shrunken, carved up Israel for his Palestinian state in the heart of the Jewish state ?
    The reason P.M. Sharon drove fellow Jews from their land and homes in Gaza and how Hamas created an Iranian foothold next to Israel ,or did you forget the big picture ?
    Why are you so fearful to call it what it is ,the ROAD MAP,a personal dream of President Bush ,his own 23 rd Islamic terrorist state on land ethnically cleansed of every last Jew all with the help of his latest crop of willing Kapo’s ?
    Not even a mere mention of the real problem ,just targeting low level kapos who are just following orders ,why ?
    As with the Third Reich of Hitler’s Germany ,
    If you only focus on the eager,willing Jewish kapo’s like Sharon,Olmert,Barak,Livni,Mofaz and Netanyahu, and ignore the Dreamer ,Herr Bush you will never end this nightmare 2 state final solution that is the real problem,and that’s all you’re doing Caroline.
    Targeting the low level conspiratorial exterminators of Israel and giving the planner a pass. You have to go after the head not just the low level general’s and assorted replaceable poodle’s or his secretary Rice.
    get a backbone and face reality.
    It’s the Road Map stupid !

    Reply
  • Marc Handelsman, USA 08/08/2008 at 18:39

    There is another reason why there hasn’t been an accounting for the Gaza withdrawal debacle, and that is because it wasn’t a big enough failure. When the government begins to force Jews from large parts of Yesha, and Hamas fills the vacuum with Iranian-made missiles, then it will be too late. The final reckoning may happen after Hamas jihadists shell Jerusalem. The current cycle of governmental incompetence will continue until the Likud Party retakes the premiership. And if a trend of low voter turnout continues, then shame on the electorate.

    Reply
  • Sashland 08/08/2008 at 21:27

    Seems like most analysts miss what I think was one of Sharon’s core goals: prepare Gaza as a battlefield that did not have Israelis in the crossfire. Attacks on Israel can no longer be justified by “occupation”. Would Sharon have used the same tepid responses to the Hamas’s militarization of Gaza and continued attacks? Hard to blame Sharon when the current leadership is hesitant and lacks vision. Do any others think that Sharon had something very different in mind?

    Reply
  • Motty Perel 08/09/2008 at 5:24

    Today’s comments help to clarify the Gaza fiasco. We can only guess Sharon’s intentions. As Sachland says, maybe he intended indeed to remove Jews away from the crossfire when the IDF unnihilates the Gaza population after Hamas’s expected provocation.
    Marcel Cousineau is right too: the planner of Israeli annihilation is Herr Bush with his eager Frau Rice. Nonetheless, were the Israeli nation active and united, and determined to survive without relying on miracles (which did not come true more than once), it could get rid of the incompetent kapos and install leaders like Moshe Feiglin.

    Reply
  • Timothy Kriete For Israel FOREVER AMEN 08/09/2008 at 7:27

    Dear Caroline Glick My Precious Sister;
    PLEASE POST THIS SO THERE IS NO MISTAKE THAT YOU
    DO HAVE A BROTHER IN INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA IN
    THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA WHOM WOULD GLADLY
    GIVE HIS LIFE TO PROTECT YOURSELF OR ANY OTHER
    ISRAELITE OR JEWISH PERSON WORLD WIDE Isaiah
    54:17 & Isaiah 59:19 Praise The LORD Our God
    Of Abraham,Issac,And Jacob (Israel) AMEN :):):)
    PLEASE Do NOT Stop Blowing The Shofar FOR ZION’S
    SAKE (ISAIAH 62 AMEN). I Pray You Forgive The
    FOOLISH COWARDS (Looking At Marcel Cousineau)
    For Their Cowardly Attempts, FAILED ATTEMPTS
    TO ANYONE WITH HALF A BRAIN AND MORAL COURAGE,
    At Placing Blame AT YOUR FEET, Or Throwing Their
    Pebbles AT YOU Sis. Caroline STAY STRONG AND
    IGNORE THE COWARDLY FOOLS WHOM TRULY ARE NOT
    WORTHY TO WASH YOUR FEET AND THAT IS A FACT!
    I Forgive Everyone That Has Anything Against Me,
    And I Ask The LORD Our God To Forgive Them, And
    Bless Them AMEN. I Am Wondering, Is It TRUTH
    That Marcel Cousineau Is A Trojan Horse At Heart
    And Thus Covets The Evil Of A Islamic FOOLISH
    Cowardly Woman Abusing Muslim AT HEART??? Just
    A Question But A SINCERE QUESTION MY DEAR Sister
    Because This Bozo The Clown Seems To Blame You
    For What Everyone Else Does, Or Fails To Do
    AMEN. STAY STRONG BABY GIRL AND LET EVERY BOZO
    THE CLOWN ON EARTH STONE ME OR BEHEAD ME IF THEY
    HAVE THE COURAGE TO TRY IT BUT BE A MAN AND STOP
    BLAMING CAROLINE GLICK FOR WHAT ANYONE ELSE HAS
    DONE, IT IS ABOUT THE KINDOM OF HEAVEN MARCEL!!!
    Now If You Have Any Courage Come And Stone Me
    Marcel But Attacking Caroline Glick Makes You
    Seem As You Support Islamic Oppression Of Women.
    Shame, Shame, Shame On Marcel Cousineau For
    Being A COWARDLY FOOL AND FOR NOT HAVING THE
    MORAL COURAGE TO SERVE ISRAEL AS CAROLINE GLICK
    HAS, BOO IF YOU WANT Marcel Cousineau BUT YOUR
    SINS SHALL SURELY FIND YOU OUT BOZO, TOUCH NOT
    GOD’S ANNOITED, THAT IS CAROLINE GLICK THERE BOY
    GET A CLUE!!! God Bless YOU ALL Is My Eternal
    Prayer, Stay Strong Caroline Glick My Precious
    Sister FOR ZION’S SAKE NEVER BE SILENT AMEN 🙂

    Reply
  • Marcel Cousineau 08/09/2008 at 14:11

    ‘Do any others think that Sharon had something very different in mind?’
    Olmert was handpicked by Sharon and placed at the top of Kadima. Sharon decided to become Bush’s kapo,lacky and implement his nightmare vision rather than stand. Lackys and Kapo’s have no more fight left in them as they have surrendered.
    Isn’t this the only thing Kadima has done since they gained power ?
    The party of surrender is the party of Sharon.
    ‘Ignoring Mr. Road Map’s failure in Georgia’
    Another wake up call for Israel as they see the U.S. talk and do nothing more with Georgia and Russia’s brutal agression.
    I’m sure Poland and the Czech Republic are watching nervously as they have stuck their necks out for the Empire and it’s missile interceptors and radar.
    Latvia and Lithuiania are now more acutely aware of how far they are permitted to stray from their place.
    In the drunken stupor of Bush’s fantasy democracy heydays they all thought they were free and that their false mesiah would rescue them from the big bad bear.
    But all they will get are the standard Bush disappointment speech.
    The extended leash has been shortened.
    Israel has to be wonder if their Slavemaster Bush would come to Israel’s aid or do what America has always done when it comes to Israel and the sacrificial Jews ?

    Reply
  • Timothy Kriete For Israel FOREVER AMEN 08/09/2008 at 18:00

    Dear Caroline My Precious Sister AMEN;
    Sis Can You Please Also Post This So Marcel
    Knows That I Don’t Hate Him But I Might Be
    Forced To Meet Him In A Time & Place
    VERY GOOD BOZO THE CLOWN MARCEL COUSINEAU KEEP
    ATTACKING A MAN, EVEN THE MAN IN THE COMA, BUT
    STOP BEING A FOOLISH COWARD AND ROCK WITH LIPS
    BY ATTACKING A WOMAN NAMED CAROLINE GLICK WHOM
    HAS MORE MORAL COURAGE IN THE TIP OF HER PINKY
    FINGER THAN YOU DO IN YOUR ENTIRE BODY BOZO!!!
    BY THE WAY MARCEL COUSINEAU THE INVITATION
    STANDS, COME AND CALL ME NAMES IF YOU HAVE ANY
    COURAGE, AT LEAST CAROLINE WOULD DO THAT MUCH.
    SORT OF GIVES YOU A SENSE OF WHOM YOU TRULY ARE
    THERE HUH BOZO??? I Have Absolutely NO Doubt If
    Caroline Glick Had Something To Say To Me She
    Would Surely Do It. I Am Still Waiting To Know
    If You Have Ever Been To Israel At Any Point In
    Your Entire Life MARCEL??? If NOT, This Makes
    You A Cowardly FOOL Whom Does Not Have The Moral
    Courage To Even Go On Pilgrimage To Jerusalem,
    THE CITY WHERE EMPIRES DIE. Nice And Courageous
    Of You To Throw Your Tiny Pebbles At People When
    You May Not Even Possess The Courage To Do The
    Things They Do ON A DAILY BASIS SUCH AS MY BOLD
    PRECIOUS COURAGEOUS SISTER CAROLINE GLICK MARCEL
    COUSINEAU!!! Pick On President Bush, He Is A
    Grown Man He Can Handle Your Pebbles And What
    You Write About Him May Very Well Be Totally
    ACCURATE, I Trust In The LORD Our God And Lean
    NOT Upon My Own Understand (Proverbs 3:1-12),
    You Seem To Like To Quote The WORD Of God, Why
    NOT Be A Doer Of The WORD Of God, Not Just Pay
    Lip Service Or “Finger Service”. By The Way, I
    LOVE Everyone, Jew & Gentile, Man And Woman,
    Free And Slave, Or Whatever. I Pray For YOU
    ALL Daily, So My Love And Prayers To The LORD
    Our God On Everyone’s Behalf You Can Do Nothing
    About It. STAY STRONG CAROLINE GLICK AND LET
    NO PERSON STOP YOU FROM DOING WHAT YOU WERE
    CALLED BY THE LORD OUR GOD TO DO, KEEP BLOWING
    THAT SHOFAR FOR ZION’S SAKE SIS, THY ETERNAL
    SERVANT AND BROTHER FOREVER MORE FOR ZION’S
    SAKE Timothy Kriete, Please Post This Also If
    You Would Sis, Thanks And God Bless You And Keep
    YOU ALL Is My Eternal Prayer AMEN. Numbers 6:24-
    27, Habakkuk 2:1-3, Genesis And Zechariah 12:1-3

    Reply
  • Marcel Cousineau 08/10/2008 at 15:23

    The Pipeline War: Russian bear goes for West’s jugular(dailymail.uk)
    ‘The White House warned Russia to halt its attacks on Georgia or risk “significant” and enduring damage to its relationship with the United States.’ (Jerusalem Post)
    That’s the big threat from the leader of the so called superpower and the so called free world to the Bear today.
    Does anyone with a brain really think Russia cares anything about a relationship with an economically bankrupt and militarily over-extended United States ?
    I think the Russian’s have seen it’s their time to make their move.They are stronger and we are weaker with leaders like Bush who if they are not delusional suffer from Sarkozyitis.
    The West is dead asleep and like a deer in the headlights unable to move as the Russian tanks head for them.
    He who controls energy controls Europe,the West and the World.
    Europe is at Russia’s mercy and will do like President Bush,cry empty words of disapproval.
    What is important to keep in mind here is the collapse of the dreamer Bush and his agenda.
    He and the E.U. got the Bear up on it’s western side when they helped steal Kosovo from the Serbian Christian’s and give it to the Albanian Moslems. (Daniel 7:5)
    Then Bush decided to place interceptor missiles in the Czech Republic and the Radar in Poland.
    That would be like Russia doing the same thing in Mexico directed against the U.S.
    Anyone with half a brain could see what was coming with Bush’s messianic delusion.
    His false peace Road Map to divide Israel has brought God’s curse on him ,Genesis 12:3,
    and Zechariah 12:3 ,the cut in pieces promise to any so foolish to ‘mess’ with Israel as he has done.
    This biblically points to the coming and much great catastrophe awaiting him,the U.S. and all the naive,deceived Christians who loved their lord wolf in sheep’s costume and stood by him.
    (exerpt from pipeline link above)
    The Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he witnessed a heated discussion between the two leaders.
    ‘The President and Mr Putin were in an animated conversation two seats in front of us and I imagine they had a few things on their agenda,’ he said. ….
    The greatest mismatch in history of war
    Georgia’s war with Russia is a David and Goliath battle that, military experts say, the Black Sea state has no chance of winning.
    The Georgians are outnumbered and outgunned in every department. Russia has about 697,000 troops, while Georgia has only 19,500 full-time regulars.
    And with Russia’s 1,200 combat aircraft confronting Georgia’s seven outmoded support planes, and 6,000 tanks against 100 ageing machines, there is no contest.
    Matthew Clements, Eurasia editor for Jane’s Defence journal, said last night: ‘The Georgian military cannot withstand a full Russian assault.
    ‘The Russians have total air superiority and their coordinated operation gives the Georgians no chance of resisting.’

    Reply
  • Kenny Lerner 08/11/2008 at 22:04

    Dear Ms.Glick,
    I think there is a fourth reason that there has never been an accounting for the failure of the Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.It is a big omission that you do not criticize the ineffective leader of the opposition, namely Binyamin Netanyahu.Netanyahu was Treasury Secretary under Sharon. Netanyahu could have resigned before the budet was passed and with his supporters in Likud, brought down the Sharon Government before the Disengagement. Netanyahu stayed, he postured, and he gave ultimatims, and then backed down.Even today,Netanyahu, as head of Likud has been mute. His silence is deafening.You are articulating clearly and morally the outrage we feel over the Olmert-Barak-Livni incompetence and selfishness. There objective is to keep in power and avoid a general election at all costs.We have political Chullent,and it it over cooked and dried out.G-d help us.

    Reply

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