When people accuse Israel of being an apartheid state, they ahve got it just backwards. The Palestinians are the ones who are using ethinic hatred and religious bigotry to make it immpossible for a pluralistic society to exist in their area.
What does one say to a good ally who seems determined to reinforce failure? That the U.S. will pay for the undertaking?
Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was in Washington last week, where he asked for advice and assistance in financing the withdrawal of 50,000 to 100,000 Israeli settlers from 90% to 95% of the West Bank and major portions of Jerusalem, and for the Israel Defense Forces to be repositioned largely near the security barrier Israel is constructing. Most Americans are inclined to believe that such disengagement may be a reasonable step toward a two-state solution, even if some territorial disputes remain to be negotiated. It is also widely assumed that Palestinian hostility to Israel is fueled by despair that can only be reduced by Israeli concessions. Both assumptions, however, may be fundamentally flawed.
The approach Israel is preparing to take in the West Bank was tried in Gaza and has failed utterly. The Israeli withdrawal of last year has produced the worst set of results imaginable: a heavy presence by al Qaeda, Hezbollah and even some Iranian Revolutionary Guard units; street fighting between Hamas and Fatah, and now Hamas assassination attempts against Fatah's intelligence chief and Jordan's ambassador; rocket and mortar attacks against nearby towns inside Israel; and a perceived vindication for Hamas, which took credit for the withdrawal. This latter almost certainly contributed substantially to Hamas's victory in the Palestinian elections.
The world now needs to figure out how to keep Palestinians from starving without giving funds to a Hamas government in Gaza resolutely focused on destroying Israel. Before his massive stroke last year, Ariel Sharon repeatedly said he would not replay the Gaza retreat in the West Bank. With good reason: Creating a West Bank that looks like today's Gaza would be many times the nightmare. How would one deal with continuing launches of rockets and mortars from the West Bank into virtually all of Israel? (Israel's Arrow missile defense will probably work against Iranian medium-range ballistic missiles but not against the much shorter-range Katyushas.) A security barrier does no good against such bombardment. The experience in Gaza, further, has shown the difficulty of defending against such attacks after the IDF boots on the ground have departed. Effective, prompt retaliation from the air is hard to imagine if the mortar rounds and Katyushas are being launched, as they will be, from schools, hospitals and mosques.
Israel is not the only pro-Western country that would be threatened. How does moderate Jordan, with its Palestinian majority, survive if bordered by a West Bank terrorist state? Israeli concessions will also make the U.S. look weak, because it will be inferred that we have urged them, and will suggest that we are reverting to earlier behavior patterns--fleeing Lebanon in 1983, acquiescing in Saddam's destruction of the Kurdish and Shiite rebels in 1991, fleeing Somalia in 1993, etc.
Someday a two-state solution may become possible, but it is naive in the extreme to believe that this can occur while the centerpiece of the radical Islamic and Palestinian agendas is maximizing Jewish deaths. A durable compromise will be achievable only when we no longer, to borrow from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "define deviancy down" for the Palestinians.
Today we cannot envision the 250,000 Jewish settlers who live outside Israel's pre-1967 borders being permitted to live at all, much less live free and unmolested, in a West-Bank-Gaza Palestinian state. But some 1.2 million Arabs, almost all Muslim, today live in Israel in peace among some five million Jews--about double the percentage of Jews now in the West Bank as a share of the Muslim population there. Israel's Arab citizens worship freely--one hears muezzins calling the faithful to prayer as one walks around Tel Aviv. They vote in free elections for their own representatives in a real legislature, the Knesset. They give every evidence that they prefer being Arab Israelis to living in the chaos and uncertainty of a West Bank after Israeli withdrawal.
A two-state solution can become a reality when the Palestinians are held to the same standards as Israelis--to the requirement that Jewish settlers in a West Bank-Gaza Palestinian state would be treated with the same decency that Israel treats its Arab citizens. Until then, three failures in 13 years should permit us to evaluate the wisdom of further concessions.