Rabbi Moshe Reiss
Stories #11 – September 24, Winners and Losers
Who Won and Who Lost in the Gaza Disengagement?
Israel won the second intifada and consequently could afford to
disengage from Gaza. The past nine months have seen a radical reduction
in Palestinian violence. It is not unrelated to Arafat’s death and
Abbas election. The IDF and Israel Police emerged from the withdrawal
operation itself as winners in Israeli and International eyes. The
State of Israel has also proved it can limit the power of its own
fundamentalist messianists with their Land over the State thesis.
Israel also won the first stage for its own democracy by defeating the
first stage of is demographic context.
Most people seem to think the Palestinians were rewarded for terrorism;
I believe the Palestinians were rewarded as a result of their failure
to win their Jihad. Mahmoud Abbas fought against the war and considered
it destructive to the Palestinian statehood was elected on that basis.
He was rewarded. Hamas claims that the disengagement was a reward to
their Jihad. That Hamas lost is clear, there leadership; spiritual and
operational have been highly diminished although not destroyed.
How many Palestinians understand that Hamas lost I do not know.
Hizbollah believed that it won when the Israeli armed forces left
Lebanon in disarray. Did they? (Thanks to Abbas the IDF did not leave
Gaza in disarray but in great order.) Israeli soldiers are no longer
being killed – who won that war? The only success Hizbollah is
currently winning (or not) is in the Lebanese Parliament - is that bad
for Israel? When Hamas enters the new Palestinian Parliament after the
January 2006 elections will that be bad for Israel? Apparently Sharon
and others believe that. Can not Hamas be like Hizbollah? These people
may be fundamentalists, but they are not stupid or irrational.
Suppose Hamas and its Jihadist associates renew their terrorist
attacks? If it from Gaza, highly unlikely, Israel clearly has the
military power to respond without needing to be concerned about the
lives of the settlers. Israel has already proven it can retake Gaza
probably in one day, or it can respond with a vast array of airpower.
In the West Bank, aside from completing the security wall, Israel has
operational flexibility in its responses. Given the positive
reception received by Sharon at the U.N. meeting who will be blamed? We
are finally taking control of our lives. The International community –
which does matter; we are militarily and economical dependant on the
U.S. and E.U. - may finally realize what we Israelis have known
for a long time that we face a Terrorist war. When Israeli Foreign
Minister Silvan Shalom spoke at the U.N. General Assembly with Dan
Gillerman elected as President of the General Assembly for that day
(September 20) he spoke of the lessening of shadows between the Israel
and the Muslim world; particularly Pakistan and Turkey, two of the
largest Muslim states in the world. That is Sharon’s achievement.
The next stage will involve domestic politics among both Israelis and
Palestinians. The domestic politics make it unlikely that the Israelis
will help Abbas. He seems to be unable to reorganize the security
forces and defeat the warlords. The January elections may result
in chaos. In the Palestinian elections Fatah may win the most seats in
the Parliament but unlikely a majority; thus they will have to create a
coalition with Hamas. Sharon has already complained about Hamas being
able to run in free elections. Does he really expect Abbas to reject
their willingness to participate in elections?
There is some logic for the suggestion of a right wing party run by
Netanyahu, a centrist party by Sharon/Peres/Lapid, a left wing party by
Beilin and the various religious parties. The ‘Big Bang’ combination is
however unlikely – too many big egos. More likely Likud will split into
a right wing and centrist wing and then any coalition of center parties
or some part of them and/or some religious parties will result.
Is the end game at hand; no – but a Palestinian state is nearer rather
than further away. The Palestinians won, the Israeli won. To quote an
American proverb there may be light at the end of the tunnel.
Shahar Ilan interviewed Prof. Moshe Kaveh, President of Bar Ilan
University (the only religious university in Israel) in the Magazine
section of Haaretz on September 23. Since his position on the Extremist
Rabbis versus moderate Religious Zionism is so similar to my own I list
the website to those interested in reading the interview.
Rabbi Mordecai Eliahu who told soldiers to refuse evacuation orders
told the Jerusalem Post in an interview that ‘members of the national
religious camp [should] remain loyal to the state and army’ (Jerusalem
Post, September 23).