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One of the most dispiriting developments in past months has been to find some of Israel's clearest-thinking supporters including William Safire, Charles Krauthammer and Norman Podhoretz publicly professing belief in the strategically absurd and morally infamous "disengagement plan."
Perhaps no one has been so swept away as the normally astute Krauthammer. He is enthusiastic (March 4, 2005) about "free Palestinian elections that produced a moderate reform oriented leadership." As to that claim, we refer the reader to Roger A. Gerber's article on Mahmoud Abbas in this Outpost. In a Feb. 25, 2005 column Krauthammer says that dismantling Gaza settlements would indeed be a victory for terror -- were this not accompanied by the security fence.
Incredibly, Krauthammer calls the fence "the first serious strategic idea Israel has had" since the beginning of the intifada, one "that will change the entire strategic equation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." In fact, the fence is pure strategic folly. Even now Israel's long fenced border with Lebanon has become the most dangerous border in Israel, with Hezbollah and its rockets stationed all along it.
Norman Podhoretz in the April Commentary offers a more thoughtful analysis, providing arguments he encountered in Israel on both sides of the issue. For Podhoretz the bottom line is his enormous respect for President George W. Bush. He writes: "It was because I had come to place so much faith in Bush that I was able to overcome my misgivings about the Road Map. And it was partly because Sharon was also putting his money on Bush that I was ready to bet on Sharon." But what this means is that instead of evaluating the plan, Podhoretz bets on the man.
It is ironic that Podhoretz, who has written an exceptionally fine book on the Hebrew prophets, should ignore the Psalmist's injunction, "Put not your trust in princes." Indeed, Podhoretz admits his daughter, who finds his embrace of "Oslo II" shocking, reminds him of this. Yet even if it were correct that Bush can be trusted to stand by Israel, a new President will be elected in three years. Who know what his attitudes will be? Podhoretz's answer to this is that Bush has set in motion forces of such velocity for the expansion of political and economic freedom in the Middle East that "it will be next to impossible for his successor to change course."
Yet as Carolyn Glick (a reluctant critic because of her great admiration for Podhoretz) points out in The Jerusalem Post, Podhoretz provides no suggestion of how Sharon's plan benefits Israel. He concedes that the goals of Mahmoud Abbas are no different from those of Arafat. But if that is the case, to what purpose is Sharon betraying Jewish residents of Gaza (whom he personally urged to settle there), splitting the country, sending shock waves through the Israel Defense Forces, and destroying his own party?
The President and his admirers (among whom we count ourselves) have unfortunately been swept up in utopian expectations of a New Middle East. There may be more ballots cast in the region, but societies based on what Robert Conquest calls "law and liberty" are not likely to proliferate. As Jonathan Spyer notes in Ha'aretz of March 11, Middle Eastern elites are old hands at clothing themselves in borrowed array when the political climate demands it. But the new costumes are fitted over the same body of overheated nationalism and chauvinism, hostility to independent institutions and hatred of Israel - the endlessly warmed over centerpiece. The politically convenient language of the moment masks the same fundamental attitudes. Tellingly, as Spyer reminds us, in the same interview with Time Magazine in which Abbas declares his allegiance to democracy, he puts the blame on Israel and "the fence" for the terror bombing in Tel Aviv.
This article appeared in Outpost (http://www.mideastoutpost.com/),
an AFSI publication, April 2005
Herbert Zweibon is Chairman of Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI).
This article appeared in Outpost (http://www.mideastoutpost.com/), an AFSI publication, April 2005
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