”The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” A prophetic declaration by a former Israeli diplomat. Reading and listening to Arab comments both in and outside the Palestinian government while the Israelis left Gaza unfortunately leads me to believe that history is repeating itself.
In leaving Gaza, Israel made a generous gesture towards peace. Over 8,000 settlers left their homes or had been dragged away by Israeli soldiers, often kicking and screaming. At the request of the Palestinian Authority, thousands of houses in Gaza were bulldozed. Israel’s ruling political party, Likud, has lost its majority since opting for withdrawal. In short, a supreme sacrifice has been made.
What has been the Palestinian response? In an Nightline episode, Ted Koppel commented wryly that not even an hour of thanks and appreciation has been given Israel for this gesture. Instead, Hamas and other militants have been boasting that they drove out the Isrraelis, that their terrorist activities have worked, and that these acts will continue until Israel meets all Arab demands. Many go further, claiming that a return to the 1967 lines is not enough, that Israel must be completely removed from Arab lands.
This all-or-nothing-at-all attitude is sad. More important, it is dangerous. Granted that Israel’s departure from Gaza might not have been totally unselfish. [How many of any of our actions are totally selfless?] Still, if any of us do a good deed and are rewarded with malevolence rather than gratitude, which of us would be willing to make additional benign gestures?
Gaza, with the aid of the United States and Arab countries, could have developed into a highly successful and profitable tourist area similar to Egypt’s development in Sharm Al Sheikh, providing employment and prosperity to its inhabitants. Developing green-house farming, duplicating what the Israelis had done, could have led to a successful economy. Gazans could have make their territory a beautiful oasis, an example of what a future Palestinian state could look like.
But this can only be achieved if there is security, and security can only be assured if the Palestinian National Authority and its President, Mahmoud Abbas, get Hamas to cease and desist from terrorist acts. Even the cease-fire recently brokered by Egypt seems to be falling apart. Israelis fought Israelis to force them to depart from Gaza. If needed, will Arabs fight Arabs to see that Gaza remains peaceful and grows and prospers?
Since central authority was not exercised . Hamas took over and, using Israel’s refusal to totally return to the 1967 lines as a casus belli, resumed rocket attacks and suicide bombing forays. Israel has of course retaliated. Aggravated by resentment at lack of gratitude, the retaliation can be ferocious.
Unless the Palestinian National Authority prevails in Gaza, this writer fears even worse results. The doubts of Benjamin Netanyahu on the wisdom of the Gaza withdrawal will prove prescient. Gaza will turn into a center for continuing terrorism. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, Hizbullah and other extremist will use it as a staging ground. Al-Qaida troublemakers will gleefully join the fray The world will have another Iraq, another Afghanistan.
If the Palestinians really want their own state, they will consider the return of Gaza as the starting point for a compromise solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Their own Palestinian state will be just around the comer. Unfortunately, if there is a word for “compromise” in the Arabic language, it is apparently never used by their spokesmen. If Palestinians continue to pursue this all-or-nothing-at-all approach, they may very well end up with nothing. Possibly not even Gaza.
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