Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Israeli Disengagement

The Israeli elections show them - without enthusiasm - deciding to wall Israel off from the Arabs. Israelis have very good reasons for that decision, and the US should give them its unconditional support and not meddle.

The Kadima party, which promotes Sharon's disengagement policy, won the most seats - 28 of the the 120 available & will now put together a coalition with some of the
other 11 parties that won seats.

Kadima's leader promises to give to the Palestinians up to 90% of the West Bank territories captured in the 1967 war, telling them:
"During thousands of years, we planted the dream of greater Israel in our hearts ... but in recognition of the reality, we are ready to compromise, and concede parts of the beloved land of Israel," Mr. Olmert said, "and evacuate with much sadness Jews living there to create the conditions that will allow you to achieve your dreams and build alongside us a state of your own."
Which means (my ellipsis):
...(he)...plans to remove thousands of Jewish settlers, he would incorporate Arab East Jerusalem and three large chunks of occupied territory, where the bulk of Jewish settlements are located.

With the erection of a “security fence” to protect this new frontier, Israel will de facto have redrawn an international border. The move is likely to produce an outcry internationally, but that in itself will not deter a new Government which has the clear backing of the Israeli people.
Disengagement will leave Israel just 15 miles wide in places - not a great idea with a state committed to its destruction next door. Israel is doing this because the alternatives are worse.

Alternative 1: Ethnic Cleansing

The easiest way for a conquerer to take over territory is to kill or expel the natives. That's what the Romans did to the Jews, how the Russians took over East Prussia in 1945, how Indians and Pakistanis settled their frontier in 1948 and Serbia, Croatia and Kosovo separated their populations (in spite of NATO attempts to stop them). And how, to Western indifference, the Muslim government of Darfur has now killed or expelled 2 million people. And, for that matter, how in 1948, the new state of Israel pushed 711,000 Arabs out of its territories and the Arab nations ejected 900,000 Jews.

Even if the Israelis had the stomach for such a brutal operation, its major ally - the US - would not permit it. So that's out.

Alternative 2: Occupation And Enslavement

The Jewish people suffered this in biblical times. The Germans used it across occupied Europe in WW2, and it's a staple of fear states today - Saddam is on trial for it and the Russians are using it in Chechnya.

In this approach, the occupier gets compliance by reprisal - if one of its soldiers is killed, all the inhabitants of a local village are killed. A Nazi favorite was shooting all the men then burning all the women and kids in the local church, a tactic they repeated in thousands of villages across Europe - including Oradour sur Glane. It worked pretty well, and absent allied liberation, Europe would probably now be pacified.

But modern & democratic Israel does not have the will to follow this policy. There are plenty of Arabs in Israel (about 20% of the population), and Israelis meet them every day. They see messy but lively villages of traditional houses, with kids playing in the streets, men working in family businesses, women raising the families, old people sitting on doorsteps chatting. It's hard to abuse all these people because a minority become or shelter murderers.

Israelis also dislike the effect occupation has on their conscript kids (who join the IDF at age 18, men for 3 years, women for 2). About 10% of the males in any society are either psychopaths or violent, and Israel is probably no exception. These will bully and brutalize. Perhaps another 10% are radicalized in the opposite direction, and become alienated from their country. The 80% in the middle do the dirty work of occupation, while holding their noses - but after their 2 or 3 year stints return home psychologically scarred.

Option 3: Disengagement

So this is the least bad option. At the cost of incorporating a few more Arabs, Israel removes the trauma and corruption of occupation from its people and tidies its borders. It will of course continue to face threats from the Palestinian, Syrian and Iranian governments, all of which define themselves by their commitment to destroy Israel.

Israel will need US support - moral and material - to achieve disengagement while keeping these dogs at bay. That should be freely given, without meddling from State.