As it happens, I agree with Sharon on both spoken and unspoken agendas.
1) The pullout from Gaza and consolidation in the Yehudah and Shomron are military necessities.
2) They do not bring real peace or even an opening for same.
3) Barring Divine intervention of some variety, the only thing to do is pull back to defensible barriers and wait a generation or two for better days.
I was most struck by an article in the Jerusalem Post. It reported that the average Palestinian interviewed believed that there was no actual reistance to the evacuation of the settlements. All the pre-game tension and modest scufflings during the removal were staged. Playacting for the benefit of world press-- controlled by the International Jewish Conspiracy -- to gain world sympathy.
This convinced me that any movement toward peace is illusory.
"Always try to understand your enemy. It may allow you to become his friend, or let you kill him without hate." Robert Anson Heinlien.
It is rare to feel pity for an enemy, especially one you perceive has done you nothing but wrong. Ideally, it would have been nice for the Palestinians to say "too bad for all the suffering, but we deserve our land back." I would not have been surprised if the consensus among Palestinians was "those Israeli settlers deserve no sympathy for getting pushed off land they stole from us. The more they suffer, the better." I also would have expected "big crybabies! With all the money they will get from their government, they don't know what real suffering is."
But the need to believe there was no suffering at all, just a carefully stage managed fraud, bespeaks a very different psychology than that of an enemy willing to make peace. The need to deny that Israelis have made any sacrifices at all, even sacrifices demanded by justice, is telling of an unwillingness to negotiate for peace.
Why? Because if you ground your claim in justice and your status as victim, then you cannot recognize _any_ sacrifice on the other side. It would require a response. Palestinians claim they want justice and at the same time claim that they do not want the destruction of the state of Israel. But the two are incompatible in the Palestinian mind because only the destruction of the state of Israel can return them to what the beleive is their due as a mater of justice.
Under this Palestinian logic, anything we Palestinians do is o.k., because the other side deserves whatever it gets. We Palestinians canot be bound by any commitemnts, because they are inherently unfair and unlawful. Anything short of restoration of the status quo prior to 1947 (although with an independent Palestinian state in place of a British Mandate or Egyption/Jordaian rule) is not just, and therefore any agreement that limits freedom of action to achieve that goal is void ab initio because it s unjust.
But at the same time, the Palestinians are not stupid. They recognize that the world will not condone the outright destruction of the Jewish state (explicitly, although I expect they believe the world will really be glad afterwards), so they also maintain a willingness to negotiate for a "just" settlement.
It is this later that drives the belief -- and I expect it is heartfelt -- that Israelis cannot make genuine sacrifices in the peace process. Becase negotiation requires _mutual_ sacrifice. That is what makes it negotiation. If the pull out genuinely cost Israel something -- particularly if it genuinely cost the hated Ariel Sharon something -- it would place the burden on the Palestinians and Mahmoud Abbas to reciprocate.
That, of course, would be intolerable, since it violates the first and most important precept. The Palestinains are the victims, justice demads Israeli concessions, and any casualties caused by the Palestinians on the Israelis are their own fault. (By contrast, of course, any steps taken by the Israelis in response to these casualties is more unwarranted aggression that justifies further attacks -- since it is all their fault for taking the land in the first place.)
The only way to reconcile the conflicting beliefs is to decide that it didn't happen. "The Israelis made no sacrifices. We deserve their withdrawal, but it imposes no obligation on we Palestinians to change tactics, because it didn't really cost them anything and, if it did, they deserved it."
Perhaps it's because I watched too much classic Trek in my youth, or perhaps its because I'm a lawyer. But I have decided that while justice is important and real, it is damn elusive and I don't expect human beings to get it right. Justice is immutable. But only The Holy One Blessed Be He can exact it and perceive true justice. The rest of us must muddle through the best we can.
And that includes deciding, at some point, that the peace of the future is more important than justice. Anyone familiar wth classic Trek will recall this theme showing up in a bunch of episodes. Or as Kirk put it in "A Taste of Armeggedon," the epsidoe where a five hundred year old war continued because neither side could see how to end it: "You make a decision...I'm not going to kill today."
The classic example of this, for me, is South Africa. Nelson Mandela and the leadership had a choice -- do we fight for what justice demands? Instead, they opted to build another future. Gain the vote, begin a slow redistribution process that will take decades to achieve equality and undue fifty years of oppression. But it is better than fighting a war with a well-armed population that would have nothing to lose because justice requires we kill them or drive them off and we take the wealth they stole from us.
The ultimate expression of this was the Truth Commissiions. Amnesty granted to anyone, black or white, that came forward and confessed to politically motivated crimes. Yes, there were white families who resented losing the justice due them for acts of political violence committed by black liberation movements, and many more black families resented losing their justice to the police, military and non-government white movements that committed acts of violent supression outside the bounds of law. But provided a way for society to hear the truth and move on.
Not justice perhaps. But Justice will wait for God.
So it is possible for human beings to work these things out, even setting aside the claims to justice. A similar process seems to be happening in Ireland, where the IRA has lost popular support and a generation of people echo the words of Stan Rogers:
Old rights and old wrongs have long since died away
For causes are ashes where children lie slain.
Yet the damn UDL and the cruel IRA
Will tomorrow go murdering again.
But no penny of mine will I add to the fray.
Remember the Boyne they shall cry out in vain.
For I've given my heart to the place I was born.
And forgiven the whole House of Orange.
King Billy and the whole House of Orange.
The problem, of course, is that contrary to popular wisdom, such decisions canot be unilateral. It only takes one, not two, to make war. The majority of Israelis have been ready for peace on some terms that don't involve their total destruction since 1993. In 2000, Barak offered nearly everything the Palestinians say they want -- return to the pre-1967 border, return of East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital -- and got turned down. And contrary to myth, it wasn't just Arafat's unilateral decision. An overwhelming majority of Palestinians supported the decision to reject Barak's offer. This was a primary motiviation to restart the "Second Intifada" and shift world blame back to the Israelis by returning to military force. (Please note the goal of military force is not to win in direct battles. The Palestinians are well aware that, absent support from surrounding Arab powers, they cannot win a struggle in that way. The purpose of military struggle from a Palestinian perspective is mutlifold. On a world propoganda front -- at least prior to Sept. 11, 2001 -- it highlighted the military disparity between the Israelis and Palestinians and generated sympathy for the Palestinians. It could also hope to demoralize the Israelis into furtehr concessions with the Palestinians merely needing to cease military operations as a sufficient exchange.
Ultimately, for a variety of reasons, this strategy did not work as the Palestinians envisioned. But it made two things clear to Ariel Sharon. First, Israel could not hope to make peace with the Palestinians. There is no substantive peace party on any terms Israel could rationally find acceptable. Worse, the Palestinians repeatedly demonsrated they did not feel bound by any agreements they did made, and the world simply did not care. While it might be some cmfort for the world to see Israel had been rght, after its destruction, this woul do little good.
At the same time, steps necessary to crush the Palestinians militarily were not politically tenable. Israel can, of course, simply cluster bomb Gaza and the densely settled Palestinian cities, or run them over whith armor the way the U.S MArines ultimately did in Fallujah. While slaughter of a million or so Palestinians would result in a straightforward military victory, it is not tenable on either moral or political grounds. The willingness of others to engage in such tactics is irrelevant to your own moral ground. Besides, such action would certainly trigger retaliation from surrounding Arab states with the support of Europe and would make U.S. support of ISrael untenable. Even leaving moral considerations aside, it won't work.
And, Sharon decided, the current deployment could not work. I believe Sharon looked at it purely militarily, as few men are better positioned to know that whatever political points Israel scored with withdrawal, they would be forgotten tomorrow and it would be the same old routine all over again. No, Sharon looked with a secular military eye and decided to draw back to defensible borders behind a defensible wall. One cannot make peace unilaterally, but one can lock oneself in to a fortress and await better days.
There is much talk about how the withdrawal may revive the peace process. I do not beleive it. After such efforts fail, I am sure many on the right will believe that Sharon was "tricked" or "mistaken" in his decision to withdraw. I don't believe that either. Sadly, Sharon made the decision he had to make to give the state of Israel its best chance at security. Not peace. Security. And not secruity born of negotaition, but security born of circling the wagons and keeping powder dry. Sustanable security Israel can maintain on its own which, given its history, is a wise choice.
On the plus side, we have seen that the rule of law still holds. Israel remains one nation and the Jews one people. The possible civil war did not occur. Perhaps we may yet live to see a beter day.