Revisiting 2005

It was inevitable that, at some point in this conflict, some prominent neoconservative was going to take the opportunity to criticize Israel’s pullout from Gaza in the first place, and sure enough Max Boot picks the ball up:

It’s true that Israel has managed to all but eliminate the threat of suicide bombers from Gaza. The rocket threat, however, has proved harder to eradicate. And contrary to my expectation, Israel’s right to respond to the threat of rockets raining down on its territory appears to be no better recognized today by the international community than in the days when Gaza was formally “occupied territory.” Indeed, the current use of force by Israel is meeting the same level of international condemnation as pretty much every such instance since 1973.

So was I – and were so many others – wrong to applaud the Gaza pullout in the first place? I admit the arguments against it are stronger today than they were three years ago. I still think, however, that it was untenable to continue to allow 8,500 Jewish settlers to live among 1.3 million Palestinians. But while the settlements had to go, on balance it appears to have been a mistake to eliminate the entire Israel Defense Force presence in Gaza. Without Israeli patrols on the ground, as there still are in the West Bank, it has proved impossible to keep the Gaza Strip from becoming the Hamastan I feared.

Now, on the one hand, I can’t argue that the settlements had to go, and it’s nice that people understand that. On the other hand, this is just another instance of people misstating Israel’s intentions and incentives.

To understand the Gaza withdrawal as part of the peace process is ridiculous. Israel still blockades the territory, still makes sure that the people there are hopelessly impovershed, and still looms as an omnipresent threat to the people there. Rather, the move was nothing more than a geopolitical ploy to cover for increased Israeli expansion into the West Bank, much more valuable territory than Gaza, and for further closing off Gaza to the rest of the world. Not exactly a favorable tradeoff from a Palestinian perspective.

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