By deciding to give up areas populated by Jews in Gaza (known as "settlements" by those who regard it as "occupied territory") and effectively annexing disputed territory in Judea and Samaria (known as the West Bank by those who also consider this area "occupied"), Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has decided to risk his country's future on promises he received from President Bush.
On paper, those promises sounded pretty good for Israel, which will continue to control land, sea and air passages throughout Gaza to prevent a terrorist base from being established. Sharon also took from his meeting with the president a green light to continue building the "security fence" to keep terrorists from entering some of the main population centers in the heart of Israel and to go after terrorists, such as Hamas' new leader, who was killed by Israel on Saturday (April 17). Perhaps most importantly for his country's stability, Sharon got his wish for no "right of return" by Palestinians, an infusion that would overwhelm the Jewish population. In the president's letter of understanding to Sharon, he says that any return should be to an eventual Palestinian state, not Israel.
Predictably, the pro-Palestinian side cried foul. The New York Times editorialized (April 15) that Sharon chose "settlements over peace" in the West Bank, but peace must have a partner, and the terrorists have demonstrated that their objective is not peace with Israel, but its elimination.
As with previous agreements, including the "road map," this "understanding" requires a response from the Palestinian side. Israel and the United States reasonably expect that in exchange for this unilateral action ceding Gaza to the Palestinians, the Palestinians will stop trying to tear down the Jewish state and start building one of their own.
Based on past and current performance, there is little likelihood the Palestinian side will do this and end the jihad rhetoric that offers nothing but blood and misery, instead of hope and a meaningful future.
Sharon believes the offering up of Gaza as Palestinian territory will disabuse the world of the notion that terror "is the result of us sitting on their land," according to a senior member of the Israel delegation. But certain people always find ways to blame Israel for everything.
What should be troubling is the number of promises made by previous American presidents that were not fulfilled, either because the United States failed to uphold them, or an Israeli prime minister did not press the matter.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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