Caroline Glick

JERUSALEM, Israel -- With the Israeli Knesset's defeat this week of the proposed referendum on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's planned withdrawal of Israeli forces and expulsion of Jewish communities from Gaza and northern Samaria, the last parliamentary obstacle to the establishment of a de facto Palestinian state with provisional borders was overcome.

Although attention in Israel has been obsessively focused on our internal debate over the legitimacy and morality of Sharon's plan, the real story is what is happening on the Palestinian side of the tracks. For as Israel departs, it will leave a vacuum which will quickly be filled. And while Israel argues with itself, the Palestinians are now establishing the foundations of the Palestinian state that will arise in August.

Since Sharon has called his plan one of "disengagement," we find a stunning lack of engagement among Israeli policymakers with the question of what will become of Gaza after Israel withdraws.

Such is not the case in Washington, where President George W. Bush and his senior advisors are already moving forward with plans to restart peace negotiations with the "reformed, democratic, terror fighting" Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and his "reformed Palestinian security services" and his "reformed, transparent" bureaucracy.

After Yasser Arafat rejected Israeli and American peace offers in 2000 and the Palestinian terror war was launched against Israel, the chattering classes spent the better part of four years mindlessly debating whether Arafat was behind the war or whether he was simply too weak to do anything to stop it. The debate was both absurd and counterproductive. It was absurd because the answer to the question was largely irrelevant. If Arafat was behind the terror war then he was illegitimate, and if he was too weak to prevent it from being waged he was worthless. The debate was counterproductive because it prevented those involved from accepting the fact that the PA was a terrorist entity and that Israel had to do whatever was necessary to protect its citizens from massacre.

Today, Arafat's replacement Mahmoud Abbas has been accepted as a legitimate leader by the West. He has been invited to visit Bush at the White House. In order to strengthen Abbas, the US is transferring hundreds of millions of dollars to the Palestinians while pressuring Israel to transfer security authority over towns in Judea and Samaria to PA militias and release terrorists from Israeli prisons.

Caroline Glick

Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.

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