Since the September 11 attacks, there has been continuous pressure exerted on the Bush administration from within and without to refuse to accept that the war against Israel has anything to do with the war against the US and the rest of the non-Islamist world. And President Bush's embrace of Sharon's plan to withdraw Israeli forces from Gaza and northern Samaria, while expelling thousands of Israelis from their homes and communities ? like his embrace of the so-called road map to peace ? is an indication that the pressure has succeeded.
While Bush and his supporters were quick to see the ruinous impact of Spanish appeasement of terrorists on the war efforts, in backing Sharon's plan and in showering the Palestinians with money and support, the president is showing that as far as Israel is concerned, the policy he has adopted is the same one the Spanish voters opted for: appeasement.
In his letter of resignation from the Israeli government this week, Minister Natan Sharansky wrote, "In my view, the disengagement plan is a tragic mistake that will exacerbate the conflict with the Palestinians, increase terrorism, and dim the prospects of forging a genuine peace. Yet what turns this tragic mistake into a missed opportunity of historic proportions is the fact that as a result of changes in the Palestinian leadership and the firm conviction of the leader of the free world that democracy is essential to stability and peace... an unprecedented window of opportunity has opened."
Yet the fact of the matter is that as far as Israel is concerned, the Americans have shut the window of opportunity. Gone is the president's strong rhetoric from three years ago about US support for Palestinian statehood being conditional on the transformation of Palestinian society into a democratic, liberal, terror-fighting society. The Bush administration has been pushing Israel to arm the PA security forces in spite of their overt connection with terror cells. The Bush administration has refused to back Israel's opposition to Hamas participation in the July legislative elections despite its links to al-Qaida. The Bush administration has insisted that Israel hand over the homes of the Israelis set for expulsion to the Palestinians, in spite of the fact that this means Israel will be handing their homes to the same terrorists who have been shooting and bombing them for the past four-and-a-half years.
If the Bush administration had not made the intellectually unsupportable decision to refuse to accept that the Palestinian war against Israel is a crucial front in the global jihad, the president and his advisers would no doubt be asking Sharon some very hard questions right now.
Israel's planned withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria present a tangible threat to US national security interests from both military and psychological warfare perspectives.
On the military level, one of the core principles of the US counter-terror strategy is to deny terrorists sanctuary. Yet Gaza and northern Samaria are both poised to become new operational bases for global terror organizations.
During his negotiations with the terror chiefs in Cairo in March, in the presence of Syria's foreign minister, PA chairman and US favorite Mahmoud Abbas invited the leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command to relocate from Damascus to Gaza after Israel withdraws. How does this square with the US strategy to bar terrorists from receiving shelter?
Then there is Egypt's role as a spoiler in all this. This week, the Palestinians claimed that Egypt pressured the PA to release a Hamas terrorist they had apprehended en route to launching rockets at Sderot. This claim is believable given that it was Egypt's dictator Hosni Mubarak who pressured Yasser Arafat not to accept Israel's peace offer at Camp David in July 2000. And yet, in spite of the fact that Mubarak has played a central role in fomenting and eternalizing the Palestinian war with Israel, in his favored role as broker between Israel and the Palestinians and among the Palestinian terror groups, he has built a reputation in Washington as the irreplaceable peacemaker.
After Gaza becomes an international terror center in the wake of the Israeli pullout, Mubarak will be poised to increase US dependence on him. If this occurs, his payback will be Washington's shoving its plan to bring democracy to Egypt into a circular file in the recesses of the Old Executive Office Building.
On a psychological level, the images of an Israeli retreat from Gaza and northern Samaria will be footage for jihadi recruitment videos for years to come. In Iraq, a large proportion of the insurgent groups' energies are devoted to producing images that portray them as strong and the US forces as weak. Al-Jazeera and its clones ? along with cameramen employed as stringers by Western news networks and agencies ? work hand-in-glove with the terrorists to produce just such images. The point, of course, is that in at least one central respect, Arabs are no different from Americans. Both like winners. Videos showing the decapitation of hostages are meant to mobilize supporters.
Yet there can be no doubt that, as attractive as watching helpless hostages getting beheaded may be to potential recruits, the spectacle of Hamas and Fatah flags being foisted onto Israeli homes in Gaza and Samaria is even more alluring. And footage of Jews attacking one another as Israel comes apart at the seams will also serve the terrorists' purposes wonderfully well.
What will "friendly" Arab states demand from the US in exchange for their combating of Islamist forces energized by the footage of Israel's withdrawal? Shelving democracy perhaps? And will these governments be appreciative of US efforts to pressure Israel into destroying its own villages? No, they will demand more such destruction.
What will happen to the Arab democrats from Baghdad to Damascus to Beirut to Riyadh when they are force fed footage of mosques being built on synagogues in Gush Katif 24/7?
Will they believe in US promises of support when they see the US supporting terrorists in Gaza?
Will they be willing to stick their necks out when they see how America lets Israel, its ally, lose? This week, Fatah leaders sent a public birthday greeting to Saddam Hussein. The greeting ended, "We wish him long life for the sake of Iraq and to free the Arab nation from the enslavement of foreign imperialism. Oh, the glory of victory, with the help of Allah."
The Bush administration, like the Israeli government, wants Fatah to win the upcoming elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council because it is considered "moderate."
Friends of Israel in Washington, like former CIA director James Woolsey, say of Sharon's planned withdrawal from Gaza that they cannot second guess the Israeli leadership about what is best for Israel's national security. This is a true and honorable statement. But the US can discuss the impact that Israel's decisions will have on its own security interests.
Unless one ignores reality, it is impossible to sustain an argument that as presently constituted, Israel's withdrawal from Gaza will do anything other than strengthen the cause of global jihad and Arab authoritarianism. Unfortunately, until the US abandons the contrived belief that what happens to Israel has no connection to what happens to the US, it will be unable to see ? and thus thwart ? the dangers that await it.
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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