Charles Krauthammer

     Sure, there could be random terror attacks. But that is true of Spain and Indonesia and much of the world today. What changes with the Gaza withdrawal and the fence is that terrorism as a reliable weapon, a constant threat, a strategic asset, ceases to exist.

     And once that terror option is removed, the Palestinians will in time be forced to the collective conclusion that the world has been awaiting for 57 years -- that they cannot drive the Jews into the sea and must therefore negotiate a compromise for a permanent peace.

     That day may not come immediately. The beauty of the withdrawal/fence plan is that, in the interim, it creates a stable status quo with a minimal level of violence. In that interim, Israel can live in peace and the Palestinians can develop the institutions of their state and begin to contemplate a final end to the conflict.

     Why did Ariel Sharon do this? Did the father of the settlement movement go soft? Defeatist? No. The Israeli right has grown up and given up the false dream of Greater Israel encompassing the Palestinian territories. And the Israeli left has grown up too, being mugged by the intifada into understanding that you do not trust the lives of your children to the word of an enemy bent on your destruction.

     For now, you trust only the defensive fence and the deterrent power of the Israeli army. Sharon is no dreamer like Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, who bargained away land for a piece of paper. Sharon, like any good general -- and he was a great general -- is giving up land for a stable defensive line.

     Everyone wants peace, but Sharon's real obsession is terror. From his days as a young commando in the 1950s, he has been a fanatic about fighting terrorism. Take away the terror weapon and everything else follows: safety, stability and the conditions for a final peace. A peace based not on the good will of a Sharon or a Mahmoud Abbas but on the new reality on the ground: separate nations delineated by a temporary barrier to produce a temporary peace -- and the possibility of a final one.

Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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