WASHINGTON -- What we are seeing this week in the withdrawal from Gaza of 8000 Israeli citizens is as noble an act on behalf of peace as has been recorded in modern history. No peace demonstration on record has involved so much personal sacrifice. Nor has any peace demonstration involved so much trust. The trust, for the most part, comes from Jerusalem, and the Sharon government, believing as it does, that after Israel vacates Gaza the Palestinian Authority will hold elections, establish a peaceful government, and control those terrorists intent on destroying Israel. Sharon is a general of proven prowess. Yet he is now, as the phrase has it, giving peace a chance. This withdrawal is his plan. So much for the claptrap that generals only want war.
Yet I am skeptical that this withdrawal will lead to peace. 80 percent of the Palestinian Arabs deny the right of Israel to exist. Most swallow the historically inaccurate line that the Jews "stole" the lands they now inhabit -- and their Gaza settlements too -- from what are now called the Palestinians. Scholars, whether they be historians or archaeologists, have demonstrated that this is hooey. Jews have inhabited these lands since the time of Abraham. Writers as diverse as H. L. Mencken and Winston Churchill a century ago when visiting these lands remarked on the peaceful Jewish villagers cultivating their fields and living civilized lives. The land of Israel is rightfully the land of the Jews. After World War II the Jews accepted the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan to live with Arab indiginae and others in the region in peace. Yet neighboring Arab states attacked these Jews to rid them from the region, setting off Israel's War of Independence.
The Arab armies were beaten. Israel was established, and very cruelly the Arab nations allowed uprooted Palestinian Arabs to collect in refugee camps where they became angry pawns of the irredentist Arab states hoping to eliminate Israel. That is the origin of the present hostilities. Arabs live in Israel with full citizenship. Arabs live too under the Palestinian Authority outside of Israel and in areas that it is hoped will become a peaceful Palestinian state. What the Sharon government intends is that this withdrawal will lead to peace between these two nations.