This week, recently retired Israeli Major General Doron Almog, who commanded the the Israel Defense Forces's Southern Command from 2000-2003, wrote a paper for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs entitled "Lessons of the Gaza Security Fence for the West Bank." In his paper Almog explains that the fence around Gaza has blocked 30 percent of the attempted terror attacks on Israel, while IDF offensive operations inside the Strip have accounted for the other 70 percent of Israel's successes.
Although his paper is intended to be instructive for the West Bank, his point raises the obvious question for Gaza: If the Israeli government goes through with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to unilaterally withdraw, thereby ending the IDF's offensive operations in the area, how will such attacks be prevented? Furthermore, today the IDF has a defensive perimeter one kilometer long inside Gaza. According to Almog, this perimeter, along with monitoring equipment that can see six kilometers into Gaza, accounts for most of the success of the fence. Who will be manning the perimeter and maintaining the observation equipment if the IDF pulls out?
Major General (reserves) Ya'acov Amidror, the former head of the IDF War Colleges and Military Intelligence analysis division, warned last week that in the absence of an Israeli military presence in Gaza, the area will become a focal point for global jihad. Just this week, it was annouced that this past August, security forces arrested Jordanian national Muhammad Abu Juyad in Tulkarm. Abu Juyad was recruited by Fatah and Hizbullah. He received terror training twice in Syria and also took part in the terror war against American forces in Iraq before turning up here with a plan to recruit Israeli Arabs to blow up trains, kidnap soldiers and attack Israeli facilities in Jordan. Abu Juyad transnational terrorist career is emblematic of the global and regional face of the war. Luckily Israeli forces are deployed in Judea and Samaria. If he or one of the thousands of terrorists like him were to come to Gaza after Sharon's proposed withdrawal goes through, who would arrest him?
More than 5,000 rockets and mortar shells have now fallen on Israeli communities in Gaza since the Palestinian terror war began. In anticipation of the proposed expulsion of their 8,000 Jewish residents, the Palestinians have dramatically increased their attacks. They want to make it look like they are driving Israel out. And the IDF is doing little to dissuade them. IDF incursions into Gaza over the past few weeks to curtail the rocket and mortar attacks on civilian population centers have been as ineffective as IDF operations against Hizbullah in southern Lebanon were in the months that preceded Israel's withdrawal in May 2000. Like Hizbullah in Lebanon, the terrorists in Gaza will be viewed by the entire global jihad network as having defeated Israel. The price Israel paid for its precipitous withdrawal from Lebanon was the Palestinian terror war. What should Israel expect after its withdrawal from Gaza enables Hamas, Fatah and Hizbullah terror cells to operate openly five kilometers from the power station in Ashkelon?
THOSE WHO oppose the withdrawal have sought to make these arguments. But no one will listen. Ariel Sharon, the great military leader of yesteryear, says that it will be okay. And so, as was the case when the late prime minister and former IDF chief of General Staff Yitzhak Rabin scoffed in 1994 at the notion that the Palestinians would use the territory he transferred to their control to shoot mortar shells and rockets at Israeli communities, Israelis are now lulled into believing that our lives will be better and safer if we eject Jews from their homes and farms and villages as our military withdraws to the 1949 armistice lines.
The residents of Gaza themselves are at their wits' end. Over the past several weeks they have been absorbing volley after volley of rockets and mortar shells, antitank shells and rifle fire. Their homes and synagogues have been bombed. Their children's nurseries and community centers have been hit. Their hothouses have been shelled. In a meeting Thursday at the Netzer Hazani agricultural community in southern Gaza, the farmers spoke of the prospect of taking measures into their own hands with village residents manning any gun post that the IDF abandons. Speaking to reporters, Yaki Yisraeli, treasurer of the community said, "If there isn't a suitable response to the mortar fire, people will start defending themselves. The residents serve in all the IDF units and the fear is that they will take the law into their own hands. If the IDF evacuates positions, the residents will take them over."
Aside from the fact that the IDF is clearly failing in its mission to defend them, the residents of Gaza have another problem on their hands. How are they to deal with the fact that the government and the Knesset seem determined to expel them from their homes? How are they to imagine that the lands they have cultivated, the communities they have built and the homes where they have raised their families are set to be turned over to the same people who are bombing them around the clock?
The moral dimension of the proposed destruction of Israeli communities in Gaza and the northern West Bank is one that has received scant attention over the past year since Sharon adopted the Leftist Labor Party's plan of retreat and expulsion as his own. Indeed, although it was one of the implicit assumptions of the 1993 Oslo process, the fact that a precondition for a final peace accord with the PLO was that all Jewish residents of the West Bank and Gaza would be ethnically cleansed has rarely been mentioned. As for Sharon's withdrawal plan for Gaza and the northern West Bank, everyone from US National Security Council Middle East Adviser Elliott Abrams to Labor Party leader Shimon Peres to Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak to British Prime Minister Tony Blair have noted that the plan, if enacted, will provide a precedent for the destruction of all or most of the remaining Jewish communities in the West Bank with their population of some 250,000 Israelis.
THIS WEEK, the public debate shifted its attention for the first time in 11 years to the question of whether it is moral to ethnically cleanse the territories of their Jewish residents and force all Israelis to live within the cease-fire lines from 1949. With the publication of an open letter from Pinhas Wallerstein, one of the leaders of the Israeli communities in the West Bank, calling for mass civil disobedience against the proposed ethnic cleansing of Jews from Gaza and the northern West Bank, the question of the morality of the plan has exploded onto the public stage.
Wallerstein wrote, "The government of Israel has approved the first reading of the immoral law that paves the way for the crime of the displacement of Jews from their homes. The law does not provide those targeted for expulsion with even the minimal human right ? to oppose their displacement from their homes. I call for the public to break the expulsion law and to be ready to pay the price of going to jail."
Wallerstein's call, which was adopted by the entire organized leadership of the Israeli communities in the West Bank and Gaza, caused some dozen members of Knesset to sign a declaration stating that they will oppose the enactment of the law even at the price of losing their parliamentary immunity from prosecution and going to jail.
Gaza residents caused a public outcry when they taped orange Stars of David to their clothes this week. The hue and cry of the politicians on the Right and on the Left said that in using symbols from the Holocaust they were besmirching the memory of the victims of Europe's genocide of its Jews. It would seem that those who decried the residents' symbol have forgotten what a metaphor is. The point was not that Sharon is Adolf Hitler or that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz is Adolf Eichmann. The point of the protest was that Israel is the first Western state to call for the forced removal of Jews from their homes, simply because they are Jews, since the Holocaust and that there is something morally atrocious about the notion that for peace to come ? to Israel and to those bombing Israel ? it is necessary for entire regions to be rendered Judenrein. And again, as leaders in Israel and throughout the world have stated, the expulsion from Gaza and the northern West Bank is simply a preview of coming attractions for what awaits those who live in the rest of the West Bank.
The security implications of the planned withdrawal of the IDF from Gaza and the northern West Bank are entirely separate from the moral dimensions of the policy for what it means for Israel to be a free and secure Jewish state. But they share a common root. This root is to be found in those who are shooting off the mortars and rifles and rockets. It is found in Abu Juyad; it is found in the murder of Ariela Fahima whose throat was slashed by a Palestinian terrorist outside her home on the outskirts of Jerusalem this week; and it is found in the attempted murder of an Israeli motorist who accidentally drove into Ramallah Monday night and had to be saved by the IDF as a lynch mob gathered around him. This common root is Palestinian rejection of Israel.
There would be no reason for the IDF to be operating in Gaza if the Palestinians weren't conducting a war against Israel from Gaza. And there would be no question about the right of Jews to live in Gaza or the northern West Bank or anywhere else they have lived for thousands of years if Palestinian nationalism weren't predicated on genocidal anti-Semitism.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post where this article first appeared.