Back in 2005, the mother of all solutions to the the problem of Gaza was Israel’s Disengagement from Gaza.
The favorable opinions at the time illustrated, in hindsight, how poorly the Disengagement and Gaza were understood, especially by even the most respected pundits.
Map of Gaza. Credit: CIA World Factbook. Source: Wikipedia
August 15, 2005, Roger Simon wrote about Abbas’s responsibility following the dismantling the settlement and moving Israelis out of Gaza:
But if events continue without a major snafu, the ball will soon enough be in Mohammed Abbas’ court. Gaza will be his playground and he will have Hamas and Islamic Jihad to deal with. I don’t envy him…. As we used to say on our own playground, “No backsies!”
Of course, Israel lives right next door to this Gazan “playground” and they are the ones suffering from the fact that there are “No backsies”. It is the Disengagement that has made the city of Sderot so famous. And synonymous with Hamas missile attacks.
August 19, 2005, Charles Krauthammer wrote that following the withdrawal from Gaza, deterrence will bring the Palestinians themselves to shut down the rockets:
Israel should announce that henceforth any rocket launched from Palestinian territory will immediately trigger a mechanically automatic response in which five Israeli rockets will be fired back. There will be no human intervention in the loop. Every Palestinian rocket landing in Israel will instantly trigger sensors and preset counter-launchers. Any Palestinian terrorist firing up a rocket will know that he is triggering six: one Palestinian and five Israeli.
Israel would decide how these five would be programmed to respond. Perhaps three aimed at the launch site and vicinity and two at a list of predetermined military and strategic assets of the Palestinian militias.
…Once Israel leaves, there is no way to dismantle the rockets. Deterrence is all there is. After but a few Israeli demonstrations of “non-massive retaliation,” the Palestinians themselves will shut down their terrorist rocketeers. [emphasis added]
Aside from the fact that such a solution is untenable, in the early years of the Palestinian “democracy” many overestimated how far free elections can take a country that freely chooses to elect terrorists to lead them.
August 20, John Derbyshire on National Review’s “The Corner” wrote that the disengagement would create a Gazan state, bringing a sense of responsibility that would curb Palestinian aggression:
The Arabs should be very worried about this. If I am just a state, and you are just a state, then we might go to war, as states do, given any of the traditional definitions of casus belli.
Israel has fought wars against Jordan, Egypt, and Syria; but she has never fought a war against Palestine. What would an Israeli-Palestine war look like? If I were a Palestinian Arab, I think I’d hope never to find out.
With Western influence and pressure available to keep Israel perpetually in check, it is debatable just how afraid Palestinian Arab leaders actually are.
Of course, not everyone was blind. Natan Sharansky understood the consequences of the Disengagement. In an interview in the Winter 2005 edition of the Middle East Quarterly, Sharansky showed he knew what was coming:
MEQ: Is your opposition to the Gaza disengagement plan a matter of principle, or are you concerned over its practical implementation?
Sharansky: Questions of principle and practical matters are always connected for me. I was against the disengagement plan not because I believed we should stay in Gaza but because one-sided concessions could transform Gaza into a beachhead for a terrorist state. If a Palestinian democracy developed, then a Palestinian state would not be dangerous. As I said many years ago, it is very important that the depth of our concessions match the depth of democracy on the other side. If disengagement were linked to democratic reforms, I would be all for this plan. But I object to any plan that leaves territory for terror. [emphasis added]
Natan Sharansky. Credit: Nathan Roi – The Jewish Agency for Israel, Source: Wikipedia
Krauthammer wrote in December 2, 2005 about amazing recent progress in defusing the Arab-Israeli dispute:
…the Gaza withdrawal was a success. On the Israeli side, it was accomplished with remarkable speed and without any of the great social upheaval and civil strife that had been predicted. As for the Palestinians, without any fanfare whatsoever, their first-ever state has just been born. They have political independence for 1.3 million of their people, sovereignty over all of Gaza and, for the first time, a border to the outside world (the Rafah crossing to Egypt) that they control.
…As a result, Israel’s regional isolation is easing, as Islamic countries from Pakistan to Qatar to Morocco openly extend or intensify relations, while anti-Israel rejectionists such as Syria and Hezbollah are isolated and even condemned by name in the U.N. Security Council.
How did this come about? Israeli unilateralism and Palestinian maturation.
Then Krauthammer himself punctures the balloon and admits it’s all about Israel’s military prowess, and not about Israeli concessions nor Palestinian maturity:
It’s not that many Gazans would not like to continue the romance of revolutionary terrorism and jihad. But they no longer have the means. The separation fence makes it almost impossible to launch attacks into Israel. And rockets launched into Israeli towns are met by retaliatory Israeli artillery barrages that make the rocketeers rather unpopular at home. A similar equilibrium will be achieved on the West Bank when the fence is completed next year.
All this goes to show that hindsight really is 20-20. And that’s a good thing — considering that the accuracy of pundit predictions is not even close to 50-50.
For example, even now the people who are supposed to have a grasp of the situation are still coming up empty.
Last week Trump’s Mideast Peace Envoy Jason Greenblatt declared that PA Must Rule Gaza, Hamas Has Failed to Meet People’s Basic Needs:
Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, said on Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority needs “to resume its role in the administration of Gaza,” in light of the damage that Hamas has caused to the Gaza Strip. Greenblatt made this statement during a tour of the Israel-Gaza border area together with IDF Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.
Odd that there is no mention of Abbas by Greenblatt in that article.
Also, the article notes that Obama tried the same thing, pushing for a UN Security Council resolution to reinstate the PA in Gaza following the 2014 Gaza war. But nothing came of it — because both the Israelis and the Palestinian Arabs objected.
Is it any wonder the mainstream media in the West ignored this story.
After all, consider Abbas’s poor record on Gaza.
Although he was elected chairman of the PLO in October 2004 and then president in January 2005 with 66% of the vote, by the end of 2005, Abbas’s popularity was at such a low point that there were rumors he might resign. Symbolic of his lack of control was his inability even then to put a stop to the Qassam rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel:
Abbas even said that the Qassam rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel are “Israel’s problem” and that he does not intend to interfere. “Let the Israelis deal with it,” he said.
Not surprisingly, a July 2017 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 62% of Palestinian Arabs want Abbas to resign.
And Trump’s envoy advocates a return to PA control of Gaza?
The best analysis I ever heard of the situation in the Middle East was the one given by George Will. Years ago, in addressing the problem of the Arab-Israeli conflict he said it was not a problem, it was a mess. The difference between a problem and a mess, he said, is that a problem has a solution.
When Trump suggested that he was willing to let the two sides work things out and he would support it, regardless if it was a two-state solution or something else — that was a different, and necessary, approach.
Trump’s about-face is not good for either the parties involved nor for the US.
During the heady days of the Disengagement in 2005, one could understand the idyllic optimism that had politicians as well as the pundits seeing peace over the horizon.
Today, the Trump administration has no excuse.
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