By Charles Krauthammer, August 19, 2005.
The Israeli abandonment of Gaza is a withdrawal of despair. Unlike
the Oslo concessions of 1993, there is not even the pretense of
getting anything in return from the Palestinians.
Nonetheless, unilateralism is both correct and necessary.
Israel has no peace partner — Mahmoud Abbas has nothing to offer
and has offered nothing — and in the absence of a partner, there is
only one logical policy: Rationalize your defensive lines and prepare
for a long wait.
Gaza was simply a bridge too far: settlements too far-flung and small
to justify the huge psychological and material cost of defending
them. Pulling out of Gaza leaves behind the first truly independent
Palestinian state — uncontrolled and highly militant, but one from
which Israel is fenced off.
If Israel can complete its West Bank fence, it will have established a
stable equilibrium and essentially abolished terrorism as a regular and
reliable means of attack — i.e., as a usable strategic weapon.
That will leave the Palestinians a stark choice: Remain in their
state of miserable militancy with no prospects of victory or finally
accept the Jewish state and make a deal. That is Israel’s strategy.
There are two problems with it: What about the rockets? What about
The first problem is that while the fences do prevent terrorist
infiltration, they do nothing about rockets. For months Palestinians
have been firing rockets from Gaza into towns within Israel proper.
The attacks are momentarily in suspension, but with the enhanced
ability to smuggle in weapons from Egypt, and with no Israeli patrols
looking for them, the attacks will resume and get far worse.
What to do? Something Israel should have done long ago: active and
relentless deterrence. 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
This policy would echo, though in far more benign form, America’s
Cold War deterrence policy of “massive retaliation.” That was all
somewhat theoretical, but the Soviets apparently thought otherwise
when they backed down during the Cuban missile crisis.
In Gaza, the issue is not theoretical. 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.
The second problem is world reaction to the Gaza withdrawal. Far
from Israel getting any credit for this deeply wrenching action, the
demand now is for yet more concessions — from Israel. The New
York Times called the Gaza withdrawal “only the beginning” and
declared sonorously that Ariel Sharon “must also be forewarned”
that giving up the West Bank must be next.
This is a counsel of folly. The idea that if only Israel made more
concessions and more withdrawals, the Palestinians would be
enticed into making peace is flatly contradicted by history.
We are not talking ancient history here; we are talking the past 12
years. Under Oslo, Israel made massive, near-suicidal concessions:
bringing the PLO back to life, installing Yasser Arafat in power in the
West Bank and Gaza, permitting him to arm militia after militia, and
ultimately offering him (at Camp David 2000) the first Palestinian
state in history, with a shared Jerusalem and total Israeli withdrawal
from 95 percent of the formerly occupied territories (with Israel
giving up some of its own territory to make the Palestinians whole).
How were these concessions met? With a savage terrorist
war that killed 1,000 Israelis and maimed thousands more.
The Gaza withdrawal is not the beginning but the end. Apart from
perhaps some evacuations of outlying settlements on the West Bank,
it is the end of the concession road for Israel. And it is the beginning
of the new era of self-sufficiency and separation in which Israel
ensures its security not by concessions but by fortification, barrier
creation, realism and patient waiting.
Waiting for the first-ever genuine Palestinian concessions. Waiting
for the Palestinians to honor the promises — to recognize Israel and
renounce terrorism — that they solemnly made at Oslo and brazenly
That’s the next step. Without it, nothing happens.