July 22, 2004
by Gerald A. Honigman
I don't know.
Maybe it was just an exercise in rallying support among millions of key Evangelical Christian voters and winning over some Jews in what promises to be a very close election come November 2004. Dubya, after all, won last time around in a highly controversial election by, literally, just a few handfuls of votes in Florida. But maybe--just maybe--while it undoubtedly involved this, perhaps there was something else astir as well.
I've gotten ahead of myself, so let's backtrack a bit.
Israel's Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, made a very hard decision last April. After decades of supporting the construction of Israeli settlements in disputed territories Israel wound up with as a result of having to fight a defensive war for its life in June 1967, the Old Warrior decided that the costs outweighed the gains of keeping Jews in Gaza.
While it is true that, while their numbers drastically fluctuated, Jews had lived in Gaza for millennia; that, since the days of the Pharaohs, Gaza had been used as an invasion route into Israel proper by those aiming to destroy or subjugate it; that Gaza had become a hotbed for terrorists aiming to destroy Israel; that Jewish communities set up in Gaza were not on Arab-owned land; etc. and so forth; it is also true that many--if not most--Israelis were looking for a way out of Gaza if the proper conditions presented themselves.
Israel had long been under pressure to take some steps to revive the all-but-dead, so-called roadmap for peace with Palestinian Arabs. While the latter was seen, at least in a few circles, to exist in such a moribund state due to the unwillingness and/or inability of the Arabs to control their own disembowelers of Jews, this key factor did not matter nearly as much as it should have. So the squeeze was put on the Jews. While such hypocrisy was by now expected from Europe and much of the rest of the world, the folks at Foggy Bottom also habitually indulge in this sort of behavior, coming up with absurd, alleged "moral equivalencies" and the like.
Lacking any Anwar Sadat or King Hussein-type to deal with among Palestinian Arabs (i.e. Arab leaders willing to allow for a viable Israel still existing on the morrow after a peace treaty is signed), Arik decided to make a unilateral move to break the stalemate while also supposedly enhancing Israel's overall security position. The latter assertion is hotly debated given certain "facts of life."
In April 2004, Sharon thus came up with his Gaza withdrawal plan. In addition to the removal of Gaza's 8,000 Jews, some settlements in Samaria, the northern West Bank, were also placed on the eviction notice.
The world had been clamoring for such Israeli moves for decades.
Those who had conquered territories sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles away from home in the name of their own nations' security somehow couldn't figure out the life-threatening problems Israel was constantly faced with due to the armistice lines imposed upon it in 1949 by the United Nations. As is well known by now, those lines made Israel a mere 9-miles wide at its strategic waist, where most of the nation's population and industry is located.
One needn't be Napoleon to figure out what this all meant to a nation grossly out-manned and out-gunned, surrounded by enemies sworn to its demise. And, as would become the norm, the UN had only stepped in after the Jews turned the tide of the Arab invasion in 1948 to snuff out both their own lives and the life of their sole, miniscule, reborn nation.
Israel was never meant to be a 9-mile wide rump state...but that's how it was left when the lines were drawn in '49 marking the point where the Jews finally turned back the invasion of a half dozen Arab armies supplied to the teeth with weaponry left over by the Allies from World War II and led, in Transjordan, by British officers. The UN stepped in to limit Arab losses, not to prevent their blatant aggression. This behavior would be repeated in subsequent decades as well.
Arab settlers from elsewhere then, once again, poured into these disputed territories. As leading international legal scholars like Eugene Rostow have pointed out, the latter had largely been unapportioned state lands belonging to the original Mandate, open to settlement by Arabs, Jews, and others as well. After 1949, however, only Arabs were able to move here with Transjordan's internationally unrecognized land grab.
Purely Arab Transjordan, comprising all the land on the east bank of the River, had already been created by the British in 1922 from almost 80% of the original 1920 borders of the Mandate of Palestine, and Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria--the "West Bank"--had been massacred by the Arabs in the 1920s. During this same time period, the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission documented massive waves of Arabs (scores of thousands in just a few months alone) pouring into the Mandate from Syria, Egypt, North Africa, and elsewhere as well. Many more Arabs entered under cover of darkness and were simply never recorded--more "native Palestinians." Thanks to the Jews, the Mandate was economically booming, drawing Arabs in from the entire region.
While this has been repeated ad nauseam, it must be stated yet again. The architects of famed UN Security Council Resolution 242 (Rostow included), carefully worded the final, accepted draft so that Israel would not be expected to have to return to its pre-'67, suicidal armistice lines. Indeed, the resolution called for the creation of "secure and recognized borders" to replace those lines. The bulk of Israel's settlements have been placed with such a strategic territorial compromise in mind. While some will have to go as a trade off for a real peace agreement, others will have to stay.
The area under discussion is tiny to begin with. When Egypt held Gaza and Jordan (name changed after it came to hold both banks of the River) held the West Bank for almost two decades, no one called for the creation of an additional Arab State...their second, not first, one in "Palestine." But, after 1967, the world demanded the latter of the Jews, expecting them to bare their necks to bring this about (while ignoring the plight of 30 million stateless Kurds, millions of Black African Sudanese, and others as well being slaughtered in the name of Arab nationalism). And the American Foggy Folks constantly make the point that the additional Arab state must not be a bantustan.
Guess what? Justice does not demand that the boundaries and such of any 22nd or 23rd Arab state--that there really is no room for--come at the expense of security for the sole state of the Jews.
Despite all of this, Sharon sought to break the log jam with his April 2004 unilateral withdrawal proposals.
So, the hypocrites should have applauded Arik's decision, correct? Guess again...
The Arabs, of course, viewed it simply as another victory in their destruction in phases scenario. Terrorism works, Lebanon again, and so forth. That's the message, unfortunately, they got from Arik. And rather than feeling compelled to come up with some real conciliatory moves of their own, they simply made more demands for additional, unilateral Israeli concessions.
Since the failure of their "one fell swoop" plan for Israel's destruction in June 1967, they adopted a strategy to politically force a return to the indefensible armistice lines of 1949. Given new technologies, massive buildups of Arab armed forces, the continuing Arab birth rate, and the like, the return of Israel to its pre-'67 lines, coupled with a demand for a "return" of millions of Arabs to the Jews' rump state, would be the beginning of the end. The Arabs openly acknowledged all of this. Even their "moderates" called Oslo and other so-called plans for "peace" merely a Trojan Horse, designed to bring about Arafat's so-called "Peace of the Quraysh," the temporary hudna designed to buy time while weakening the Jews for the same final blow Muhammad dealt to his pagan enemies almost fourteen centuries earlier.
That Arabs have responded this way was no shock. But they have been supported in this behavior by most of the world as well.
And then there was the magic of April...
There had been talk before Sharon came up with his withdrawal plan that he would get some backing from Washington on some other key matters.
There is an indisputable set of facts regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. If there will ever be peace between Arab and Jew, Arabs will have to give up their eternal plans for Israel's destruction. Had they done this, Arabs could have had their second state in Palestine decades ago. Fair and just plans were presented and rejected over the decades by the Arabs themselves--certainly far more than Arabs had ever offered to any of their own national competitors. The reality is that they still want that additional state to exist in place of, not along side of, the Jewish one.
Enter George W. Bush...
Standing near Sharon, in a news conference being watched on television all over the world, an American President--the first since Truman in 1948--finally took a political stance that might yet lead to peace. Dubya stated, before millions watching him, the two key ingredients for such a recipe: Israel should not be expected to return to the indefensible armistice lines of 1949 (and he called them just that, not "borders"), and real and fudged Arab refugees would have to go to the proposed new Arab state, not overwhelm the Jews in Israel. Half of Israel's Jews were refugees from Arab/Muslim lands.
Einstein was not needed to figure this recipe out.
But Arabs had long been given reason, via the world's actions, to hope that Israel would yet become an updated Czechoslovakia with the West Bank as its Sudetenland. All that was missing was a proper Chamberlain and conditions allowing for another Munich sellout to achieve "peace."
President Bush's words, as simple as they were, are the magic ingredients necessary if there is ever to be peace between Arab and Jew in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, they proved to be fleeting. No sooner than they were spoken, the Foggy Folks began to water them down. Again, no surprise here. They fought Truman over the very rebirth of Israel a half century earlier.
But, to make matters worse, something even more disturbing next transpired. America's Iraq prison scandal erupted. This, added to an already increased overall level of Arab animosity surfacing regarding Iraq, the Arab-Israeli conflict, etc., led the State Department to quickly search for additional ways to appease the Arabs.
Gone, apparently in an instant, was the magic of April.
Both the State Department and the President himself soon made statements which basically retracted much of what Dubya had said earlier.
What does this say to Israel?
At the first sign of problems, its best friend, America, is willing to retract its support of what all other nations would naturally expect...the right to protect itself from an alleged "peace" that is really designed to bring about its very destruction.
President Bush still has time to make this right. And if the Arabs ever expect to get anything meaningful regarding that additional state, they will have to come to terms with reality and understand that others, besides themselves, also have a right to a bit of justice in the region. When they do this, they will find an Israel forthcoming in its willingness to meet them far more than half way.
Gerald A. Honigman is a Florida educator who has done extensive doctoral studies in Middle Eastern Affairs. He has created and conducted counter-Arab propaganda programs for college youth, has lectured on numerous campuses and other platforms, and has publicly debated many Arab spokesmen. His articles and op-eds have been published in dozens of newspapers, magazines, academic journals and websites all around the world.