Sharon - An Israeli King Lear?

What Sharon deceptively calls "disengagement" in Gaza is nothing less than self-administered ethnic cleansing against 8,000 civilian residents legally residing in part of historic Israel.

Rachel Neuwirth,

Rachel Neuwirth
Rachel Neuwirth
In our war against Islamic terror, we certainly need all the allies we can find. Since its re-birth in 1948, the Jewish State of Israel has been our loyal and helpful ally for over half a century. Both countries have shared values, which make the friendship a solid one between two peoples and not just between heads of state, as with certain dictatorships. Anything that would weaken Israel would also detract from our own security, as well.

Unfortunately, something is going terribly wrong inside Israel under the Sharon government. The principle of uncompromisingly opposing terror and its supporters, affirmed by every Israeli government since the state's inception, and by the Bush administration as well, is now being turned on its head by Ariel Sharon. In the last election, the people of Israel voted against the bloody appeasement policies of Ehud Barak and for a strong defense against years of terrorism, which has cost Israel's people so much blood and suffering. Sharon has defended Israeli security all his life, and he campaigned with promises to end appeasement and combat terror. He won power in a landslide election.

Yet today, he now betrays his promises and institutes a policy of appeasement greater than anything in the past. What Sharon deceptively calls "disengagement" in Gaza is nothing less than self-administered ethnic cleansing against 8,000 civilian residents legally residing in part of historic Israel. He is yielding to unremitting Arab terror and rewarding it by starting a new pattern of retreat in the face of terror against innocent civilians. If 1.2 million Arabs can live securely inside Israel with civil rights, then why can't a mere 8,000 Jews live in Gaza among one million Arabs if there is to be peace? Conversely, if 8,000 Jews cannot live securely among a million Arabs, then five million Israeli Jews cannot live securely among 300 million Arabs in the Middle East. In other words, if the Arabs want peace, then the Jews should remain and, if Jews cannot remain, then the Arabs do not want peace and should receive no concessions, certainly not those that weaken Israel.

His own commanders have warned that if Sharon's "disengagement" (meaning withdrawal of Israeli security forces from Gaza and the expulsion of its Jewish inhabitants) is carried out, Gaza will become an even greater terrorist stronghold, with more lethal weapons flowing in, and terrorists free to set up new bases and install longer-range missiles. Sharon ignores the warnings of his own military advisors. He ignores the will of his own Likud party. He ignores calls even for a referendum on such a momentous decision. He ignores the suffering of the targeted communities. He refuses to set any limit on further withdrawals. He ignores repeated peaceful demonstrations of 100,000-200,000 protesters, which would be the US equivalent of one-half to one million people. He threatens resistors with prison and heavy fines unless they cooperate.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas is Yasser Arafat in a business suit. Abbas was the loyal associate of Arafat throughout his terror career. Abbas is a Holocaust denier and one who funded the killers of Israelis at the 1972 Munich Olympics. He refuses to reign in his terrorists and will only "negotiate" with them. He still calls Israel the "Zionist enemy" and promises his fellow Arabs to continue Arafat's struggle. Hamas won a huge victory in Gaza's recent municipal elections and, together with Hizbullah, the Lebanese terrorist organization that now funds and directs most Palestinian terrorism, the Hamasniks vow to oppose peace and to attack Israel unconditionally. Under Abbas, the Palestinian Authority media continues to spew forth the most extremist and inflammatory rhetoric to fuel unremitting hatred against Israel. Like Arafat, Abbas learned how to charm the US administration in English, while fanning Arab hatred when speaking in Arabic. The American public only hears the English version.

In the face of all this, Sharon is suspending military action against terrorist leaders and is planning to release hundreds of terrorists in return for vague promises by Abbas, with no assurance of their fulfillment. President George Bush indicated that Sharon is on his own and will have to bear the considerable economic costs, and there is no assurance of US support if anything goes wrong. The original Israeli principle of first dismantling the terrorist infrastructure before any Israeli concessions is now out the window, solely because Sharon decided, on his own, to ram through his new policy over all objections. There has not even been a proper parliamentary debate during which Sharon would have to respond to searching questions. No debate, no referendum, and no truly free press to inform the public of Sharon's high-handed actions; only threats and desperate actions to remain in power, and to impose one man's will upon a suffering nation

President Bush is commendably making an effort to bring democracy to Iraq. How bitterly ironic, then, to witness democracy being strangled in its original Middle East homeland by the Sharon government. Sharon is also risking a civil war, which, in turn, could tempt Israel's enemies to attack a weakened Israel. While terrorism is being fought in Afghanistan and in Iraq, it is being rewarded and strengthened in Gaza and the West Bank thanks to Ariel Sharon.

Sharon's actions are so inexplicable, so out of character, so extreme and so dangerous that one can seriously inquire if he is in his right mind. Throughout history, and also in Shakespeare's King Lear, we can see a great king or other leader slowly going insane and, in the process, placing his entire country at risk. Like Lear, Sharon wields great power with insufficient checks and balances, and we are aghast at his actions as they become progressively more dangerous and irrational. The Israeli system seems unable to guard against a head of state who makes unilateral decisions and abuses his nearly dictatorial powers.

Some Americans, from a safe distance, may support what they are told is a step towards peace. After Neville Chamberlain met with "Herr Hitler" in 1938, he returned to England and proudly announced that the paper in his hand was an agreement that would bring "peace in our time." But, when Hitler invaded what remained of Czechoslovakia and Poland in violation of his solemn promises to Chamberlain, Chamberlain finally woke up. He was naive, but not insane. Sharon is worse, because he makes dangerous concessions to an implacable enemy while under fire in the absence even of promises and signed pieces of paper. It is beyond naive and suggests mental derangement.

If the Bush administration continues its ruinous course of supporting Sharon's "disengagement" policy and joining him in the appeasement of the Abbas-Fatah terrorist regime, then it too will be guilty of betraying its own principles as enunciated in Mr. Bush's justly celebrated speech of June 24, 2002. On that occasion, Bush stated that terrorist organizations should be completely disbanded before Israel withdraws from more territory and that a new Palestinian leadership, "not compromised by terror," should be installed before further Israeli concessions were made. But, by first endorsing the infamous United Nations-European Community "Road Map" plan for unilateral Israeli withdrawal, and then the even more ruinous Sharon disengagement scheme, Bush has hopelessly betrayed his own principles, to the manifest detriment of America's war on terror. Such a lesson will not be lost on our enemies, who will realize that, under certain conditions, America will betray a friend and even reward an enemy.