Israel in Retreat - Part I

The much-ballyhooed "summit" between Sharon and Abbas in Sharm El-Sheikh earlier this month broke up without a joint declaration, a joint press conference -- or a promise from Abbas to do anything at all to stop terrorist aggression.

Rachel Neuwirth,

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[John Landau contributed research and reporting to this article.]

Under intense pressure from the United States, the European community, Russia and the United Nations -- the so-called "Quartet" of world powers -- Israel is pursuing a suicidal course that may well cause the state to collapse, and place its five-million-plus Jewish inhabitants at the mercy of Arab enemies who mean them no good. To put the matter bluntly, a second Jewish Holocaust, only sixty to seventy years after Holocaust I, may be in the offing in the not-too-distant future. American Jews, and the American public as a whole, are completely oblivious to these horrific developments. Worst of all, the majority of the Israeli public seems to be acquiescing in the suicidal policies of their own government, without realizing the tragic fate that awaits them if these policies are allowed to continue.

The Israeli cabinet has now given formal approval to the insane "disengagement" scheme of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which calls for the destruction of twenty-two Jewish communities in Gaza and Samaria, the expulsion of the ten-thousand-plus Jewish inhabitants of these communities, abandonment by the Israel Defense Forces of vital military positions in Gaza, and the release of a minimum of nine hundred* Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons, including many with "blood on their hands" -- all in return for absolutely nothing at all from the Arab side.

That's right. Israel is retreating unilaterally, and expelling thousands of its own people from their homes, without even receiving a promise from the Palestinian Authority to put a stop to terrorism and violence against Israel. The most that the PA's "new" leader, Mahmoud Abbas ("Abu Mazen"), has promised to do is to jaw-bone Palestinian terrorists into suspending their attacks for a time. Friday's bombing reveals his lack of such influence. He has also made a public commitment not to use force to restrain the terrorists or disarm them. But surely Abbas knows -- and both Israel and American officials should know -- that verbal exhortations to terrorists to exercise restraint are completely ineffective and worthless.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two of the most vicious of the terrorist organizations, have publicly promised to continue their reign of terror despite Abbas' pro forma jaw-boning. Abbas' response has been to announce that six hundred Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists will be inducted in the Palestinian Authority's "police force". And Abbas freely admits that his primary motive for this decision is to protect the terrorists from possible arrest and retaliation by Israel.

The much-ballyhooed "summit" between Sharon and Abbas in Sharm El-Sheikh earlier this month broke up without a joint declaration, a joint press conference -- or a promise from Abbas to do anything at all to stop terrorist aggression.

Despite claims by some Israeli officials that Abbas has toned down anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement in the Palestinian Authority-funded-and-controlled media, a study published by the authoritative Israeli website Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reveals only superficial improvements in the Palestinian media's war and hate propaganda. For example: the number of songs broadcast daily on PA television urging children to become shaheeds ("martyrs" or suicide bombers) in the war against Israel has declined from thirty a day to "only" about four a day. However, sermons by Muslim preachers urging war with Israel and the "liberation" of all "Palestine" -- including every acre of Israel, even Tel Aviv-- continue to be broadcast regularly by the government-owned television station. For example, in a recent broadcast, the chief Muslim clergyman in Gaza - whose salary, like all Muslim ministers, is paid by the PA - explained to television viewers that any settlement with Israel, even one that forced Israel back to its pre-1967 borders, would only be a temporary stage on the way to the liberation of all of "Palestine."

Israel has not even demanded that alleged Israeli agents sentenced to death by the PA and held in Palestinian prisons be exchanged for the five hundred terrorists that Israel has already released, or the four hundred more that it planned to release shortly. Instead, Abbas has affirmed the death sentences of these brave Palestinian Arabs, the true resistance fighters of the Palestinian territories, who have put their lives on the line to protect Israelis from terror, without so much as a whimper of protest from Israel. This betrayal of Israel's loyal and courageous friends among the Palestinian people, whose lives could easily have been saved by insisting on their release along with the accused terrorists, is perhaps the most shocking, but also the least publicized, aspect of the Sharon government's appeasement policy.

Meanwhile, the expulsion order against the Jewish inhabitants of Gaza and Samaria is straining Israel internally to the breaking point. Politicians on all sides of the political spectrum speculate openly about the possibility of "civil war". According to numerous leaks of government documents published in the Israeli press, the government is planning to set up detention camps to hold thousands of Gaza and Samaria Jews, and their children, if they offer any resistance, even non-violent, to the expulsion order. The camps will also be built to accommodate thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of protestors against the expulsion.

Government cabinet ministers have been talking for months in public about detaining opponents of the expulsion, without any criminal charges or evidence of crimes committed by them, in order to ensure that the withdrawal and expulsions proceed smoothly. Senior officials of the government have labeled any public opposition to the expulsion order as "incitement", which under Israeli law is grounds for imprisonment, and they have suggested that anyone who speaks out against the policy should be arrested. One government minister said that it was "incitement" for anyone to oppose the expulsion "as an organized group," or even for members of parliament to "threaten" not to vote for the government if it goes ahead with the expulsion.

All of this talk carries with it an ominous threat to carry out the harshest and most massive political repression in Israel's history, one that would transform the country from a democracy, however flawed, into a dictatorship. And all this to placate and appease terrorists who have made it plain over and over again, by word and by deed, that they are implacable and unappeasable.

Nor will we have seen the last of the unilateral withdrawals and expulsion of Jews from their homes once the eviction of the ten thousand Gazan and Samarian Jews from the twenty-five villages ("settlements") now on the chopping block is completed. Minister of Trade and Industry Ehud Olmert, a close advisor and confidant of Sharon, says that the present disengagement plan is only a preliminary for "Disengagement Plan # 2," which will be a "massive" withdrawal and forced evacuation of Jews from Judea and Samaria. Sharon's office issued an immediate denial that this was government policy. But Sharon has disassociated himself from Olmert's "trial balloons" in the past, only to announce his decision to carry them out a few months later.

Over the past four years, since becoming Prime Minister, Sharon has reversed himself on nearly every policy and principle that he advocated, and practiced, throughout his adult life. Why should it be any different with Olmert's latest "trial balloon"?

The patriotic warrior Ariel Sharon that the Israeli public had come to love and respect seems no longer to exist. It is almost as if an alien spirit, a dybbuk or golem, had taken over the old soldier's body and mind.

[Part 1 of 2]

* The terror suicide bombing in front of a Tel Aviv nightclub Friday has put at least a temporary halt to the release of further prisoners.