Whose Rules Are We Playing By.

Daniel Pipes most recent column made me think about a number of things including that of the title of this post, whose rules are we playing by. It is something that is applicable to both the disengagement and the war in Iraq/on Terror.

The premise is rather simple, are the two sides playing by the same set of rules. It is a very important determination to make because if the rules are understood it becomes easier to determine whether you have been successful in meeting your objectives. Whereas a lack of mutually agreed upon rules is far more difficult.

For example a blogger recently said (my apologies I don’t remember who) that they preferred the Cold War to fighting Al-Qaeda because they believed that the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. could abide by the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.) and therefore were both less likely to use WMDs, as opposed to AQ whom they are sure would do so without hesitation.

So the question is are we all listening to Hoyle or are there multiple rules being used. My personal take is that we are not all using the same chessboard and I think that this is problematic.

For the sake of this example let’s use the aforementioned Pipes’ column.

“Are Israel’s critics correct? Does the “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza cause the Palestinian Arabs’ anti-Semitism, their suicide factories, and their terrorism? And is it true these horrors will end only when Israeli civilians and troops leave the territories?

The answer is coming soon. Starting August 15, the Israeli government will evict about 8,000 Israelis from Gaza and turn their land over to the Palestinian Authority. In addition to being a unique event in modern history (no other democracy has forcibly uprooted thousands of its own citizens of one religion from their lawful homes), it also offers a rare, live, social-science experiment.

We stand at an interpretive divide. If Israel’s critics are right, the Gaza withdrawal will improve Palestinian attitudes toward Israel, leading to an end of incitement and a steep drop in attempted violence, followed by a renewal of negotiations and a full settlement. Logic requires, after all, that if “occupation” is the problem, ending it, even partially, will lead to a solution.

But I forecast a very different outcome. Given that about 80% of Palestinian Arabs continue to reject Israel’s very existence, signs of Israeli weakness, such as the forthcoming Gaza withdrawal, will instead inspire heightened Palestinian irredentism. Absorbing their new gift without gratitude, Palestinian Arabs will focus on those territories Israelis have not evacuated. (This is what happened after Israeli forces fled Lebanon.) The retreat will inspire not comity but a new rejectionist exhilaration, a greater frenzy of anti-Zionist anger, and a surge in anti-Israel violence.

Palestinian Arabs themselves are openly saying as much. A top Hamas figure in Gaza, Ahmed al-Bahar says “Israel has never been in such a state of retreat and weakness as it is today following more than four years of the intifada. Hamas’s heroic attacks exposed the weakness and volatility of the impotent Zionist security establishment. The withdrawal marks the end of the Zionist dream and is a sign of the moral and psychological decline of the Jewish state. We believe that the resistance is the only way to pressure the Jews.”

A Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri says likewise that the withdrawal is “due to the Palestinian resistance operations. … and we will continue our resistance.”

Others are more specific. At a mass rally in Gaza City last Thursday, about 10,000 Palestinian Arabs danced, sang, and chanted, “Today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem.” The commander of Gaza’s Popular Resistance Committees, Jamal Abu Samhadaneh announced Sunday, “We will move our cells to the West Bank” and warned “The withdrawal will not be complete without the West Bank and Jerusalem.” The Palestinian Authority’s Ahmed Qurei also asserts, “Our march will stop only in Jerusalem.”

This is very troubling but not totally unforeseen. People will almost always spin events to meet their preferred point-of-view. And when you have players jockeying for political power and position it is expected that they will try and claim a victory whenever and wherever possible.

I used to be pro-disengagement. I was not happy about it, but it seemed like the most practical thing to do. And in many ways it still does, but if a unilateral move such as this is going to be seen as incentive to continue to use violence to affect political change it may end up being a huge mistake.

Likewise in Iraq, the coalition forces cannot and must not leave in a manner which suggests that they have been driven out by force. Withdrawal must be due diplomacy and a negotiated and accepted exit policy.

For now we’ll have to wait and see how everything plays out. I am very concerned.

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