JERUSALEM — States, like individuals, should learn from their mistakes. This truism applies to Israel as witnessed by her hasty withdrawal from southern Lebanon, May 24, 2000, and ill-considered exit from the Gaza Strip, September 12, 2005. Both pullouts were unilateral and unconditional. And both had tragic results.
In the first instance, the overnight abandonment of the so-called Security Zone adjacent to the Jewish state’s northern border, resulted in an immediate takeover by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas who promptly transformed it into the world’s densest concentration of surface-to-surface missiles able to hit Israeli cities and towns as far south as Beersheba and possibly even farther.
In the second instance, the removal of Israel’s troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip — again without any quid pro quo from the Palestinians who gained control over the area without firing a single shot — not only resulted in its seizure by the Islamic extremist Hamas organization, which also is supported by Iran, but also enabled Hamas to win the subsequent Palestinian election in the West Bank as well as the Strip and establish a separatist Gaza regime in defiance of the Palestinian National Authority. Hamas also used this unexpected opportunity to launch more than 1,000 homemade Qassam missiles at Israeli targets, civilian as well as military.
With regard to Lebanon, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak did not request or receive any official Lebanese commitments in return for the Security Zone’s sudden abandonment. Nor did he make any provisions for the safety and future well-being of Israel’s Lebanese ally, the South Lebanon Army, whose personnel and families were left precariously to fend for themselves as their Israeli comrades-in-arms streamed across the border.
Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who stunned the American government by summarily quitting Gaza — a move believed here to have been dictated by personal as well as political motives, i.e. to offset the possibility of legal complications due to his alleged financial irregularities by endearing himself to the “land for peace” advocates among the various opposition parties — contradicted his own longtime sponsorship of Jewish settlements in Gaza, especially those near the Egyptian border, as an asset to Israel’s national security.
The so-called Oslo Accords, which were signed on the White House lawn, Sept. 13, 1993, are another case of political miscalculation and strategic error. They were born in sin: secret negotiations between peripheral Israeli officials and academic colleagues dispatched by then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to negotiate with Israel’s arch-enemy, the Palestine Liberation Organization (contact with whose members was against the law) on a formula that would lead to Palestinian statehood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The passage of 17 years since that hypocritical event has not brought Palestinian self-determination any closer. The PLO, whose corrupt and administratively-inept officials lost out to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, is unable to advance the universally, though unrealistically, advocated “two-state solution” despite the high hopes recently spawned by incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s optimistic scenario and played out with President Obama in Washington. Even if the two sides agree to elevate the current indirect negotiations to direct ones, the resultant agreement will not be endorsed by Hamas and therefore would spawn a situation in which pre-1948 Palestine would consist of three states: Israel, born-again Palestine and what Netanyahu terms, “Hamasstan.”
These tragic miscalculations were compounded by the unwise imposition of a land and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip, another of Barak’s doomed initiatives. After nearly four years of enforcement, it not only failed to generate mass opposition to the tyrannical Hamas regime, but also did not compel it to release Gilad Schalit, the soldier who was kidnapped from Israeli territory, June 25, 2006. The blockade should have been lifted more than three years ago if not even earlier. Instead, it was left in effect on an open-ended basis and resulted in unwarranted international criticism culminating in the dispatch of cynically motivated flotillas ostensibly carrying humanitarian supplies for the purportedly beleaguered Gazans.
In all of these pathetic episodes nobody at the decision-making level has been called to account. Even the military committee that investigated the naval interception of the six-vessel flotilla that intended to run the maritime blockade of Gaza refrained from mentioning any names in its critique of flawed command and intelligence that resulted in nine unnecessary deaths aboard the Marvi Marmara, a Turkish vessel carrying pro-Palestinian terrorists who beat, clubbed and shot the boarding party of Israeli seaborne commandos.
It is as if by dint of Jewish norms or past precedents, Israel cannot demand accountability from those at the nation’s helm. So it was during the horrific years of the Nazi Holocaust that preceded the renewal of Jewish statehood and so it seems to be today 62 years after Israel’s rebirth.
(Jay Bushinsky an Israel-based political columnist, can be reached at Jay@actcom.co.il.)