August 17, 2005

The hot topic: Gaza

The events currently coming to pass in the Gaza Strip are obviously the single largest event to happen in the Israel-Palestine situation in my lifetime. I strongly suspect that it will prove to be the most important event in the entire Middle East in that time period. The obvious competitor is the current Iraq War. That will clearly have effects of some sort on Iraq itself, but outside of Iraq its chief effect looks to be an increased supply of terrorists---a quantitative, rather than a qualitative change.

But the Israel situation is different. It serves as a focal point for a lot of other conflicts both near and far, and so it has the potential to have much more widespread effects. I have said before that I couldn't see any possible good end to the Palestinian conflict, but that was largely because both sides seemed to be deeply tied to a downward spiral of retaliatory attacks, unwilling to give anything positive unless they got something in return but happy to attack the other.

Here, now, we have a unilateral concession on the part of Israel. "We're pulling out of Gaza. We'll get back to you in a couple months." This has been a source of consternation among the settlerist hardliners, as well as a source of suspicion among the Palestinians. But Hamas, of all groups, seems to be acting with surprised restraint right now. After this, the story isn't over, but Israel has restored a great deal of its credibility and political capital. It's true that the West Bank portion of this pullout was just four relatively small and isolated settlements, but they were settlements that were plunked right in the middle of a lot of Palestinian villages, and their removal restores contiguity to a lot of Palestinian territory. And much more importantly, the withdrawals from these four settlements and the seventeen in Gaza will prove that Israel has the willingness and the wherewithal to forcibly but nonviolently evacuate settlements, should that be placed on the table. It also provides an answer to questions of the form "Why should we trust that you will...?".

The first day of forced evacuation has gone as well as could be hoped. Here's hoping the rest go as well, and that both sides use this opportunity to move forward towards a sustainable, permanent resolution to the situation that will satisfy all sides.

You, O Lord, will keep us and preserve us always from this generation,
While about us the wicked strut and in high place are the basest of men. --Ps 12:8-9

Posted by blahedo at 11:55pm on 17 Aug 2005
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