This Sunday, Israel completed its withdrawal from the Gaza strip. It wasn’t long before throngs of Palestinians began looting and burning the former Israeli settlements, including the destruction of several synagogues. As the Times reports:
Behind him, a settlement synagogue built in the shape of a huge Star of David was smoldering, fires inside sending smoke through the edges of the star. Atop the building, in the dim smoky moment before dawn, one could see a huge green flag of Hamas, with a smaller Palestinian flag flying below it.
A few minutes later, a large black flag of Islamic Jihad was flying just under the Hamas flag, above the Palestinian one.
Five minutes later, the Palestinian flag had been taken down altogether.
The Palestinians are currently incapable of self-rule. Gaza is already well on the way to becoming a sectarian bloodbath, a terrible experiment in a Hobbesian state of nature. The “Palestinian Authority” is utterly toothless compared to the ruthless forces of Hamas, Hizb’Allah, and the Islamic Jihad. Already Hamas has killed a relative of Yasser Arafat and shown that those elements of the Palestinian security services that aren’t already a part of their militia are powerless to stop them. The only law in Gaza is the law of the jungle.
I still agree that the pullout from Gaza was the right choice – those settlements were undefendable. Furthermore, the collapse of anything resembling civil society in Gaza should serve as a warning – a Palestinian state would be the last thing that the Palestinians should want. With Hamas and the Islamic Jihad firmly in control, any potential Palestinian state would quickly devolve into nothing more than a petri dish for terrorism.
Sharon’s strategy is probably the only tenable one. The international community tends to be vehemently anti-Israel. The UN is the most systematic supporter of worldwide anti-Semitism since the Third Reich, and UN funds have been going into buying weapons and propaganda for terrorist groups for years. Israel can count on the support of the United States, but even that has its limits. The Israeli economy is doing better, but is still extremely fragile. Israel is in a delicate geographic position – surrounded by enemies with the vast majority of its population in a narrow belt that is quite vulnerable to attack. The existence of Israel itself is due almost entirely to the strength and fortitude of the Israeli people and their martial excellence.
Sharon wants to extricate Israel from the Palestinians and let them slaughter each other until the day they come to their senses or there’s no one left. Sadly, that’s the best option they have. Mahmoud Abbas showed some promise, but he is even more toothless than Arafat was. The Palestinian Authority has no authority, and they have no standing in Palestine. Negotiating with them is pointless, and Hamas and the other terrorist organizations who hold the real power have no interest in negotiating with Israel. There is no longer any chance of a peaceful settlement to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. There is no such thing as a Palestinian polity – Arafat pissed all that away. As the flags over the burning mosque of Neve Dekalim attest, there is solely a collection of various terrorist groups jockeying for power and position.
The Palestinians and the Palestinians alone can make the choice whether to become a civil society or collapse into anarchy – sadly years of Arafat’s cronyism and anti-Semitic hatred have destroyed Palestinian civil society and turned the West Bank and Gaza into seething cauldrons of hatred and unfocused rage. The Palestinians will continue to blame Israel for their problems, but they have a chance to build a prosperous and decent society for their children, and they’ve torn that down along with the synagogues of Gaza.