Monday, January 09, 2006

Sharon versus Abbas--A Retrospective

Clearly, an era is ending in Israel, with the passing of General Sharon. Even though he is still fighting for life at this hour, the severity of his illness will almost certainly end his storied political career.

It seems only fair to compare the two counterparts at the center of the world's most infamous warzone--the Jewish state--and its closest combatant, the Palestinian Arabs and their nominal figurehead, Mahmoud Abbas.

First, on Sharon, a man who has fought (or has been closely involved) in every war in Israel since the nation's founding, in fire and blood, in 1948. Sharon was always a man who put the defense of his country as his highest priority, and whose bravery on the battlefield became a legend within the IDF. He wasn't above controversy or poor judgement, however, as was perhaps best shown during the invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

Once Sharon's advancing years made him too old to serve in the IDF, he turned to politics. Israel's political left, the Labor Party, tried the 'land for peace' strategy, symbolized by the Oslo Agreement in 1993, and then at the last-ditch American-brokered negotiations at Camp David in 2000. Their Muslim opponents had, of course, no intention of honoring any peace deal with the hated Jews for a moment longer than necessary. Hence, it was inevitably that yet another 'intifada' broke out, with Sharon's own visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem used as the pretext.

The upswing in violence totally discredited the Israeli left, and gave Sharon a political opening. He led Israel's center-right party, Likud, into power in February 2001. Knowing that further negotiations with the Palestinians was fruitless, he committed Israel to a policy of 'non negotiation and disengagement' from their historical Arab enemies.

This evolved into a strategy of largely pulling out of Gaza and the West Bank, because Sharon realized that their incorporation into Greater Israel was a political and demographic impossibility. These areas would be walled off from Israel, and these borders would be fortified and defended. This would limit Palestinian suicide attacks, and would not require any 'negotiations' with a party that had a track record of not honoring its word. The walled-off areas would become a defacto Palestinian state. Thus, Israel is hunkering down behind walls, razor wire, fortifications, and anything else that can be devised. And it's working--Israeli deaths from suicide attacks are down significantly (more than 50%) from 2002-03.

This is the new, true 'Middle East Peace Process'. The 'Road Map' is meaningless, and every one knows it. Of course, Sharon paid it due lip service, as it was his chief ally's pet project. The 'Palestinian Authorty' is either unable or unwilling to honor its 'Road Map' obligations to rein in terrorists and basically to act like the responsible government it claims to be. The Road Map is dead on arrival, and Israel is strategizing accordingly. Sharon's departure from the scene does not change this strategic picture in the slightest. This is his true legacy.

Now we turn to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Arab who (in theory) runs an entity called 'Palestinian Authority' (PA), the putative counterpart to Israel.

Abbas is as politically dead as Sharon is--the PA is coming apart at the seams. The Gaza strip, in the aftermath of Israel's unilateral pullout last summer, is a running, defacto Palestinian state. I mean 'running' only in the loosest sense of the word, as very little in Gaza is running normally nowadays. Gaza is gangland, a free-fire zone, a nihilistic nightmare, an arena for warlords and terrorist cells to run amok, competing for money, power, weapons, turf--you name it. It's a world where the terrorists and police are indistinguishable from one another. The only thing the Palestinians agree on is their hatred of Israel, and their love of Islam and jihad. They disagree on virtually everything else.

Abbas is a symbol, a charlatan whose reason for being is to walk down the red carpet with various infidel leaders in foreign capitals and basically beg for their money. He succeeds very well in this regard, extracting millions in jizya tribute from the US, EU, UN, and the rest of the 'International Community'. The millions make no difference to the impoverished masses of the rump 'Palestinian state'. Why Abbas isn't busy shaking down the rich Arabs in, say Riyadh or Doha is an unanswered question. So the beleaguered taxpayers in Dusseldorf and Dallas are stuck with the bill.

No amount of foreign 'aid packages' is going to make a difference in Gaza. Condi's diplomacy and State Department press conferences are as equally irrelevant. Corruption is king--it's insidious and is present at the highest levels of the PA. Efficiency on any organizational level (like what the Israelis demonstrate on a daily basis) is not only unheard of, it's also damned unpopular with the Arabs in the first place.

Abbas is a forlorn, almost sad figure. It's almost easy to feel sorry for him, until one listens to his speeches celebrating the 'martyrs' that bravely blow up Israeli restaurants and shopping malls.

Israel has a democratically-elected, constitutionally-based government. As a result, Sharon's incapacitation did not affect the running of the Israeli state in the slightest. The reins of power passed smoothly to Sharon's deputy, and no one in Tel Aviv or Haifa questioned the legality of it. The IDF stayed in their barracks and no one doubts that they remain under the unified control of the new Prime Minister.

If only the PA could ever function this way. Abbas's presence or absence from the scene, in its own way, probably won't make much of a difference either.


American Crusader said...

it's almost impossible to compare Sharon and Abbas. Sharon is an "old soldier" of Israel. He has spent his life promoting democracy and keeping Israel a free and independent country.
Mahmoud Abbas it is a newer, weaker version of Arafat and once Hamas is voted into power you can say goodbye to him. I agree with your assessment that Israel will wall off of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and watch both regions fall into chaos.
Israel tried to incorporate both regions and the Palestinians living there would have had a better life. Too they can look towards their Arab brethren for help.

John Sobieski said...

I wasn't aware of this, but essentially all the electricity is imported from Israel. This could be a powerful weapon to Israel if things get bad now that Gaza has lost all semblance of a government. Second, I guess the PA pays for this electricity with some of that jizya we send, so at least not all of it is wasted.

Iran Watch said...

Unfortunately though, I'm willing to bet that American dollars will be funneled into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip through NGO's trying to help the "brave" Palestinian people fighting for their independence. It's such a joke.

MissingLink said...

"No amount of foreign 'aid packages' is going to make a difference in Gaza. Condi's diplomacy and State Department press conferences are as equally irrelevant. "

Agreed on all counts.