Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stepping Out

Late last month, the Zionist Organization of America had a message for the Israeli government:
The Zionist Organization of America called on Israeli and U.S. supporters of the 2005 Gaza withdrawal to apologize.

Noting the "past three years of rapid security deterioration in the southern part of Israel," ZOA President Morton Klein said in a statement that "in these circumstances, it is high time for all MKs, journalists and others, regardless of party affiliation, who supported the process of unilateral withdrawal to apologize to the Israeli electorate. They should explain that they now understand the disastrous consequences of unilateral concessions to an unreconstructed Palestinian terror regime.

"Doing so would help restore public trust in the Knesset and the political system and be the best demonstration of honesty and the willingness of political figures to stand accountable to the electorate for mistaken and failed policies which they advocated," he said.

Now, the ZOA and its leader, Mort Klein, are annoying as a general rule. But this is revelatory. The ZOA says its "pro-Israel". But, speaking from outside Israel (the Zionist Organization of America), it claims the authority to say Israel should apologize to its own citizenry for the "failure" of the Gaza withdrawal. This is another case of the type of person who would normally say we shouldn't "second guess" Israel on its national security decisions ... second-guessing Israel when it takes actions that don't perfectly adhere to the most hawkish possible line.

Klein, of course, has the right to believe the Gaza withdrawal was a mistake. I disagree with him, strongly, but that's fine. But the upshot of that is a concession that Israeli governmental policies are open to criticism and second-guessing by the plethora of persons out there who have ideas over how Israel should behave consonant with its own security concerns and its obligations to respect the human rights and self-determination of the Palestinian people. The ZOA isn't the only body which gets to play this game. Israel can't only be open to criticism from right-leaning voices.

I should add, incidentally, that if creating a Palestinian state wholesale (i.e., not just withdrawing from Gaza) would have yielded the same security situation that Israel has faced over the last three years, I'd have whole-heartedly supported it. Not because I think Israel's been put in a good situation, or that the terror attacks it has faced since the Gaza withdrawal are trivial. But Klein would have us believe that the upshot of creating a Palestinian state now would be the destruction of Israel. If that were true, it might counsel waiting, but if creating a Palestinian state just means perpetuating the status quo of low- to mid-grade conflict and insurgency, then I prefer it being with an independent Palestinian state than without it.

This is true for several reasons: because it would entail a net gain in justice (the same amount of violence directed at Israel, but self-determination for the Palestinians), because it is more likely to lead to a negotiated settlement with other neighboring countries, and because it would greatly simplify a lot of the legal questions that surround how Israel can respond to terrorist attacks and it's legal obligations to the Palestinians.

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