- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2006

Today, even more than is usually the case, Israel is the Free World’s “canary in the mine shaft.” Its voters are poised to vote for a policy approach their American counterparts are being tempted to embrace in the months ahead. Call it the “disengagement delusion.”

Israeli polls suggest that the elections today will ratify an idea that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon applied last year to the Gaza Strip and — but for a career-ending stroke — one he seemed determined next to apply to the West Bank: unilateral withdrawal of Jews from much, if not virtually all, of the disputed territories in which they had built fortifications, homes and communities in the decades since Israel wrested such lands from enemies trying to destroy it in the 1967 Six-Day War.

A barrier would then be completed to divide the Palestinians, who would assume full control over such ceded territories, from their Israeli neighbors. The theory, as Robert Frost famously put it, seems to be that “Good fences make good neighbors” — or at least this arrangement will make it possible for Israel to live with security next to bad ones.

If Israel’s voters do, in fact, give a mandate to Ehud Olmert, the man who now leads the Kadima Party created by Mr. Sharon in the months before his illness, they will actually be indulging in not one delusion, but two.

The first delusion is that the Israeli electorate is voting — as it has done time and time again over the past 14 years — for someone who promises them security in the face of an increasingly virulent threat from the Palestinian community. Currently, the Palestinians are led by Hamas, a terrorist organization explicitly committed to the destruction of the Jewish State. A succession of previous prime ministers have run on such a platform, then proceeded to indulge in various diplomatic maneuvers that have put Israel at still greater risk.

The second delusion is that what amounts to cutting-and-running — in this case, it is running behind a security fence, yet remaining within easy range of artillery and rocket fire — will make matters better. In fact, Mr. Olmert’s plan for turning over much of the high ground of the West Bank, its vital aquifers and strategic depth in the immediate wake of Hamas’ electoral victory can only embolden those and other Islamofascist enemies of freedom. It will compound the danger they pose, not only to Israel but to all of us.

This is not idle speculation. The results of Mr. Sharon’s earlier disengagement from Gaza are already evident: The ascendancy of the most unabashedly hostile of Israel’s foes; the creation of new Taliban-style safe-havens for terrorists (including al Qaeda); and a metastasizing threat as Russia, the European Union and the United Nations seek to legitimate Hamas, even as Kadima proposes to reward it with further territorial concessions.

Unfortunately, polls in America suggest that the voters in this country are prone to a similar strain of the disengagement delusion.

Majorities now declare their desire to withdraw from Iraq, evidence of the cumulative effect of relentless negative reports about the difficulties confronting Iraqis aspiring to freedom, and the Coalition forces seeking to help them.

Much as in Israel, American politicians, pundits and anti-war activists are blithely suggesting that disengaging from Iraq by pulling U.S. troops out will not only reduce the costs to us of conflict there. It supposedly will also mitigate international hostility against us, making us more secure. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

As is the case for Israeli withdrawals, an American disengagement from Iraq under present circumstances will be portrayed by our enemies in-country — and among Islamofascist movements worldwide — as further proof of our inevitable defeat. It will encourage a redoubling of their deadly activities, not their slackening. Any respite will be as fleeting as it is artificial; the War for the Free World will simply be fought on different battlefields, including here in the United States.

A recent, shameful depiction by two prominent academics — one of whom is a dean at Harvard University — of American solidarity with the Jewish State as a product of some massive conspiracy they dub “the Israel Lobby” (of which the Center for Security Policy is said to be a part) misses an inconvenient, but far more plausible, explanation for what binds the two nations together: common values and common enemies, and the need to protect from the latter open societies that cherish the former.

Our ability to assure such protection is put at grave risk when one other common quality takes a holiday — common sense. It is understandable, but not acceptable, for voters to tire of the costs — human, financial and psychological — of being under assault. Another Harvard University professor (and psychiatrist), Dr. Kenneth Levin, has authored an excellent book on the phenomenon, “The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege.” As he put it recently:

“It is characteristic of people under siege or chronic attack — whether you’re talking about minorities that are marginalized, defamed and attacked or a small state under attack by larger neighbors — it is characteristic of portions of those populations to embrace the indictments, however bizarre, and to believe that if they perform in a way consistent with those indictments, then the siege will end.”

It is simply a delusion — and a highly dangerous one at that — to kid ourselves that the enemy will be mollified by the retreat they demand of us today. Only by remaining on offense can countries like Israel and the United States hope to prevail in this War for the Free World.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times. He blogs at www.WarFooting.com.

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