- The Washington Times - Monday, May 22, 2006

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is in town this week on a sales campaign. He hopes to secure U.S. approval and financing (perhaps as much as $10 billion) for his controversial plan to withdraw unilaterally Israeli civilians and troops from nearly all of the West Bank and even parts of Jerusalem. He would settle, however, for American acquiescence — which he could then use to suppress debate at home about what amounts to state-icide.

The danger arises from the fact that the beneficiary of Israel’s proposed surrender of territory will be her Islamofascist enemies. They include Hamas, the terrorist group that came to power in Gaza after Israel withdrew unilaterally last year from that relatively tiny piece of real estate. If the experience with Gaza is any guide, however, Hamas will turn the West Bank into a Taliban-style safe-haven for other terrorists including: al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

From the Gaza Strip, such enemies of Israel have launched daily mortar, rocket and/or artillery attacks, by some counts as many as 500 since the Israelis “disengaged.” Fortunately, the areas of the Jewish State thus far within range are largely agricultural and thinly populated — with the notable exception of the important port of Ashkelon. As a result, there have been no casualties to date, even from attacks on Ashkelon’s vital electrical, oil pipeline and water desalination infrastructure.

That will almost certainly change over time, however, as the experience and accuracy of Islamofascist terrorists in Gaza and the range and lethality of their weapons improve. Such improvements are being facilitated by the now-essentially-open border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. The fact the Mubarak regime in Cairo tolerates, if not enables, the transit of anti-Israel terrorists and their ordinance is just one manifestation of the latter’s increasingly overt hostility to the Jewish State, with whom it is nominally at peace.

Even relatively inaccurate gunners and primitive weapons could inflict great harm on Israel from the West Bank, however. Every population center, major highway and the country’s main civilian airport would be within range. Such attacks would be sure to take a toll, in lives and in economic activity.

Some will argue it should be up to Israel whether such risks are acceptable or not. The repercussions of Israel’s withdrawal will not be hers to bear alone, however. American equities are on the line as well.

For one, the effect of withdrawal is likely to be to weaken Israel considerably, reducing it from a powerful and self-reliant strategic ally to a potential liability, one unduly dependent on the United States for its security. For example, Israel’s economy, which depends heavily on trade and tourism, could be severely disrupted by terrorist attacks on aircraft flying to and from Ben Gurion airport and upon other critical infrastructure. For another, some 40 percent of the Jewish State’s water supply comes from West Bank aquifers; a disruption of access to such precious resources in a desert could constitute an existential danger.

A terrorist state on the West Bank will translate, moreover, into a threat to others in the region. It would surely result in destabilizing and quite possibly ending Hashemite Jordan. The effect would combine Jordan’s territory, well-armed military and the 80 percent of its population that is Palestinian with the radical, Hamas-ruled state next door. The effort to consolidate the liberation of Iraq would also be jeopardized as one of two U.S. re-supply routes into the country — from Israeli ports across Jordan — becomes vulnerable to al Qaeda and others’ attacks.

More to the point, the evident strategic retreat in the face of terror that the Israeli withdrawal will represent — not just for the Jewish State, but for the Free World in general and the U.S. in particular — can only encourage our enemies and warn our friends: The “strong horse,” as bin Laden puts it, is the irresistible and growing power of Islamofascism. Those who submit to it will survive; those who resist are doomed to be defeated and destroyed. And al Qaeda and others will work to effect the latter from their new safe-haven on the West Bank.

For all these reasons, Israel is not the only party to have a stake in the question of its continued control over the West Bank. We do, too. As a result, if the surrender of such territory does not make sense to or for us, we should not hesitate to say so.

Yet some would have us believe that, whatever the merits of these and similar concerns about the Israeli withdrawal (brilliantly elucidated by my colleague, Caroline Glick at https://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/Olmerts_Convergence_Plan.pdf), the decision has already been taken by the recently elected government of Israel. Some assert it will go forward no matter what we think. Others contend we have no choice but to go along with whatever Israel decides to do.

In fact, we have an obligation to object. Friends don’t let friends commit suicide. That is especially true when, in so doing, they are likely to inflict grave harm on others, including this country and its vital interests. President Bush and Congress should tell Mr. Olmert during his visit this week: “No more territory for terrorists.”

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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