The Israeli retreat from Gaza -- now scheduled for August 17 -- wasn't George Bush's idea. It was Ariel Sharon's. Sharon didn't succeed in selling it to his military and intelligence chiefs or to the party and people who elected him, but he was very successful in selling it to national elites in Israel and America, and to the media in both countries. In time, President Bush decided to buy it too.
We can, perhaps, see why. The president has other things on his Middle Eastern plate: a stubborn, bloody war in Iraq; looming deadlines with regard to Iranian nukes; a deadly flow of international jihadists through Syria into Iraq and Lebanon; fanaticism and instability in oil-rich Saudi Arabia; and restless decay in populous Egypt, where the mass following of the Muslim Brotherhood is a looming danger.
On the Palestinian front, the moment of hope when Arafat died quickly faded, and was replaced by a weary recognition that Abu Mazen's incredible weakness made real progress impossible and continuing Palestinian violence inevitable. What was George W. Bush to do? Confront Palestinian terrorism directly, drawing the red line he promised to draw in his bold, no-peace, no-state speech of June 24, 2002? That would send the Al Jazeera crowd into overdrive and bring down the combined wrath of the Democrats, Old Europe, and the U.N., echoed and amplified by our own media.
This didn't seem a propitious time to take all that on. And there was Ariel Sharon with his Gaza withdrawal plan, offering an out -- offering the illusion of progress, and claiming that behind it he could establish a better Israeli defensive line and some temporary peace and stability. It was a tempting apple, and the president bit.
But Gaza isn't Eden, and this isn't the apple of knowledge. It's a Rohypnol-like apple of ignorance, and it is blinding us to the danger America faces -- a danger our Islamofascist enemies see clearly and are primed to take advantage of. We think Gaza is all about Israel and the Palestinians; our enemies know it's mainly about us. We think we are encouraging Israel to hand Gaza over to Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party, local Palestinians with purely local ambitions -- ambitions that encompass the whole of Israel, perhaps, but nothing beyond it -- ambitions that have nothing to do with us.
Our enemies know that behind a Fatah fig leaf, we are handing Gaza over to Hamas, an international terrorist organization of global reach and ambition that is one of America's deadliest enemies. We think Hamas only attacks Jews. They know that Hamas is a main recruiting agent for Arab jihadists, not just from among the 2.4 million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and from the much larger numbers of Palestinians scattered in strategic enclaves throughout the region and the world, but for other Arabs too. We think Hamas sends all these jihadists only to Israel.
They know Hamas sends a never-ending stream of them to Afghanistan, Chechnya, the Balkans, Kashmir, Lebanon and, most critically for us right now, to Iraq. And when our press insistently refers to Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the master terrorist who directs the foreign jihadists in Iraq, as "a Jordanian," our enemies laugh. They know Zarqawi has always called himself a Palestinian, and is recognized as such, in Jordan and throughout the Middle East.