As the situation in Gaza deteriorates, Israeli troops enter Lebanon, and the Middle East teeters toward a wider war, the man best suited to deal with the situation lies in a coma. As one of Israel's greatest heroes, Ariel Sharon possesses the unique combination of experience and resolve that is needed. Mr. Sharon is also the architect of this situation.
This isn't to say that Mr. Sharon is even indirectly responsible for the kidnappings of the Israeli soldiers that have led to the current standoff. Israel's enemies alone are responsible for the death and destruction they cause. But Mr. Sharon was the architect of Israel's disengagement from Gaza. What followed that presumably well-calculated move is the situation that Israel now faces. Gaza is in anarchy. There's a civil war between Palestinian Arab terrorist groups. One terrorist group, Hamas, is actually ruling the Palestinian Arab Authority. Did Mr. Sharon foresee this chaos? And what would Mr. Sharon do next?
Many former allies of Mr. Sharon were confused by his disengagement plan. They questioned how an ideological follower of Vladimir Jabotinsky, a believer in Greater Israel, and a champion of the so-called settler movement, could surrender part of the land of Israel. While it's impossible to know Mr. Sharon's intentions, given his knowledge of the Palestinian Arab psyche and leadership it's hard to believe that he didn't foresee the current chaos.
If so, Mr. Sharon's intention in disengaging from Gaza was in all likelihood not to give the Palestinian Arabs a state in Gaza and then eventually in parts of Judea and Samaria as well. His intention was probably to show the world, through giving the Palestinian Arabs partial control in Gaza, the folly of giving them full control and statehood.
But even if this wasn't Mr. Sharon's intention, it still is the lesson of his disengagement. Not only is the danger posed to Israel by the terrorist-led government in Gaza evident to everyone but Israel's most hardened foes, the danger to the world and the Palestinian Arabs themselves become clearer by the day.
The anarchy in Gaza has reduced the Palestinian Arab economy to ruins. Ordinary Palestinian Arabs live in daily fear of the armed gangs that battle in the streets. The danger to the West is in the Islamist terrorist groups that freely operate in Gaza.
The terrorist group Hamas is in control of the Palestinian Arab government. Hamas is not just a threat to Israel. Israel is their first target, but they intend to follow up with a world wide Islamic state. As the Hamas terrorists stated in a recent video, which Palestinian Media Watch posted on its Web site, "We will rule the nations, by Allah's will, the USA will be conquered, Israel will be conquered, Rome and Britain will be conquered."
Other terrorist groups are likely to set up in Gaza — if they haven't already. It's a perfect base for the likes of Hezbollah and Al Qaeda. Gaza provides an ideal base on the Mediterranean. One of the lessons of the September 11, 2001, attacks was that a terrorist sitting in a cave in Afghanistan can wreak havoc on our cities thousands of miles away. Terrorists with a base on the Mediterranean are an even greater threat.
The most important question for Israel's politicians to consider is what would be Mr. Sharon's next move? One option is for Israel to retake Gaza and fully destroy Hamas and the other terrorist groups there. Staying in Lebanon until Hezbollah's terrorist capabilities are eradicated makes sense too. And it's a perfect time to remind the world why Judea and Samaria are permanently off the negotiating table.
But to really stop Hamas, Hezbollah, and other similar Islamist terrorist groups, greater military action is needed. Syria hosts Hamas's leader and provides support for the group. The Baathist regime in Damascus also provides military and political support for Hezbollah. Iran's theocrats also provide the Islamic terrorist groups with aid and other support, links America recognizes.The White House spokesman said yesterday, "We also hold Syria and Iran, which have provided long-standing support for Hezbollah, responsible for today's violence."
The situation Israel faces is no different from the situation that led America into Afghanistan and Iraq: You fight the terrorists that threaten you, and their backers, on their home bases rather than waiting for them to come to you. As America and the rest of the world are also threatened by Islamist rule in Gaza, Israel has greater leeway and much more political capital at its disposal than usual. Yesterday's Hezbollah attack on Israel reminded the world of the threat the Jewish State faces — adding even more capital.The time to use it is now. Ariel Sharon probably would.
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