Should Israel withdraw from Gaza, as some are proposing?
First, consider the impact of a Gaza withdrawal on the international war against terrorism. After three years of nonstop Palestinian Arab terrorism, in which nearly 1,000 Israelis -- and 41 Americans -- have been murdered, to unconditionally give Gaza to the Palestinian Arabs and expel the 8,000 Jewish residents would be to reward the terrorists.
It would also encourage more terrorism by demonstrating that additional violence may bring about additional Israeli concessions. An Israeli withdrawal would whet the appetites of terrorists everywhere. Correctly viewing an Israeli retreat as surrender and appeasement, terrorists in the Middle East and beyond would be strengthened and emboldened by their feeling of victory.
Second, consider the implications for Israeli security. After the Six-Day War, the U.S. joint chiefs of staff prepared an analysis -- without regard for political considerations -- of which territories Israel needed to keep to defend itself. The joint chiefs strongly recommended that Israel keep Gaza: "By occupying the Gaza Strip, Israel would trade approximately 45 miles of hostile border for eight. Configured as it is, the strip serves as a salient for introduction of Arab subversion and terrorism, and its retention would be to Israel's military advantage."
No wonder. Throughout history, foreign armies have used Gaza as a springboard for invading the Land of Israel, from Pharoah Sethos I in the 13th century B.C.E. to Napoleon in 1799. In 1948, Egypt used Gaza as its route to invade the newborn State of Israel.
Third, consider what would happen in Gaza if Israel withdraws. The Palestinian Authority regime currently administers parts of Gaza but does not have sovereignty, because of the presence of Israeli soldiers and citizens. The Palestinian Authority does not have a full-fledged army and does not control the borders or sea access to Gaza.
If Israel withdraws from the area, the PA will be able to establish a sovereign state. It will become much, much harder for Israel to prevent the continual smuggling of weapons from Egypt to Gaza or the arrival of boatloads of weapons via the Mediterranean Sea.
No wonder Israeli military experts are warning about these dangers. Israel Radio reported that army officials want a withdrawal to be "conditional on the Palestinians not being able to operate a seaport or airport from Gaza."
Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi Farkash, chief of Israeli military intelligence, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Feb. 10 that a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza "will be seen as surrender to terrorism" and "might motivate further terrorism."
And Shlomo Gazit, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, recently wrote: "Our exit from Gaza will transform it into a big armed camp, into which weapons of all kinds will stream via land, sea and maybe even air. It will also become an arsenal for independent development and production of arms. Moreover, this capitulation will be rightly viewed as an unambivalent victory for the Palestinian armed struggle."
A Gaza state would certainly be a terrorist state, to judge by how the Palestinian Authority has promoted and glorified terrorists until now. It has not disarmed or outlawed terrorist groups. It has not shut down their bomb factories. It has not closed down the terrorists' training camps. It has rewarded terrorists with jobs in the P.A. police force.
In short, the Palestinian Authority has actively collaborated with and sheltered the terrorists. Moreover, the Palestinian Authority has sponsored thousands of terrorist attacks against Israel.
The Palestinian Authority has also created an entire culture of glorification of terrorism and anti-Jewish hatred in its official media, schools, summer camps, sermons by PA-appointed clergy and speeches by PA representatives.
Establishing a state in Gaza would not satisfy the Palestinian Arabs' goals. It would be a springboard for terrorism and invasions aimed at destroying the Jewish state.
The Palestinian Authority makes no secret of its goal. The official maps on PA letterheads, in PA school books and atlases and even on the patch worn on the uniforms of PA policemen show all of Israel -- not just the disputed territories -- labeled "Palestine."
But the issue is not just security. It's also a matter of Jewish rights to the Land of Israel. It is not well-known, but Gaza has been a part of the Land of Israel since biblical times and is described as such in, for example, Genesis 15, Joshua 15:47 and Judges 1:18. In Kings, it is included in the areas ruled by King Solomon.
The area came under foreign occupation during some periods, but the Jewish king Yochanan, brother of Judah the Maccabee, recaptured Gaza in 145 C.E. and sent Jews to rebuild the community there. Throughout the centuries, there was a large Jewish presence in Gaza -- in fact, it was the largest Jewish community in the country at the time of the Muslim invasion in the seventh century C.E.
The Jews of Gaza were forced to leave the area when Napoleon's army marched through in 1799, but they later returned. The Jewish community in Gaza was destroyed during the British bombardment in 1917 but again was rebuilt.
When Palestinian Arabs threatened to slaughter the Jews of Gaza during the 1929 pogroms, the British ruling authorities forced the Jews to leave. But in 1946, the Jews returned, establishing the town of Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip, which lasted until 1948, when Egypt occupied the area. After the 1967 war, Jews were finally able to return to Gaza and rebuild communities there.
The Palestinian Authority's demand that all Jews be expelled from Gaza is an ugly demand for ethnic cleansing. And ethnic cleansing in Gaza is just as bad as the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans that the international community, and world Jewry, so strongly and appropriately protested. It is a racist and immoral notion to say that while 1 million Arabs live within Israel, not one Jew can live in Gaza.
An Israeli withdrawal from Gaza will reward terrorism, thereby undermining America's war against terrorism. It will pave the way the for creation of a dangerous Palestinian Arab state that will further endanger Israel, and it will establish a precedent for the mass expulsion of Jews from their homes for no other reason than that they are Jews.
This is a mistaken policy that will not make things better but will only make things worse.
Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America.