In September 2005, I predicted that the Israeli pullout from Gaza was a mistake. That the Israeli military is now contemplating an invasion into an area it forcibly removed its own citizenry from less than two years ago does make it appear so.
The involuntary removal of the only productive (Jewish) segment of southern Palestine begged for a militant Islamic movement to fill the order vacuum. In a state that 'imports' more than $8 in foreign aid for every dollar in product, service, or agricultural exported, misery cannot be far. Despite continued water and electricity provided to the Gaza Strip by Israel, its population is engaged in a perennial struggle to get enough to eat. If ever there has been an utterly dependent people, it is the Palestinians.
But one man's misery is another man's blessing. Leftist media sources and sober members of the American and European right alike cheered the evacuation, while the pro-Israel contingent lamented Ariel Sharon's pusillanimous appeasement. Now it appears the Israel-skeptics who celebrated the pullout and the canary-in-the-coalmine and Zionist coalition that opposed it were both off the mark--instead, each side landed an arrow square on the bullseye of the other's mark. Evacuating the Strip has turned out to be beneficial to the state of Israel.
The Sharon disengagement strategy from the more marginal and less defensible settlements has been instrumental in spurring the current internecine fighting between Hamas and Fatah. The violence is so Hobbesian that even the internatioinal media are having a hard time apologizing for it. At the same time, the splintering of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip into the respective hands of the Aksa Martyr Brigade and Hamas militants attenuates the security threat Israelis face from Palestinian Arabs. This is about as close to winning the PR battle without having to perform acts of self-immolation that Israel can hope to get.
It is also a reminder of the inherent risk involved in Western nations providing arms and resources to perceived 'moderates' in the Islamic world, especially while encouraging democratic self-determination in that world. We sided with Fatah. The Palestinian population put Hamas in power. And now Hamas has seized whatever weaponry and intelligence was housed at the headquarters of the Fatah-allied security forces in northern Gaza.
Instead of playing the unpredictable, high-stakes game of picking which factions to back in the Muslim Middle East to keep the oil flowing, Israel extant, and Islamic terrorism under attack, the Occident needs to separate itself from Islam. Disallow further immigration into the West from Muslim countries, deport illegal Muslim immigrants and pay legal ones to return to their countries of origin, create lucrative awards for people and companies who develop economically viable petroleum energy alternatives, and drop the quixotic (and unrealistic) goal of refashioning the illiberal Islamic world into a Jeffersonian liberal paradise.
The tribalistic warfare that has always characterized Muslim societies isn't going to change with the forced introduction of a few self-determination and free-market propositions. Best to keep involvement in them to a bare minimum.