I strongly believe that the withdrawal from Gaza was a smart move. For an interesting discussion by prominent neocon Norman Podhoretz, see this recent article that appeared in Commentary, the journal he edited for many years to great acclaim. Not only is it good because Israel needs to disengage from the Palestinian territories (including most of the West Bank) but it also gives the Palestinian leadership a last opportunity of turning this operation into a peace process in which they are involved and sit at the negotiating table. Clearly, if terrorist attacks on Israel now increase this will not be the case and withdrawals from the West Bank will be done on a unilateral basis. In short, the Gaza withdrawal is a test case which puts the ball in the Palestinian's court. Here is an excellent analysis (via Gay and Right):
Even as Israel's anguished self-confrontation unfolds in Gaza with the army's dismantling of two dozen thriving towns and agricultural villages, Palestinian leaders are demanding more. This withdrawal is only the beginning, they promise their celebrating followers. Today Gaza, tomorrow the West Bank and Jerusalem. Yet whether Israel ultimately cedes all that the Palestinians say they want will depend on the Palestinians themselves. A wary Israeli public needs to be convinced that the Palestinians want to build their own state more than they want to destroy the Jewish state. Gaza is the test case for that open question.Do read the whole thing. Unfortunately there are signs (via GR) that the Palestinian leadership is not stepping up to the challenge:
In the coming months, a Palestine taking sovereign control of territory must begin confronting the terrorist regime that has grown in Gaza. It must wrest foreign aid away from militias and private bank accounts and put it into schools and hospitals. Its leaders must dismantle the refugee camps that have been a permanent condition of Gaza life and resettle their residents in decent housing. Finally, it must temper the culture of hatred against the Jewish people that has become routine in Gaza's schools, mosques and media.
If the Palestinian leadership initiates that difficult process of physical and spiritual renewal, then the Israeli majority -- which craves peace far more than biblical borders -- will support negotiations over extending Palestinian sovereignty. And even if, as the Palestinians suspect, Ariel Sharon intends Gaza to be his first and last withdrawal, the Israeli majority will insist on substantive talks. No Israeli leader can survive politically if the electorate perceives him to be blocking a chance for peace.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced on Monday that they have reached an agreement with the Palestinian Authority according to which the two groups would not be disarmed.We will have to see how things play out, but it seems to me that if Palestinian attacks continue Israel will eventually withdraw from most of the West Bank, keeping the largest settlements and all of Jerusalem, while completely sealing its borders with the Palestinian territories and leaving them in a chaotic situation where various political factions (Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad etc.) clash violently, as has already started to happen. It is hard to see how this could be considered a positive outcome for the Palestinian people.
The agreement was reportedly achieved during talks in Damascus between PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Qurei met Sunday night in Damascus with leaders of various radical groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and discussed ways of cooperating with them after implementation of the disengagement plan is completed.
Sources close to the two groups said Qurei made it clear that the PA would not confiscate the weapons of any of the armed groups in the Gaza Strip.