Monday, May 03, 2004

A Time for Retrenchment

It's incidents like this one that indicate the wisdom of Ariel Sharon's decision to seek a complete withdrawal from the Gaza strip, and the stupidity of the obduracy shown by Likud hardliners in rejecting this initiative. It simply isn't sensible for Israel to continue to risk the lives of its soldiers and waste tremendous amounts of resources to defend a few thousand zealots who insist on residing like Lords of the Earth amidst a sea of 1.2 million hostile Arabs.

Palestinian gunmen shot and killed a pregnant Jewish settler and four of her children in Gaza yesterday as Israel's ruling Likud Party was holding a referendum on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to pull out of the area.

Tali Hatuel, who was eight months pregnant, had been driving her Citroen along a nearly empty, palm-fringed road, when the gunmen opened fire on her car with automatic weapons. In the panic, she lost control and lurched off the road.

The two gunmen rushed towards her firing their automatic rifles, shooting through the windows at point blank range. There was no chance of escape for the 34-year-old mother or her young children Hila, 11, Hadar, nine, Roni, seven, and Merav, two.

Some of the children were still strapped to their seats when rescue workers arrived. They found the car riddled with bullets and the carpets drenched in blood. A sticker taped to the car read: "Uprooting the settlements, victory for terror."

It later emerged that Mrs Hatuel, a care worker in a Gaza settlement, had been on her way to protest against Mr Sharon's plan to withdraw from Gaza.


Militants from Islamic Jihad, Fatah and Hamas all claimed responsibility for what they described as the "heroic" attack. The gunmen were named as Ibrahim Hamed and Faisal Abuntera, residents of Rafah in southern Gaza. Israeli military officials confirmed that different groups participated in the attacks.

It goes without saying that I think the gunmen who shot Mrs Hatuel and her children are depraved beasts - what is so "heroic" about murdering children at point-blank range? I feel especially sorry for the children who had no say in the choice of their mother or the government she sought to pressure as to where they would live. Still, no amount of moral outrage on the part of myself or anyone else is going to change the fact that Israel would be better off without the burden of having to provide costly but imperfect security to a few settlers in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli presence there, unlike the West Bank, does nothing whatsoever for Israel's security, and if loss of face was what was at issue, Sharon was already doing a pretty thorough job of making sure the leadership of Hamas didn't get the wrong message.

UPDATE: Jonathan Edelstein interprets the results of the referendum in much the same way I do, as a potential disaster in the making. Predictably, the armchair warriors at LGF link to this lunatic piece by yet another of those individuals who wish to identify the struggle against Islamic extremism with their dreams of a biblical Greater Israel. Religious fanaticism is by no means a danger confined to radical Islam or fundamentalist Christianity.

UPDATE 2: Actually, the LGF thread I mentioned earlier isn't half as unbalanced as they usually are, thanks in large measure to the participation of actual Israelis who are having to put their own lives on the line defending the settlements. All the emotional blackmail in the world cannot disguise the fact that there is simply no plausible military rationale for Israel holding on to the Gaza Strip.