Curiouser and Curiouser
Bibi plans IDF pullback from West Bank cities
Was Benjamin Netanyahu’s grudging and precondition-laden acknowledgment of Palestinian statehood just a sweetener to Barack Obama intended to keep Israel’s right-wing coalition together? In his American Prospect column this week, Gershom Gorenberg paraphrases Dr. Iyad Barghouti, director of the Ramallah Center for Human Rights, as saying that Bibi wants only “colonial-style ‘self-rule’” in the Palestinian territories. Maybe so. But at the same time, a funny thing is happening: Netanyahu seems to be pulling back a bit from the territories. Yesterday, Haaretz reported that manned roadblock deconstruction was occurring at an accelerated pace; today, the Jerusalem Post reports a plan to “radically reduce” Israeli troop levels in parts of the West Bank. Under the plan, IDF soldiers will decrease their presence in the cities of of Kalkilya, Ramallah, Jericho, Jenin, and Bethlehem and cede authority to American-trained Palestinian soldiers. “Defense officials said that the move was aimed at giving the Palestinians the ability to enforce law and order and crack down on Hamas and other terror elements independently without Israeli intervention,” Yaakov Katz writes. (Of course, Israel hasn’t ruled out IDF sorties in those cities to preempt planned or rumored terrorist attacks.)
Netanyahu may be a long way from adopting the Sharon About-Face and initiating a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank. But these incremental measures aimed at bolstering Palestinian sovereignty cannot be discarded out of hand. Even a diplomatic salve to a more contentious American president has the possibility to alter “facts on the ground.”
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