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September 1, 2005
Gaza Pullout Gets Diplomatic Results

Israel's pullout of the Gaza Strip has resulted in a new and important diplomatic development, the AP reports this morning. Pakistan has publicly met with the Israelis at a bilateral meeting sponsored by Turkey, and the two nations appear headed towards diplomatic recognition:

The foreign ministers of Israel and Pakistan, a Muslim country that has long taken a hard line against the Jewish state, met publicly for the first time Thursday, a diplomatic breakthrough that follows Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

The meeting in Istanbul was at the initiative of Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and was expected to be followed by confidence building measures, such as a relaxation of Pakistan's ban against travel to the Jewish state, an Israeli official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. ...

Pakistan was encouraged by Israel's evacuation of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, which was completed last week, and set up the meeting, Israeli officials said.

Slowly, Israel's actions have created some momentum in moderate Muslim countries to encourage diplomatic efforts with the Jewish state. Radical nations such as Iran will not follow suit, but Sharon understands the need to reach out to those who could help contain the extremists among the Muslims and Arabs. Pakistan could lend considerable prestige to its credentials with moderate nations in the area, and at the same time these nations could show that engagement with Israel gets better results for the Palestinians than monolithic opposition.

When people complain that Sharon withdrew from Gaza and got nothing for it, they reveal a short-term view that ignores reality. Israel had around 9,000 citizens in Gaza that found themselves surrounded by more than a million hostile natives. Plainly Israel could not effectively defend these people forever, and the effort to deny thi cost their government money and resources far beyond the worth of the land, real and perceived. Now the nation can focus on defending a contiguous border with Gaza instead of tiny islands behind enemy lines. Israel also just concluded an agreement with Egypt that will take even more pressure off of their military, and put more of the onus on Egypt to keep order in Gaza by making them responsible for the Sinai border.

Dumping Gaza not only bought the Israelis some credibility in diplomacy, but also allowed them to get rid of an albatross that had begun to stink decades ago. It allows them to use their resources more wisely in the West Bank. The diplomatic efforts and their increased efficiency places much more pressure on Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to clean up their act.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 1, 2005 6:22 AM

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