Go Your Own Way (MARTIN INDYK, 12/02/05, NY Times)

American interests might be better served by mustering international support for the establishment of a Palestinian state in Gaza first. Egypt is already quietly adopting the role of custodian in Gaza, putting Egyptian colonels in control of Palestinian border brigades, training the security services and leaning on terrorist organizations to cease their activities. With Egypt in the lead, the international community could help rebuild the institutions of governance in Gaza and reconstruct its economy. At the same time, Mr. Wolfensohn could focus his considerable energies on helping Gazans reorient their trade through Egyptian ports, across a border that is no longer controlled by Israel, and on generating foreign investment in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration could prepare to negotiate with the next Israeli government over the extent of its withdrawal from the West Bank and the Arab suburbs of East Jerusalem. American negotiators should pay close attention to how a West Bank withdrawal will affect the contiguity of Palestinian territory and its connection to East Jerusalem.

This process is not a substitute for hammering out a final Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, which could be facilitated once a Palestinian state in Gaza extends its writ to the newly liberated areas of the West Bank. Rather, such steps would constitute a recognition that practical separation – between Israel and the Palestinians, and between Gaza and the West Bank – may serve as a precursor to peace. Only when Egyptians and Jordanians put their own separate interests first was peace forged between those countries and Israel. Perhaps the time has come for Gazans to do the same.

Funny how unilateral democratic hawkishness has become the default position when just a few years ago it was irresponsible.

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