Israel's Worst Mistake: The Siege of Gaza

Bradley Burston calls the siege of Gaza the worst mistake Israel has made in a decade:

The stated goal of the siege was to undermine Hamas and to goad Gazans into rejecting Hamas rule. The effect of the siege has been to focus and intensify Palestinian anger against Israel, increase Gazans' dependency on Hamas social welfare arms, enrich Hamas coffers through tunnel taxation and foreign donations, and sap Palestinian support for Fatah, which, through its back-channel encouragement for the siege, is seen as a betrayer and a boot-licker in the eyes of many Palestinians.

He lists nine more very compelling reasons why the siege is a miserable mistake. For my money, the worst mistake Israel made was the mistake that led, ultimately, to the siege of Gaza: The 2005 unilateral withdrawal. Leaving Gaza wasn't the problem, of course -- you'd think the Jews would have learned sooner (see: Samson) that Gaza is no good for Jews, and Ariel Sharon was right to get out. But the method he used was tragic. By refusing to negotiate his exit from Gaza, he strengthened the hand of Hamas. If he had negotiated the withdrawal with the Palestinian Authority, he would have a) extracted concessions from the Palestinians, and b) strengthened the moderates. The moderates would have been credited by their people for coaxing Israel out of Gaza. Instead, Hamas won the round, and then won the election, and then won the coup, and then, in a way, won the most recent war against Israel, and certainly the public relations war, which is the sort of war that really matters in the Middle East, and which Israel almost never fails to lose.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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