The great illusion
The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, now apparently complete, and the IRA’s announcement that it has ended its armed campaign are notable events in themselves, and bring a little closer the end of two of the longest-running conflicts in the world today, though in both cases there are still plenty of problems
They’re also interesting in the bigger question of whether, and when, the strategy of pursuing political objectives by the use of force (terrorism, guerilla warfare, or conventional) makes sense. In Northern Ireland, and in Israel/Palestine we’ve seen this strategy pursued with vigour by different groups, and it’s reasonable to ask whether any of these groups is better off than if they had stuck to purely peaceful, or at least strictly defensive, methods.
Israel’s settlements in Gaza and the West Bank were set up partly in the hope of securing Israel proper against attack, and partly in pursuit of territorial expansion. Now, after the loss of many lives and the expenditure of vast amounts of money, the Gaza settlements have been abandoned, and it seems clear that the same will eventually happen to most of the settlements on the West Bank. Compare the actual outcome to an alternatives of either unilateral or negotiated withdrawal to the 1967 borders. Can anyone argue that Israel is better off with the approach it has taken.
On the Palestinian side, it seems most unlikely that the final settlement will be on better terms than those on offer at the Clinton-Barak-Arafat summit, and no obviosu reason to suppose that similar terms could not have been obtained years earlier if the PLO had been willing to offer them. Has the pursuit of the armed struggle yielded anything positive?
All the same points apply in relation to Ireland. The position the IRA is accepting now is essentially the same as that of the Sunningdale agreement in 1973. Extremists on both sides rejected this agreement and it collapsed. Thirty years later, neither side has achieved anything beyond entrenching violence and gangsterism (now effectively apolitical)/.