WashPo misreads Sharon plan

Today’s Washington Post staff editorial begins:

A month after promising President Bush that Israel would withdraw all of its troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is overseeing the largest military operation there in years — yet another of the unpleasant surprises he has delivered to the administration as it struggles with a major crisis in Iraq.

In fact, Sharon never planned, nor promised Bush, a full withdrawal of ‘all Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip.’ Sharon’s official disengagement plan, delivered to Mr. Bush, explicitly states that

Israel will withdraw from the Gaza Strip, including all the existing Israeli settlements, and will redeploy in territory outside of the Strip. The withdrawal excludes a military presence in the area along the border area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt called ‘The Philadelphia Corridor’ as will be detailed later.

So the area where the most intense fighting is occurring right now — Rafah and the Philadelphia corridor — was never part of the Sharon pullout plan.

Washington Post editors, like many journalists recently, are confusing two separate matters: (1) the possibility of abandoning Gaza settlements, and (2) military action against Gazan terrorists. The first is a matter of public debate in Israel, but the great majority of those who support removing the settlements still recognize the ongoing need to fight Hamas et al in Gaza, and prevent the importing of terrorist weaponry from Egypt.

Comments to: letters@washpost.com

WashPo columnist Richard Cohen makes the same mistake today:

Most Israelis — maybe as much as 70 percent, the polls tell us — favor a pullout. Yet their sons die for another moment or two in a place no one but the most zealous of settlers wants. It’s tragic. It’s criminal.

Comments to: cohenr@washpost.com