The Teflon political party

By
February 1, 2006 23:43

Shouldn't the Kadima government be held accountable for failing to protect the Negev settlements from rocket attacks?

4 minute read.



If Bill Clinton was the Teflon president, Kadima is clearly the Teflon party. Over the past two weeks, there has been a string of disturbing revelations about the implementation and impact of Kadima's key policy initiative, the disengagement. Yet thus far, the party's public support has not even been dented. Last week, for instance, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss published a report on the fortification of communities near Gaza - or, more accurately, the lack thereof. The government decided to fortify these towns shortly after it approved the disengagement, as it knew that the pullout would increase the risk of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Yet in the 20 months since then, not only has the work not been completed; in most communities, it has not even begun. This failure would be disturbing enough were it due merely to incompetence, since the danger is real: Ever since the pullout, rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza almost daily; the lack of casualties to date is pure luck. But alongside massive incompetence, Lindenstrauss found, there was also a deliberate decision to delay the work lest it undermine public support for disengagement. In June 2004, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz briefed senior IDF officers on the disengagement, including the plan to fortify Negev communities. However, Lindenstrauss wrote, he also "warned at that meeting against actions or words (regarding the fortifications and in general) that might create the feeling that the security situation would worsen following the disengagement. In practice, this [fortification] plan was not implemented." That outcome, of course, is no surprise: As Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel aptly put it, "when the defense minister tells his generals that working too vigorously to fortify Negev communities will weaken public support for the disengagement, one can confidently predict that the officers will not hasten to send in the bulldozers." But it is hard to imagine a grosser betrayal of the public's trust: Rather than risk undermining support for its policies, the government deliberately left thousands of Israelis vulnerable to rocket fire. LINDENSTRAUSS'S report was followed two days later by another disturbing revelation: Mofaz deceived the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee about the Rafah agreement, which determined post-pullout border crossing arrangements on the Gaza-Egyptian and Gaza-Israeli borders. Nor was this charge mere sour grapes by disengagement opponents: It was backed by every single committee member, including ardent disengagement supporters such as Ran Cohen (Meretz), Yossi Sarid (Meretz) and Matan Vilna'i (Labor). According to committee members, Mofaz reported that the government had already signed the agreement when in fact it had not. That is a nontrivial lie, because altering an unsigned agreement is much easier than amending a signed one - and had the MKs known it was unsigned, many would in fact have demanded changes. Thus by lying, Mofaz effectively prevented the committee from exercising its duty of parliamentary oversight. Mofaz also deprived the MKs of other information essential to their duty: He refused to show them the security appendix - the agreement's heart and soul - on the grounds that it was too sensitive. That alone would not be unprecedented: Many matters are deemed too sensitive for the full committee. But a special top-secret subcommittee exists precisely to ensure parliamentary oversight even of sensitive matters - and there is no precedent for his refusal to share the document even with this subcommittee. Still another disturbing revelation was a report issued two weeks ago by the nonprofit organization Keshev, which found that prior to the disengagement, the media consistently exaggerated the threat posed by pullout opponents, often via screaming headlines that were belied by the articles themselves. Nor was this the conclusion of settler sympathizers: Keshev conducted its study together with the Palestinian organization Miftah, with funding from the European Union. Two less pro-settler organizations would be hard to find. Usually, media bias is not the government's fault. Yet in this case, as anyone who followed the pre-pullout coverage knows, most of those screaming headlines were provided by government officials, who repeatedly - and falsely - charged that settlers planned widespread violent resistance. In other words, the government mustered support for the pullout by deliberately demonizing opponents to such an extent that even Europeans and Palestinians found clear evidence of bias. And that ought to disturb anyone who believes that governments should not be fomenting hatred toward their own citizens. THEN, FINALLY, there was last week's Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections. Granted, this was primarily a vote against Fatah's corruption, since the parties differ little in their attitude toward terror: Not only was Fatah responsible for many of the past five years' terror attacks, but most of its slate consisted of convicted terrorists, terror suspects and terror advocates. Nevertheless, Fatah at least pays lip service to opposing terror and recognizing Israel's right to exist, while Hamas dispenses with that formality. And Palestinian voters, as The New York Times reported last week based on numerous street interviews, were quite aware of that difference; they simply considered it unimportant. And that, in turn, is clearly related to the fact that 82 percent of Palestinians, according to the latest poll, believe that the "armed struggle" got Israel out of Gaza. By rewarding five years of unremitting terror with an unconditional evacuation of settlements for which it received nothing in exchange - something it never did in any negotiated agreement - Israel conclusively proved that terror, rather than peaceful coexistence, is the best way for Palestinians to gain territory. And in that case, why should they hesitate to back a party that does not even pay lip service to recognizing Israel? Each of the above developments is disturbing on its own; together, they offer a damning indictment of the Kadima-led government. One can only wonder how many more such revelations it will take for the party's Teflon coating to finally crack.


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