The announcements this week by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's top advisers, in-house generals and Vice Premier Shimon Peres (along with Sharon's dubious denials) that the government will now begin planning more land giveaways to the Palestinians after last month's destruction of our communities in Gaza and northern Samaria ought to have caused a furor in the country. And yet it is hard to escape the impression that these latest announcements are something of an anticlimax.
Politically, the announcements only served to reinforce the sense that Sharon's political and policy machinations have passed all previous bounds of cynicism. After all, before the Likud Central Committee's vote on Monday regarding the date of elections for the party leadership, Sharon and his advisers strenuously denied any plan to continue the prime minister's policy of confronting Palestinian terrorism by expelling Jews from their homes and destroying their communities.
It isn't that anyone really believed his protestations, although the local media, which to all intents and purposes act as an adjunct to Sharon's official spin team, were quick to give credence to these fundamentally unconvincing claims. More than anything, the lack of public outrage at Sharon's latest policy flip-flop, like the yawn that greeted the exposure of his flagrantly illegal election fund-raising during his recent visit to New York, stems from a widespread sense that the political system in Israel is incurably corrupt. It isn't that Israelis are apathetic about the fact that the prime minister doesn't even pretend not to lie or cheat. It is just that at this point most people feel powerless to do anything about it.
Aside from what the plan to expand the government's policy of national cannibalism tells us about the corruption of Israel's political system by Sharon and his associates, it also makes clear a larger point about the consequences of surrender. As events in Gaza, Judea and Samaria since the government enacted its withdrawal and expulsion plan last month have shown, the adoption of a surrender policy automatically rules out any option for achieving either a peace agreement or agreed and credible security arrangements with the Palestinians or neighboring Arab states.
Addressing an annual conference at the left-wing Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University on Wednesday, head of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aharon Ze'evi Farkash stated dryly that al-Qaida has exploited Gaza's breached border with Egypt to infiltrate its operatives into the area. The disturbing aspect of Farkash's statement is that it was not accompanied by a pledge that Israel will kill or arrest these operatives before they have a chance to set up operations in the area. Then again, such a statement would in the end be counterproductive because now that Israel has abandoned Gaza, it is unclear what options that IDF has for contending with this new threat. As well, Israel's deterrent posture vis-a-vis the Palestinians was so eroded by the withdrawal and expulsion that it is hard to know how uttering yet another empty threat would do anything other than weaken Israel's credibility that much more.
Adding his voice to the defeatism that has necessarily taken hold of the senior echelons of the IDF in the wake of its enactment of last month's withdrawal and expulsion plan, on Tuesday Brig.-Gen. Udi Dekel, the head of Strategic Planning in the General Staff, claimed at another academic conference that the transformation of Gaza into "Hamastan" has much to recommend it. In Dekel's view, "there is a potential that Hamas will be more committed than the Palestinian Authority [to stop attacking Israel] the moment it takes responsibility and control of the Strip." The fact that he made this statement just hours after Hamas released an al-Qaida-style videotape of kidnapped and bound Israeli businessman Sasson Nuriel begging for his life just before he was murdered simply makes the complete disconnect from reality that his statement exposes all the more dramatic.
It is true that Hamas, with its ideological and strategic clarity, could cut a deal with Israel much more easily than the PLO can. But then again, that clarity, which is based on a total dedication to the annihilation of Israel, is what makes the notion that it is possible to take solace in Hamas control of Palestinian society insane.
In the meantime, the Palestinian Authority, under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, has continued to extol its support for continued war against Israel and for the empowerment of Hamas as a "legitimate" political party. The PA indirectly supported Hamas's kidnapping and murder of Nuriel though its official media organs, which reported as fact Hamas's contention that Nuriel who owned a candy factory was an intelligence officer.
TODAY ONLY two things seem to bother the PA: Israel's counterterror operations, which Abbas and his deputies refer to as "barbaric acts of terrorism," and the fear that they may lose international support. The PA attempted to deal with the latter concern this week when it leaked a Syrian directive to Hamas and Islamic Jihad calling on the terror groups to continue their attacks against Israel. The obvious purpose of publishing the report was to get Syria blamed for the PA's own pro-terror policies.
The Egyptians, who were supposed to be the guarantors that Gaza would not turn into a base for global terrorism and that its border with the Sinai would remain sealed, have expressed no embarrassment over the fact that their military forces along the border not only have done nothing to stop the open cross border traffic between Gaza and the Sinai, they have facilitated it. Rather than voicing contrition or acting to exert effective control over the border, the Egyptians have demanded that Israel allow their forces to deploy in Judea and Samaria where, the Egyptians claim, they will reenact their operations in Gaza. For his part, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak reacted to the mayhem that he enabled by telling the media that Sharon is thwarting peace prospects.
All of the actions and statements by the Palestinian leadership and the Egyptians show that in the wake of Israel's abandonment of Gaza and northern Samaria, it has both curtailed its military options and cast off all possibility of ever reaching either a political settlement with the Palestinians or security arrangements regarding the Palestinians with Egypt or Jordan. The Palestinians realize that they no longer have an incentive to negotiate with Israel because Israel will surrender without even a fig leaf of an agreement. From their perspective, the lesson of the withdrawal and expulsion plan and now the latest announcements that more land transfers are in the offing is that there is no reason for them to concede anything.
The Egyptians have learned that they can negotiate security arrangements with Israel, not abide by any of their commitments, and continue to be viewed as a positive force in the region by all parties concerned. The fact that Egypt has paid no price for its duplicity shows Cairo that there is no justification for adhering to Israeli demands that it behave like a good neighbor and stop encouraging and facilitating Palestinian terrorists.
For their part, the Jordanians who for the past five years have successfully sealed their border with Israel to terrorist infiltration have no interest in getting involved in the terror swamp now expanding its depth and breadth in Judea and Samaria. Not only is Jordanian society overwhelmingly pro-Islamist, but Jordan would end up having to confront Egypt as well as its own people if it gave Israel a hand in dealing with the Palestinians. Quite simply, after last month's withdrawal, cooperating with Israel holds costs but no benefits for the Palestinians, Jordanians and Egyptians.
SHARON AND his associates argue that the rationale for continued retreat is the absence of a diplomatic option for achieving peace. According to their reasoning, surrendering territory to terrorists is in Israel's interest because in doing so, Israel is able to determine its borders in accordance with its needs. But there is a major flaw in this logic.
In the absence of a diplomatic option, it is necessary for Israel as for any state contending with such issues to take unilateral steps that ensure its interests. But it is in Israel's interest to prevent al-Qaida from establishing operational bases in Gaza, Judea and Samaria. It is in Israel's interests to prevent terrorists from launching rockets, mortars and missiles at its population centers. It is in Israel's interest to prevent terrorists from controlling territory from which they can launch shoulder-fired missiles at civilian aircraft. By surrendering territory to terrorists, Israel is ensuring that it will be unable to do anything meaningful to guarantee any of these vital interests. Rather than unilaterally taking the action necessary to ensure its interests, Israel, by destroying its own communities and transferring territory to its enemies, is actively advancing the cause of its enemies while endangering its citizens and economy.
In the post-mortem review of the causes for Sharon's close victory in the Likud Central Committee on Monday, it is clear that the primary reason he won is that his opposition refused to rally around former finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu as their leader. For the past year and a half Sharon has avoided providing a defense of his policy of surrender by casting every political and policy battle as a personal dispute. With the firm backing of the local media, Sharon has beaten all his opponents by accusing them of the crime of attempting to usurp his power. It is not that his political opponents cannot do anything against this tactic, it is just that to date they have refused to adopt the one remedy providing an alternate, agreed-upon leader to replace him that could force Sharon to engage in a policy debate.
In light of this, there is no reason for Israelis in general or for Sharon's political opponents specifically to despair over the results of Monday's central committee vote. All that is necessary to return vibrancy to the political debate in Israel is to maintain pressure on Sharon by rallying around the one leader with the ability to actually win a national election.
Once this obstacle has been mounted, it is necessary for Sharon's opponents in the Likud and its sister parties on the Right to make the point that the absence of a diplomatic option is not a justification for the further abandonment of Israel's right to guarantee its national interests. Such a debate will constrict Sharon's maneuver room as he plots a course for further withdrawals. Pointing out that fact that the lack of a diplomatic option was exacerbated, not alleviated, by last month's withdrawals and expulsions will also serve to signal to the Palestinians and their allies that their ability to scoff at Israel's demands for action against terrorists may be smaller than they now believe it to be.
At any rate, the cynicism with which Sharon and his allies have infected Israel's political culture must end as soon as possible, and it is within the power of his political opponents to take the steps necessary to bring this about.
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Alan, Phoenix, USA
: Ariel Sharon may have once been the George S. Patton of Israel - but in his dotage he has chosen to be a even more pathetic Petain than his predecessor Napoleon Petain Barak was.
And you Israelis deserve what you get if you keep these kinds of "leaders" in power.
Not that Bibi would have been much better. He showed his weakness during the Hebron
negotiations and at Wye, BUT he never released hundreds of killers, forced Jews from their homes, abandoned the South Lebanese Army, and reward terrorism as Barak and Sharon have.
And it is one collective YAWN for the likes of Israelis whose homes were not handed over to Hamas, who prefer Munich
over D-Day, and who may very well be the victims of Hamas AND Al Qaeda
terror. The Peres, the Mitznas, the Sharons, Olmerts, and Larry Derfner types just don't get it.
If you cannot stand firm - then please, don't tell us that you are our allies in the war against terrorism. For I don't see President Bush
or Tony Blair
negotiating with the likes of Osama
as Sharon and his cronies and appeasers have chosen to do so with Abbas.
Albert Bello, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
: Caroline should remember, approximately two weeks ago Sharon promised to the nation that "ISRAEL WILL NOT TURN OVER ANY MORE LAND" without any benefit to the national security. However, Gaza is the testing ground which it may take a year or more to realize. As long as there is a weak partner for agreement, Israel should remain strong for any additional unilateral withdrawal due to get red of Palestinian population and draw its borders to annex. It will also serve the purpose to teach Palestinians and some leftist Israelis that "the borders will never be the 67 armistice line".
If Israeli security intelligence and high ranking military officers should ever decide for more unilateral withdrawal, Palestinians of the West Bank should have less land to harvest terrorists militia and better IAF
surveillance with no Jewish settlers around.
Caroline, until we'll have peace, we are still at war. Can't afford to play politics.
Fay Dicker, Lakewood, NJ, USA
: Caroline Glick's brilliant expose of the ease with which the Sharon government has manipulated the media and public at large in the furtherance of a hidden agenda for "more land giveaways to the Palestinians," is eerily reminiscent of the tactics by which autocratic regimes the world over have successfully ruled over a credulous population.
Olmert is the conduit for announcing radical initiatives which the government then "strenuously denies" is being considered
The IDF is complicit in allaying the public's natural anxieties at the Palestinians' lawless and violent actions following the Gaza withdrawal, and any judicious retaliatory plan to pre-empt the anarchy from impacting on Israelis is deemed imprudent.
Where are the incorruptible politicians who will lead Israel back from the brink of disaster? Regretfully I must agree with Moshe Morgenstern of Morristown, NJ that the ethically challenged Bibi is not the answer.
Thomas Adler, Toronto, Canada
: Ms. Glick gets it right every time. Why the nation doesn't follow her sound principles is simply that Israel is always held to a higher and much more stringent standard than any other nation in the world and Israel itself is infested with the shtetel mentality. As such rather than acting like any other nation, much less fulfilling its destiny to be a light unto the nations, Israel appeases the nations in a vain attempt to curry favor but only gets disdain and contempt. History has shown that Israel is respected by the nations when it stands strong and acts righteously and forcefully in its interest. The corrupt and undemocratic structure of government is in desperate need of reform and that must be prerequisite to any initiative in this direction.
Rachel Ben David, Peduel, Israel
: One of the problems of the political right in this country is the inability to both dream about what could be and make practical decisions given what is. (This skill comes easier to women than men.)
Carolyn makes a cogent assessment of the current situation, including the obvious suggestion as to the next step. Getting behind the only candidate that has a chance of beating Sharon, despite some reservations about him, is the logical thing to do.
Proving to politicians that they cannot make a 180 turn and vote against their constituencies without paying a price is paramount - even if it means electing a candidate that is not perfect himself.
Karl Ohsberg, Brisbane, Australia
: The controversial withdrawal from Gaza, seen as a victory by the Palestinians and a defeat by many Israelis, has a definite purpose - the advancement of Israel. Apart from the diplomatic coup, Israel has handed the Gazan Palestinians sole responsibility for their own fate - and their actions. They may complain that their 'jail' has only been enlarged, but such a claim only displays their determination to cling to victimhood. Now they have been granted considerable freedom of action and isolated from those they would kill for their own misfortunes. The world can witness and judge the Gazans by their deeds.
Israel is now free to devote its military resources to defend a security barrier and not fight a 'civil war'. Sure, the Gazans can lob a few primitive rockets at some Israeli villages, but the IDF can now act swiftly and decisively anywhere in Gaza with greater resources and without the hindrance of protecting its own people in Gaza.
: Gratitude to Caroline Glick for this and the previous Column One articles. Thanks to The Jerusalem Post
- the newspaper unique in this world of, at best, half-truth!
Michael Tamasi, Tel-Aviv
: And when a new, less cynical government shall come about, I surely hope that Caroline Glick would be one of the decision-makers.
Michael Podolsky, Atlanta, Georgia
: Caroline, you are one of the few in our country who understands our predicament and the plight of our people. I admire you and salute you. Israel, home to the Jewish people is a beautiful land. Unfortunately it is a tragedy what goes on there everyday. We are playing right into the hands of our enemies. We must do all that it takes, and is vital for our survival, security for our people.
Skip Kelley, Sunnyvale, CA, USA
: Not only is our leadership in the US and Israel and the PA corrupt and weak and focused on helping wealthy "insiders", but it is also stupid. I think Iran is doing everything it can to keep the United States
pre-occupied with the war in Iraq
; and it is doing the same to Israel by encouraging, supporting, and funding terrorists; they are doing this so that we won't be able to turn our full attention and resources against them; Iran is "working" us and distracting us, so it can have time and cover to develop weapons of mass destruction. They are much smarter than we give them credit for. This is the BIG STORY. What is really scary is it is possible we know what they are up to; and it is also possible we don't know what they are up to.
The answer to this challenge is not democracy in the Middle East. We need democracy first in Israel, the United States, the PA, and Iraq. We are being internally "worked" by the very wealthy with their sophisticated paid consultants and focus groups. They are pitting us against each other and then running their candidates in all major parties. Their candidates know exactly what to say, they get elected, and forget about us. They are preoccupied with their corruption schemes. They are not tending the store. Without the moral authority of having honest government that truly represents us, it is like we are fighting with our hands tied behind our backs while inside a canvas bag. We are fighting two enemies - external ones and internal ones. I'm not cynical. It doesn't have to be this way. I am angry. I don't want this to continue. We have to find a way to stop it.
Moshe Morgenstern, Morristown, NJ USA:
Once again, Caroline Glick has hit the nail on the head attributing Sharon's victory to the lack of meaningful contender against him.
However, if she is implying that Bibi is a viable prospect I would respectfully disagree. Merely being able to win an election in Israel should no longer be the sole criteria for selecting a leader of for the growing segment of the population that resists the "land for pace" suicide pact.
Bibi has disgraced himself as badly or worse then Sharon. There is no reason to believe that he will not continue to do so.
Better for the Land of Israel front to spend some time in the political wilderness, reconsolidate our forces and return to the battle with a candidate not tainted by any of the Oslo disease.
Mikhail Osterfeld, Falls Church, Virginia, USA:
Caroline Glick's faith in Netanyahu and the Likud is misplaced. The latest Likud fiasco only serves as yet another stark reminder of the irredeemable corruption of that party and of Israel's entire political system.
Israel needs a new voice, an honest voice, a principled voice, above all a Jewish and Nationalist voice. Only a new party, untainted by the corruption of the present establishment and powered by a grass roots movement can be an answer to the situation. Sadly, no such party has existed in Israel since Ghandi Zeevi was shot and Kahane's party was banned. It is high time somebody founded one.
Yehoshua Friedman, Kochav Hashachar, Israel
: Caroline, I agree with your analysis except for the vain hope that The country will rally around Netanyahu. Netanyahu gave away Hebron when he was prime minister, leading to the disgusting sniper death of the baby Shalhevet Pass. As finance minister in the Sharon government he was the architect of the policy that pulled the plug on child allowances. This was part of a blatant attempt by the new secular coalition to reduce family size in order to prevent the religous population from becoming a majority in a few years. He also cynically waited until the very last moment to jump ship before the expulsion. The Oriental, national-religious and hareidi public, as well as residents of the Negev
now exposed to missiles, will not vote for Bibi.
Rabbi Alan Green, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
: Another cogent analysis from Ms. Glick. It's difficult to see what Israel gains by surrendering concrete assets to the Palestinians in exchange for nothing in return. No, worse than nothing--because the Palestinians promptly turn around and use those assets to ramp up their weaponry and strategic position for the next stage of jihad. And if this is perceived to be a way to force the Palestinians to lay their destructive cards on the table, it won't help. The world refuses to see the Palestinians for what they are, no more than it was willing to see who Hitler really was--until it was almost too late (for the six million, tragically, it WAS too late). Hopefully Israel will have the strength to act unambiguously in its own self-interest, before events spin completely out of control.
: Israel has a democratic deficit and the Siberian winter in the civil servant media will end with fracture the elite of Israel and the people. Most Israelis are not representated in the traditional parties, and the Tel Aviv elite thinks the rest of the country are their "sucker" servants. Only a strong civic movement to reestablish democracy will change this circle. Just for democratic hygiene. Caroline Glick - always lucid and brilliant.
ALEX SANDOR, TORONTO, CANADA
: The bottom line is that Egypt and Jordan, both of which are Judenrein, will only recognize a complete return to the 1967 "Auschwitz borders". Since the "Palestinians" also will insist on the "right of return" the end game is the abolition of the only kafir (infidel) state in the Middle East.