Candidly speaking: Democracy demands transparency

Olmert should be open about the truce he's weighing with Hamas - and about the negotiations he's holding with the PA.

Isi Leibler 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Isi Leibler 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Two months ago I predicted that in order to delay as long as possible the drastic military action which will eventually have to be undertaken in Gaza, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would seek a face-saving formula by which to consummate a truce with Hamas. Alas, despite the latest allegations of scandal directed against our prime minister, that is precisely what is happening. In the face of repeated and dire warnings by the IDF that a truce now with Hamas will rebound against us with a vengeance, Olmert lurched in this direction as though oblivious to the dangers, dangling before us illusions of the "peace" and "quiet" for which we all desperately yearn. There is absolutely no basis for suggesting that such a truce will in any way advance our efforts to achieve peace or security. It is no coincidence that the most extreme Palestinian factions - all 12 of them - support the tahadiyeh agreement. To this day, Hamas leaders repeatedly stress that this is merely a short term tactical expedient. They even relate it to a portion in the Koran which recounts how the Prophet Muhammad entered into a temporary pact with the Jews which he subsequently breached in order to vanquish them. They remain adamant that their primary objective remains the annihilation of the Jewish state, a goal which will never be compromised. The terrorists desperately want this truce. Reeling under the impact of IDF pressure, they are exhausted and require a respite in order to rearm, upgrade their missile infrastructure, send their members for training abroad and prepare for the next round. They consider themselves currently ill-equipped to confront an Israeli invasion of Gaza, fearing a repetition of 2002's Operation Defensive Shield when Israel destroyed the terrorist infrastructure on the West Bank which they have since been unable to replicate. They believe that given time to regroup and acquire more lethal weapons they will be able to inflict far heavier casualties on the IDF. THE EGYPTIANS, who are brokering the deal, want the Palestinian Authority to control the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza in the presence of European monitors. They promised Hamas that "the siege would be lifted and the border crossings would be reopened." They also had the gall to demand that Israel accept the deal without amending the terms negotiated. However, when questioned about Hamas exploiting the truce to import weapons, they responded that "Egypt does not control the Gaza Strip and is only a neighbor." In light of the hitherto dismal record of the Egyptians in stemming the flood of weapons to Gaza through their borders, it would surely be lunacy for us to rely on a combination of Palestinians, Egyptians and European "monitors" to prevent Hamas from exploiting the tahadiyeh to construct an offensive Hizbullah-style infrastructure capable of inflicting enormous damage on us. Besides, it is now increasingly evident that the differences in approach toward Israel between our duplicitous and impotent peace partners and Hamas amount to form rather than substance. Mahmoud Abbas recently proclaimed that he would not meet anyone who visited Israel for its 60th anniversary celebrations and also warned that he may revert to the "armed struggle." We should entrust our security to such people? SO LET us be clear. If we agreed to this truce for the sake of a few months of quiet, we would merely be replicating the debacle with Hizbullah in Lebanon by providing the Iranians and their Hamas proxies the opportunity of gearing themselves for a new round of hostilities at a time of their choosing. The likelihood of Lebanon now becoming a Hizbullah state suggests that in the event of a future conflict we could well become involved in simultaneous combat on three fronts. If this analysis is flawed it is surely incumbent on our prime minister (or his successor) to enlighten the nation and at least provide a broad outline of government strategy instead of making daily contradictory proclamations. Over the past fortnight, in addition to the Hamas truce imbroglio, we have witnessed yet more chaos as Olmert suddenly reversed his approach to the Syrians and reportedly offered to hand them the entire Golan. He was publicly opposed by Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former Defense Minister, who warned that this would bring Iran to the Golan Heights. More recently, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced "this is not a time for a cease-fire with Hamas," but as is his custom, soon afterwards contradicted himself. Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet, asked "Does the government really want to stop the terror?" and blasted his own prime minister's failure to respond to missiles attacks from Gaza. What sort of government is it in which senior ministers cannot either commit themselves to supporting their own government or to resigning? THE OTHER problem is that beyond contradictory rumors about concessions relating to borders, Jerusalem and refugees, nobody is aware of the details of what Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni are secretly negotiating with the PA. There is an utter lack of transparency. Olmert and Livni, without explicit cabinet approval, are taking it entirely upon themselves to negotiate these crucial issues with the PA. We should be under no illusions. When these shelf agreements now being secretly consummated with the Palestinians are ultimately tabled to the Knesset, efforts by legislators to reverse or modify any aspect would encounter fierce international censure and accusations of intransigency. Of course, in light of the enormous personal pressures arising from the latest allegations of impropriety, one would assume regardless of whether there is any merit to the latest accusations, the prime minister is no longer capable of negotiating peace or leading the nation to war. He would therefore be expected to either freeze or at the very least withdraw himself from such negotiations. It would be unprecedented and utterly unconscionable if he intends to tough it out over a potentially lengthy legal process and continue making awesome life and death decisions about our future. THIS RAISES questions as to whether we can still honestly continue describing ourselves as a genuine democracy. Democracy is more than holding elections. It presupposes a government taking account of and respecting the will of the people. Today, while confronting the most difficult, even existential, threats since statehood, our failed and unpopular leaders continue making crucial life and death decisions without any sense of accountability to the cabinet, Knesset, or the nation. Surely the people are entitled to be informed whether their government has a game plan or is merely responding to pressures as they arise. In the course of our 60th anniversary celebrations, it would surely be appropriate if our prime minister or his successor, instead of making yet another empty speech, submitted a broad strategic plan (if it exists) for cabinet approval and insisted that ministers cease carrying on as though they were operating their own private fiefdoms. They should either adhere to the policies endorsed by the majority or tender their resignations. The government program should then be submitted and either approved, amended, or rejected by the Knesset. That is how a genuine democracy would function. [email protected]