Prof. Yehezkel Dror, who served as a member of the Winograd Committee , has given an interview to Maariv.
This is a quote from that interview:
"If we think that the prime minister could further the peace process then that is a very worthy consideration. A peace process, if it is successful, will save so many lives that it is a weighty consideration."
Can you believe it? Believe it. And there’s more:
Asked if he thought Olmert should be allowed to see through his tenure in office, he replied, "We must think about the consequences. What do you prefer, a government with Olmert and Barak, or new elections that will put Netanyahu in power?"
Later he told Army Radio that he was only expressing his opinion in the interview, while his work on the committee was professional. Yea, sure.
From where I sit it looks like Dror has disqualified the committee, and I am hardly alone. The response has come from all political factions:
Said MK Silvan Shalom (Likud):
"After we were failed by the politicians and the media we did not believe that we would also be disappointed by the committee,. If such a senior committee member claims that he was guided by the consideration of who will bring peace and who will be prime minister – this necessitates assembling a state inquiry commission."
(Note: the clamor after the Lebanon war was for an official state inquiry, which would have empowered a commission, appointed by the judiciary, to make decisions regarding the removal of leaders for incompetence. Olmert appointed the Winograd Committee as a compromise — a committee, which, as I’ve noted before, was beholden to him and which was without the powers an official commission would have had.)
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud), convinced now that the committee acted out of illegitimate political concerns, called for new elections.
Chairman of the State Control Committee , MK Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP) said that his committee would be convened tomorrow and call on Prof. Dror to elucidate upon his remarks. "The remarks raise suspicion of severe political corruption."
MK Yossi Beilin (Chair Meretz) declared , "Professor Dror’s remarks are chilling and prove that the committee is operating under somebody’s auspices." If ensuring that Olmert stayed in power was a consideration in drafting the final report, he said, then the committee "loses all of its validity."
MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) , opined that "Apparently, at least one of the committee members acted out of political motives and the trend of turning Olmert into an etrog – due to the illusion that he can further a peace process – has also seeped into the committee."
(Note: I believe the use of the term etrog — which is the citron used for ritual during Sukkot — first emerged when Sharon was prime minister. The etrog is wrapped carefully and kept in a protective box, so that it is not damaged. So does the left wing media, approving political actions of a prime minister — in this instance Olmert’s moves toward negotiations — wrap the prime minister protectively in their coverage.)
Only one politician of prominence defended Prof. Dror, and that was Haim Ramon, that paragon of virtue.
Will anything come of this? Can’t say, but we can hope.
I would like to call your attention to a major briefing paper written for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror and Dan Diker, "Strategic Implications for Israel of the Gaza-Egypt Border." I include lengthy sections here, but this is of critical importance.
The chances of Abbas and Fatah re-taking Gaza are practically nil, especially with the breaching of the fence by Hamas, which gave Gazans access to more material goods and services.
"For the first time in the history of the modern Middle East, Hamas – the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and the ideological cousin of al-Qaeda – has gained full control over contiguous territory and population, and has now effectively become a state government without real opponents."
While the public sees Fatah as essentially failed with regard to its promises, it sees Hamas as successful in a variety of actions — kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, driving out Fatah, sustaining launching of rockets against Israel, establishing a government in Gaza.
"Terrorist operatives and groups such as al-Qaeda …can now reach Gaza without interference. Gaza has transformed from its prior status as part of the Palestinian Authority to its new role as a mini-state that is now an integral part of the Arab world. Hamas will now be able to obtain weapons, ammunition, explosives, and training more freely via Egyptian Sinai. Since the border opening, weapons have flowed unimpeded into Gaza, enabling the transfer of higher-grade weapons such as anti-aircraft missiles.
"Al-Qaeda operatives already infiltrated the Gaza Strip from Egypt, Sudan, and Yemen back in 2006. After the breach of the Egyptian-Gaza border, many Palestinians trained in Syria and Iran easily returned to Gaza. With the open flow of Palestinians into Sinai, there are also increased prospects for attacks against Israeli targets by terrorists infiltrating across Israel’s long border with Sinai. If Egypt is forced to take responsibility for Gaza, Israel will have to more carefully weigh its military responses to Hamas terror actions originating from the Strip."
Essentially, the authors believe there have now been major shifts in the triangular relationship between Israel, Egypt and Gaza. With Hamas’s ability to open the border to the Sinai, with the acquiescence of Mubarak, Hamas has established itself as "the recognized government of the new state of Gaza…Gaza has transformed from its prior status as part of the Palestinian Authority to its new role as a mini-state that is now an integral part of the Arab world."
Even though Egypt might prefer the Palestinian Authority in control at Rafah, Hamas will not permit this. In fact, while Hamas has cooperated with Egypt in re-closing the fence, this is only short term. It is Hamas’s intention "to disengage completely from Israel, abandon the Israeli shekel and adopt an Arab currency, and seek fuel, utilities, trade, and a new open border regime with Egypt."
These events may signal the end of the Palestinian Authority as "the ruling political authority in Palestinian society." This is an historic event.
What is happening "represents the fulfillment of a long-held dream by the Muslim Brotherhood across the region, and suggests far-reaching ramifications for neighboring Arab countries including Jordan, Syria, and Egypt."
"It must be understood that Hamas is no longer merely a well-trained guerilla terror force. Rather, Hamas must be confronted as a state army that uses guerilla tactics and terrorism while, simultaneously, it prepares for all-out war against Israel. With each passing day that Israel does not mobilize for a major ground operation in Gaza, it will be more difficult for the IDF to enter Gaza and destroy Hamas, whose growing Katyusha rocket arsenal has already reached Ashkelon and can strike major Israeli urban centers 20 kilometers north of Gaza, like Kiryat Gat and Ashdod."
"…Israel can now complete the disengagement it undertook in September 2005 and seal its border with Gaza, prohibi
ting the entry or exit of persons and commercial goods, or, as has occurred recently, explosives disguised as commercial materials…"
"…a newly-sealed Israel-Gaza border would force Egypt into the role of state custodian for the Gaza Strip. The opening of the Egypt-Gaza border has demonstrated that Egypt can play a key role as a supplier of goods and services to Gazans. Egypt can also supply utilities such as gas, electricity, and water, and raw materials such as cement…Egypt sees itself as the Arab world’s leading power, and will not stand idly by and allow Palestinians in Gaza to suffer shortages if Israel closes its border with Gaza."
"While certain benefits may accrue to Israel as a result of a shift in Egypt-Gaza relations, there are also possible dangers for Israel-Egypt relations…If Egypt is forced to take responsibility for Gaza, Israel will have to more carefully weigh its military responses to Hamas terror actions originating from the Strip. Israel’s strategic flexibility could be reduced due to any direct Egyptian role in Gaza…".
"The Iranian role is another troubling aspect of the new situation in Gaza. Iran’s direct and robust backing of its Hamas proxy, via Khaled Mashaal and the Damascus-based Hamas leadership, has essentially created a reinforced Gaza base to export Iranian terror and expand Iranian political control in the region. It is no small irony that now, Egyptian-assisted Gaza has become a second Iranian gateway to the Arab world, in addition to Syria, from which to subvert and assert control over Arab countries and territories, as part of Iran’s grand strategy to achieve regional hegemony under a nuclear umbrella."
I would like to touch here on certain of the issues raised.
First, it seems to me more critical than ever that our major operation into Gaza be done now, before the new parameters that are described in this briefing may be established, making it harder for us to go in. For G-d’s sake, let us act before they begin that major war with us.
Second, the "negotiations" for peace with Abbas, which to those of us who are thinking always seemed ludicrous, are now rendered even more ludicrous. The PA is shot. It represents next to nothing (and is sustained in Judea and Samaria only by the IDF). It is being said over and over that any agreement would have to include Gaza, but this is nonsense. Gaza is now an independent radical Muslim state, not about to bow to Abbas in any terms. Time to face the facts and stop pretending.
And then, there is the entire, very complicated issue of Egypt’s relationship with a Hamas-run Gaza. Hamas, an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood that threatens Mubarak’s government, is not in fact something Egypt would want to support, all things being equal. Yet it seems it will be pushed into that support.
I recently cited Daniel Pipes, who is an Arabic scholar, who suggested it might be a good idea if Egypt assumed Gaza as a province. It seemed to me then a constructive possibility. What I conceptualized, and what I feel reasonably certain was Pipe’s intention, was a situation in which Egypt would be in control in Gaza, subduing the Hamas terrorists that threaten its government (and in the process stopping the Kassams).
What is being suggested in this briefing is a very different scenario, and I wish to clarify that. What is projected is a strong, independent Hamas government that forces a relationship with Egypt on Mubarak. This is all together more problematic.
Lastly, I will say this: If the radical Muslims are not to undermine the governments of Arab nations in this part of the world, it is essential that both Israel and the US have strong leaders who can confront and deal with the realities.
Enough for today, I think…