The point is being missed and — maddeningly — Israel is letting it go by. President Bush said today that Shalit’s release is the key to resolving the crisis.
What’s being missed is the on-going terrorism in the form of Kassams. Sixty Kassam launched against Sderot in a period of 48 hours recently? Come on! Yes, Shalit’s release is the first order of business, but it is not the only order of business. Once Shalit is released (it should only be!) are we supposed to go back to business as usual? And is the Israeli military supposed to return to doing token shelling of empty fields ("launching sites") and not much more in the face of attacks on innocent citizenry?
Now is the time for a major shift in the dynamic here. But it looks as if the opportunity may be lost. If it is, it will be shameful.
Whatever happens in Gaza from this point on, it becomes increasingly clear that the current situation has generated a stumbling block for Olmert in his goal of giving land in Judea-Samaria to the Palestinians, whether via negotiations or unilateral withdrawal.
Whether because he is powerless to secure Shalit’s release or because he has no real desire to do it, Abbas is at this moment demonstrating his unsuitability as a viable peace partner. Always a joke, but more blatantly so now. (And see more about this below.)
As to the unilateral pullout that Olmert has projected (and which Minister of Justice Haim Ramon of Kadima — serving as an Olmert mouthpiece — declares practically a done deal), consider the following:
— Yonatan Bassi, who just left his post as head of the Disengagement Authority, had parting words for Olmert: "Go slowly." The projected removal of 70,000 people from Judea-Samaria cannot be done, says Bassi, in Olmert’s term as prime minister. It would take at least seven or eight years. Olmert has said he wants to do it in two years.
— Dr. Gerald Steinberg, who directs the Conflict Resolution program at Bar Ilan University and heads NGO Monitor, which is run out of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, has just written a stunning and brave article, which ran in the National Post, in Canada.
He had supported the pullout from Gaza, he writes, but that experiment failed: "Hopes that the unprecedented move…would reduce the violence and promote mutual accommodation were naive.
"…Israelis also rediscovered the mistake of giving responsibility for their survival to outsiders. The security arrangements negotiated with Egypt and Europe, which accompanied the withdrawal of Israeli military forces from Gaza in August 2005, have all collapsed…After paying a high price for these hopes, Israelis have rediscovered the fundamental need for direct control over their own security.
"…It is still far too early to know how the return to Gaza will end. But even if the kidnapped soldier is released, the Israeli forces cannot simply turn around and leave Gaza…"
It goes without saying (but I’ll say it), that Dr. Steinberg is not about to support Olmert’s goals as he once supported Sharon’s. He is not alone in his thinking. Housing Minister Meir Shitreet (Kadima) — who was solidly for Sharon’s "disengagement" — has said he opposes withdrawal from Judea-Samaria, and President Moshe Katzav, who has for the most part refrained from political statements, has begun to be vocal in his criticism of unilateral withdrawal.
— Head of the far left Meretz party, Yossi Beilin, this past week announced to the prime minister that he would work against "realignment." Olmert had been counting on Meretz’s five votes and Beilin’s position leaves him short of a majority for this in the Knesset.
Of course, Beilin’s reason for doing this is totally perverse, but never mind. Beilin is upset because Olmert isn’t going far enough and committing to going all the way back to the pre-67 armistice lines.
And here’s the clincher: When it was pointed out to him that Abbas is demonstrating himself weak in the current crisis, he responded that it doesn’t matter: "…my philosophy is that he may not be a partner for implementing an agreement but he is a partner for signing it, and the prime minister should realize the importance of a signed document with a Palestinian leader."
News of the kidnappings and action in Gaza overshadowed the agreement reached between Hamas and Fatah this past week regarding acceptance of the "Prisoners’ Document." This followed the furor that had ensured when Hamas had rejected it and Abbas had threatened to hold a referendum (which has now been cancelled). Presumably a national unity government is to follow, although how the recent arrests of Hamas ministers and legislators affects these plans is unclear. Hamas, as a result of understandings reached, is also to become a participant within the PLO.
As the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said, in rejecting this document as a starting point for negotiations: "The objective behind this document had nothing to do with advancing prospects for peace with Israel. The goal was promote a Palestinian consensus."
I would add that yet another goal was making Hamas appear conciliatory, giving the impression that they are on board in a "peaceful" manner so that the international community will again support the PA.
It is important to note that changes were made in the original text, making its position even more ugly and antithetical to genuine peace than had been the case before. The MFA notes that "Fatah has moved towards accepting the positions of Hamas, rather than vice versa."
In agreeing to this document, Abbas has bound himself to use this alone as the basis for political action — that is, he cannot proceed to negotiate with Israel on a more moderate basis. Abbas’s participation in sanctioning this document provides solid evidence — and, pitifully, in some quarters such evidence is still needed — that he is not a "moderate," not "a man of peace." Not someone with whom Israel should negotiate.
— The document does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. It talks about borders established for a Palestinian state based on the pre-’67 lines. But this does NOT mean Israel is recognized on the other side of those lines.
— It does not talk about a final cessation of hostilities. This is in line with the Hamas position that they might agree to a long-term ceasefire, with the implicit understanding that hostilities might begin again.
— It insists on the right of the "refugees" to return to their homes in Israel. This alone would destroy Israel from within. Over 4 million angry Palestinians (the great majority of whom have never been here) claiming this right.
— It sanctions terrorism ("the right of resistance by all means"). Aaron Lerner noted this week that the kidnapping and murder of Eliyahu Asheri would be permitted under the guidelines of this document. And, in fact, while ostensibly its goal is ending "occupation" in areas captured in ’67, it only says resistance should be "focused" in these areas, which means it also sanctions terror attacks within the Green Line.
You can see the entire text at: http://imra.org.il/story.php3?id=29834
Aaron Lerner calls this document a "Declaration of War" and he is absolutely correct.
It is so crystal clear that the Palestinians are at war with us that it is a form of national suicide for us to not do all we can to weaken this enemy in Gaza while we have the opportunity.
I recommend Caroline Glick’s article in the Jerusalem Post yesterday, "Olmert doesn’t get it," in which she explores the theme of Fatah complicity in terrorism and the short-sightedness of blaming it all on Hamas.
This posting can be found at: https://www.arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2006/7/1/posted-july-1-2006.html