On the eve of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's "peace summit" in Annapolis, the political house of cards which is Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima government is poised to collapse.
Olmert owes his parliamentary majority and his governing coalition to two sectoral right-wing parties – Shas, the haredi Sephardic party, and Yisrael Beiteinu, the Russian immigrant party. Today both are being pressured by the Likud and their own voters to leave the government against the backdrop of Olmert's intention to offer massive concessions to the Palestinians at Annapolis. If they bolt his coalition, Olmert will be going to Annapolis without a governing majority.
As far as Israel's national security is concerned, the government can't fall fast enough.
The Kadima-led government has been a national disaster. Kadima is a party of fantasists. It was established by the fantasists who pushed Israel's withdrawal from Gaza two years ago. With the active assistance of the delusional Israeli media, during the 2006 election Kadima was able to hide the dire consequences of that retreat from the voters until after the elections.
As the public swallowed Kadima's promises of peace and prosperity, Gaza was transformed from a tactical nuisance into a strategic threat.
While Kadima's leaders promised the country responsible, honest government, terrorists from Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt marched into Gaza. Advanced weaponry, money and indoctrination materials flowed freely across the border between Egypt and Gaza that Kadima's leaders – against the stated opposition of the IDF – ordered the IDF to vacate. The destroyed Israeli settlements were turned into terror training bases and launch pads for rocket and mortar attacks against the Western Negev.
Since launching a major ground operation against Gaza would involve an acknowledgement of the fact that the withdrawal was a colossal mistake, for the past two years the government has refused to act. As Kadima clings to its delusions, some 40,000 Israelis under rocket and mortar attack are beset by the reality that they have been abandoned by their government which refuses to defend them. Not wishing to die for the government's delusions, some fifty percent of the residents of Sderot have already fled their homes.
In the meantime, as Hamas's 15,000-man Iranian-trained army, formed after the 2005 withdrawal, improves its rocket and mortar arsenals and increases their range, another 250,000 Israelis – residents of Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat, Netivot and Ashdod – look on with worry knowing they are next in line.
Rather than contend with the failure of their grand retreat strategy in Gaza, ahead of last year's elections Kadima's leaders announced their next big plan. They called for an Israeli retreat from Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem. Indeed, in the early months of their tenure, Olmert and his colleagues were so busy harassing settlers and building walls between neighborhoods in Jerusalem that they failed to note the approach of war. And so they were caught by surprise when on July 12, 2006, 10 days after Hamas and Fatah attacked Israel from Gaza and abducted Cpl. Gilead Schalit, Hizbullah attacked in the North – kidnapping IDF reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser and shelling northern communities with Katyusha rockets.
In reacting to Hizbullah's campaign, Kadima ha maintained their penchant for delusion. Rather than waging a real war against Israel's enemies, they decided to wage a pretend war.
In their testimony before the Winograd Committee, senior cabinet members and IDF commanders testified that during the government's meetings in the two days following Hizbullah's attacks, they didn't think that Israel was at war.
Apparently they never got the memo. The government's decisions during the war only make sense when viewed as the moves of a government that refused to recognize reality. Its refusal to draft reservists; its insistence on not launching a ground offensive until after the UN Security Council had already passed the cease-fire resolution; its decision not to bomb Hizbullah targets in Syria; its refusal to declare a state of emergency and evacuate residents of the North, and its insistence that Israel achieved all its goals only make sense when seen in the context of a governmental campaign to ignore reality.
And now, with the Winograd Committee poised to release its final report, rather than contend with the wreckage of their last failure, Kadima's leaders are marching towards their next failure at Rice's peace parley in Annapolis.
Kadima's leaders promise us that we have nothing to worry about. They learned the lessons of the Gaza withdrawal.
Unfortunately, it seems that they have learned the wrong lessons. The decision to withdraw from Gaza was founded on an understanding that there were no Palestinian leaders willing to make peace with the Jewish state. Instead of fight to victory and so enable a peaceful Palestinian leadership to emerge, Israel opted to cut and run.
Far from learning that cutting and running is a bad strategy, Kadima's leaders embrace it. What they learned from Gaza is that they were wrong to acknowledge that there are no Palestinian leaders interested in making peace with Israel. So rather than repeat that "mistake," they invented the fiction of Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as a credible leader.
If Kadima's leaders are allowed to go forward with their "peace" talks with their fictional Palestinian partner, the consequence will be the transformation of Judea, Samaria and parts of Jerusalem into the second Gaza. And this is something that Israel cannot allow. While the Gaza terror state directly threatens 250,000 Israelis, the Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem terror state would place millions in its crosshairs. Every major city is within rocket range of the areas. A partitioned Jerusalem would become uninhabitable for Jews.
Unfortunately, Kadima's leaders don't care. What is important to Kadima's leaders is, in Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's words, "to create processes." Livni, it would seem, has taken on the role of chief defender of the government's new big strategy. Speaking at the Knesset this week, she claimed that there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Israel's concessions will only be implemented after the Palestinians fight terrorism. Of course by agreeing to conduct negotiations, Israel surrendered its former position that nothing could be discussed until after the Palestinians fought terrorism.
As for Olmert, in the current iteration of Kadima's strategic myopia, he shows that he learned nothing from Lebanon. There he decided to launch a counter-strike without accepting that Israel was at war. He then spent the next five weeks pushing policies that were aimed at forcing reality to bend to his imagination.
Today, as then, Olmert moves ahead with negotiations with Abbas and Rice without any consideration for the consequences. Indeed, like Livni, he denies that there are consequences. He refuses to consider the effects of his support for Abbas – a leader with no followers, who already lost an election to Hamas in 2006 and lost Gaza to Hamas in 2007. He thinks that the fact that he is offering Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to a leader of a society that refuses to accept Israel's right to exist is cost-free.
Of course, this isn't the case. His willingness to offer such enormous concessions has radicalized his powerless interlocutor still further.
Then too, Olmert's willingness to accept Abbas as a negotiating partner and embrace the fantasy that his Fatah group is something other than a terrorist organization has had dire consequences for Israel's relations with the US. Seizing on Isr
ael's willingness to deal with irreconcilable foes, Rice invited Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to send a representative to Annapolis. There, Iran's junior partner in nuclear weapons development will demand that Israel surrender the Golan Heights to its Iranian-trained army.
Against this backdrop, led by Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu, Wednesday Olmert's political opponents began their offensive against the Olmert-Livni government. First, the Knesset moved to begin checking Olmert's power to concede Jerusalem. By an overwhelming majority, its members approved – in a preliminary reading – Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar's bill requiring the approval of two-thirds of the Knesset for any plan to limit Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.
Joined by MKs from Kadima, Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu, Netanyahu and his Likud colleagues then reconnoitered at the City of David. There, nestled between the Temple Mount and the Kidron Valley, the parliamentarians vowed to block any concessions on Jerusalem.
As one would have expected, sitting among politicians who base their policies on reality, the representatives of Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu looked a little embarrassed. Here they were, announcing that they reject the Olmert's new delusional flagship policy, while enabling him to implement it by remaining in his government.
And that's the thing of it. It would seem that Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu haven't decided yet where they stand on the reality-delusion spectrum. Yishai and Lieberman apparently believe that simply by denying the self-evident dangers of Kadima's policies, they will be immune from criticism when those policies fail. But their voters are not so easily gulled.
Monday, Netanyahu and Sa'ar paid a visit to Shas's spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in a bid to impress on him the dangers of the moment and to convince him to withdraw Shas from the government. As they exited the rabbi's home a young Shas voter approached Netanyahu and asked, "Why is Shas still in the government?" The two parties claim that they will leave the government if it damages Israel in any way. But of course, it already is damaging Israel. From a security standpoint, the government's decisions to release terrorists from prison; grant "clemency" to wanted terrorists; curtail IDF counter-terror operations and continue to do nothing in Gaza in the interest of the peace process, are endangering the country.
And then there is the symbolic damage. By announcing a freeze of all Jewish building activity in Judea and Samaria, the government has effectively said that Jews have no right to Judea and Samaria. By agreeing to discuss massive territorial concessions in Jerusalem, the government has effectively provided the Palestinians with veto power over Israeli sovereignty in the city.
For the past three years, Kadima's leaders have annually introduced a new "grand strategy" for solving Israel's woes. In each case, after their grand strategy collapsed, before the country could force them to pay the price for their idiocy, they moved on to their next grand strategy that then collapsed.
The only way to prevent Kadima from moving forward with its most dangerous grand strategy to date is to bring down the government by forcing Israel Beiteinu and Shas to bolt the coalition. They are feeling the heat. But it has to be turned up several notches.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.