Saying no to Olmert

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If all goes as planned, as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meets today with US President George W. Bush in the White House, several thousand protesters from around the US and Canada will be across the Mall by the US Senate protesting Olmert's visit. These will not be the standard Israel haters from the Left or the Islamist crowd. They will be neither neo-Nazis nor Communists. Rather the planned protest is being organized by Israel's staunchest Jewish and Christian supporters.

 

The people getting on buses to travel to Washington to protest Olmert's visit believe that Olmert's planned withdrawal from some 95 percent of Judea and Samaria and partition of Jerusalem are suicidal for Israel and will have a devastating impact on US national security. As they note in their press release, Olmert "seeks to secure the approval of President Bush to carry out more Jewish expulsions and giving over of land to Hamas (a Teheran-sponsored terrorist group), actions that totally undermine America's war on terror."

 

Voices from inside of the Bush Administration claim that Olmert's planned withdrawal is "a done deal." The relevant administration officials argue there it would be futile for the US to register any objection to Olmert's plan because Olmert and his government are wholly committed to carrying it out.

 

But the "plan" is anything but a done deal. The mass expulsion of Israelis from their homes in Judea and Samaria has not begun. The security fence whose completion is supposed to precede the enactment of the mass expulsions is far from complete. Indeed its route has yet to be finalized. The IDF has made no plans of any kind for defending Israel from the indefensible 1949 armistice lines. Top level Jordanian government officials have voiced serious concern to US lawmakers, Israeli officials and the media about the ramifications of Olmert's plan for the survivability of the Hashemite regime. It is simply disingenuous to say that it is too late for the US to consider opposing Olmert's plan.

 

ASIDE FROM that, over the past 58 years, the US has never considered anything that Israel has done to be "a done deal" if it hasn't agreed that it should be a done deal. In 1956 for instance, Israel conquered the Sinai Peninsula. Then prime minister David Ben-Gurion got on the radio and announced joyously that Israel would never leave the Sinai. Washington had other ideas. Several days later, after some overtly hostile strong arming from then president Dwight D. Eisenhower and his advisors, Ben-Gurion got on the radio and announced that Israel would be withdrawing from the Sinai forthwith.

 

In 1999, Israel finalized an agreement to sell three Phalcon spy planes to China. The Chinese started making their payments. Then president Bill Clinton summoned then prime minister Ehud Barak to the White House for urgent consultations the day before a planned visit to Jerusalem from China's leader, and Barak cancelled the deal. So there is no credibility to the claim that the US cannot stop an Israeli government from doing what it has its heart set on doing.

 

THE QUESTION is not whether the US can weigh in on the issue. The question is whether the US should intervene. To determine the answer to this question it is important to keep certain truths in mind. First, Olmert maintains that the election results that propelled him to the Prime Minister's Office were proof that he has public support for his planned withdrawal. Yet, as Hillel Halkin pointed out this month in Commentary, the elections were anything but a referendum regarding Olmert's plan.

 

 

The election results, which gave Olmert's Kadima faction less than a quarter of the seats in the Knesset, were a sign that Israel's body politic is unraveling. The electorate's fragmentation was made clear both by record low voter turnout and by the dismemberment of the major parties like Likud and Labor and even Kadima to the benefit of sectoral parties like Shas, Yisrael Beitenu and the Pensioners Party. During the campaign Kadima registered its greatest losses of support after Olmert began discussing his plan to withdraw from Judea and Samaria.

 

Yet even if Olmert did not receive a mandate for his withdrawal plan from the Israeli voters, he is the legally elected prime minister. In the eyes of many of Israel's supporters in America, it is wrong for the US to second-guess the wisdom of the Israeli leadership. While in theory this position is correct, it comes apart at the seams when the ramifications of Olmert's plans for US national security are taken into account.

 

Knowledgeable sources in Washington policy circles maintain that in the two weeks preceding Olmert's visit to Washington, Israeli officials were asked to allay American concerns regarding the security consequences of Olmert's plan. Specifically, Israeli officials have been called upon to explain how Judea and Samaria will be prevented from following the model set in Gaza when Israel's retreat enabled the transformation of Gaza into a base for international terrorists along similar lines to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

 

Israel's military attache in Washington, Maj. Gen. Dan Harel was reportedly sent to the White House to dispel these concerns. It should be recalled that Harel commanded last summer's retreat from Gaza. Harel was lionized at the time by the Israeli media for successfully implementing the mass expulsion of Israeli civilians from Gaza while averting civil war.

 

Yet Harel has never been called to account for the fact that he made no plans for Israel to defend itself from the threats that – as foreseen – arose from Gaza and from the Sinai in the aftermath of the retreat. Because of his failure, IDF forces in the Southern Command were left without contingency plans for contending with the transformation of Gaza into a base for global jihad and without adequate means to secure Ashkelon and the other communities bordering Gaza from the daily missile, rocket and mortar attacks to which they have been subjected since the retreat.

 

This is relevant because Harel reportedly told his US interlocutors that they have no reason to worry about the consequences of Olmert's plan because it only involves the mass expulsion of Israeli civilians from Judea and Samaria. The IDF, he said will retain its current positions in the areas.

 

WHETHER OR not Harel realized it at the time, he was not being wholly truthful to his American audience. Even if the plan today is for the IDF to retain control of the areas in which the civilians are set to be expelled, and to retain their present deployments, any educated observer of Israel's political and cultural dynamics will attest that there is no way that this can happen.

 

If Olmert expels tens of thousands of Israeli citizens from their homes, he will destroy the entire domestic rationale for the IDF deployment. As was the case in Lebanon, radical leftists within Israel will rise up and demand a full retreat. For its part, the nationalist camp will become so alienated by the expulsions that in the best case scenario, its members will simply cease to identify with the state. They will not support any military activities in the heartland of Jewish civilization that the state ethnically cleansed of all Jewish presence.

 

Aside from this, whether the IDF remains or not, the Israeli destruction of Israeli towns and villages will be broadcast throughout the world and be celebrated – rightly – as a strategic victory of jihad. Zionism isn't about the IDF, it is about Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel. Israeli destruction of Israeli villages in the Land of Israel is the death of Zionism and our enemies know it even if we insist on denying this basic truth.

 

AND SO we return to our starting point. Olmert will meet Bush today and present to him a plan that will unravel Israeli society, which was already
dangerously fragmented by the withdrawal from Gaza.

He will present to him a plan that is based upon the anti-Semitic notion that Jews should be prohibited from living in certain places because they are Jews, and the perverse notion that a Palestinian state founded on the principle of lebensraum and racial purity because by definition no Jews will be allowed to live in Palestine, will be capable of living at peace one day with the Jewish state.

 

Olmert will present a plan that provides a strategic victory to the forces of global jihad in a war they wage not only against Israel but against the US and the Western world as a whole. These forces will feel that they are on the march because they will see Israel destroying itself under the gun of their terror and enabling the establishment of yet another base for global terrorists.

 

Given all this, the question of whether or not the US should object to Olmert's plan is superseded by the question of how the US should make its rejection of this plan known to Olmert and whether its objection should similarly be communicated to the Israeli public.

 

Any ambiguity on this issue to Olmert; any retreat behind disingenuous statements about "done deals," will be nothing less than the revocation of the cardinal US strategies for winning this war: the advance of liberal values and the denial of bases of operation to global terrorists.

 

 

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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