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Realignment is bent out of shape

06/13/2006

Ehud Olmert's plan to evacuate part of the West Bank unilaterally keeps changing. It has been called by various names - Consolidation, Convergence and Realignment are the official ones. Floundering Around and Israbluff might be more appropriate. The plan was sold to Israelis as "Israel will set its permanent borders within 2 years" and Olmert promised that Israel would then be "Fun to live in." I noted my skepticism about that promise at the time.

Olmert's promises got him elected, because most Israelis understand that we cannot continue to rule the Palestinian Arabs. However, it was clear that he didn't have a plan to end Israeli rule of Palestinian Arabs in a way that will bring peace. Everything was fine with Olmert's plan except for reality.

In the same article, I also wrote:


The truth is that while the Qassam rockets rain down on Israel, Israel has "stunning accuracy" in killing some terrorists and along with them some innocent bystanders, but zero success in stopping the rockets.


Does it sound familiar? I could write the same thing today, could I not? So indeed, I just did. From the point of view of security, the Gaza disengagament was a miserable failure. The rockets come down, and Israel has not found either the military or diplomatic means to put an end to them. Israeli reprisals don't stop the rockets, they just provide more bad publicity for Israel. True, Israel may not have been responsible for the deaths of the Palestinian family on the beach, but the damage is probably done. In any case, Israel was certainly responsible for the deaths of innocent people in today's targeted killing.

The second problem is that of course, Israel cannot set its permanent borders unilaterally. The slogan was obviously untrue when it was manufactured, because the Kadima party insisted that Israel would be willing to negotiate borders in the future if a Palestinian partner was available. If the borders can be renegotiated, they aren't permanent. So people understood that they were voting for a lie, but they voted anyhow.

Another paradox is also built into the convergence plan. The plan is based on the assertion that there is no Palestinian partner and Palestinians do not want peace. If so, it is difficult to understand what the Israeli government thinks will happen to the territory that is evacuated. Of course, it will come under Palestinian jurisdiction. Without an agreement, that Palestinian juridiction will certainly be inimical to Israel. So what is the point?

Borders, of course, cannot be set without at least some international recognition. Right now the only borders anyone might recognize are the cease-fire lines of 1949. Ehud Olmert is meeting with the great leaders of the world, and everywhere he goes it seems, not surprisingly, that we get the same story. The meeting is a great success, and everyone loves Olmert, but nobody is interested in any Israeli unilateral moves. This was the result of Olmert's visit to the USA, and it is the result of his visit to Britain. In fact, Blair and Bush now have Olmert trained so he will say their lines for them:


The "first priority for Israel is negotiations," Olmert added, saying "the
status quo is the enemy of everything that we are in favor of."

He said that Israel is "ready to go a long way in order to convince [the
Palestinians] that it is preferable and worthwhile to meet... the road map."


It is not just lip service any more either. According to Akiva Eldar, Israel has begun to scrap the convergence plan in favor of a negotiated alternative. Israel would withdraw from about 90% of the West Bank and the Palestinians would form a state in "provisional" borders" in a negotiated interim settlement that would be considered "stage II" of the roadmap. However, the Palestinians had previous rejected an interim state. The "plan," if it deserves that name, would not require the Palestinian authority to disarm terror groups. The Hamas will remain armed, and in opposition to this interim agreement, and apparently in charge of the PNA. Past experience has shown that Hamas finds unsatisfactory ways to express their displeasure. They don't send diplomatic notes or hold sit-ins.

Presumably the territories ceded to the Palestinians, like the Gaza strip, would not be able to import goods, just as in the Gaza strip. The boycott of the Hamas would also remain in effect, guaranteeing misery for the populace of the West Bank, and misery will guarantee terror. Instead of Land for Peace, this plan seems to call for Land for Terror and poverty. That is someone's idea of a fair compromise - a plan that inflicts equal doses of misery on both sides and gives neither side any of their requirements.

Perhaps there is no better plan, but this "plan" is worse than doing nothing. The problem is, that everyone seems to be coninced that "something" has to be done. Israeli Foreign Minister Livni is quoted as saying:


We believe that time is working against us... We believe that
stagnation shouldn't be an Israeli government policy.


Ehud Olmert said:


I don't think that we should wait too much...


As usual, we are on the brink of a great disaster, and about to take a bold step forward.
Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 1 Comment

Ami, based on your recent posts it seems you now believe that continued occupation and not disengagement is the lesser evil?

It also seems to me that you refrain from dealing with possible approaches, while getting into a deadlock. Because after all, continued occupaion and/or waiting for the Palestinians to dismantle the organizations and clean up their act are alone or together deadlock scenarios.

There are 3 other avenues that you have not discussed, and one that you have, but not at length, namely external intervention. The three others are:

1) Something that should be called the Abu-Mazen approach. Namely, that by removing the objections and entering negotiations, or worse by concluding them, the current atmosphere can be changed and quiet and order restored in ways that are impossible nder the current situation. Is this option possible? Is it a greater risk to persue it or to ignore it?

2) Trying to get some form of negotiations for a ceasefire with the Hamas government instead of waiting for them to make declarations that they are unlikely to make, and even if they will, will be empty words. True, the Hamas is invested in violence, but it had persued a unilateral ceasefire. Perhaps some more encompasing ceasefire can be reached with this enemy, just as Israel had ceasefire agreements with Arab countries who would not recognize it. At worst, the Hamas will appear like the obstructionist. Again, Is this option possible? Is it a greater risk to persue it or to ignore it?

3) It is claimed that Israel's situation is worse since Kassams are shot into Israel. But, although it is a shame that the Palestinians had not seized the opportunity offered by the disengagement to clean house, isn't it true that Israel has at least the same, if not greater, tactical ability to deal with kassams as before. If we accept the assumption (which I'm not sure I do), that there is not diplomatic way to stop kassams, then ultimately Israel should use miiitary force, even sending ground forces into Gaza. Yes, it would make us look bad. But Israel has taken unpopular actions before, rightly or wrongl, when it believed that it was to only way to defend itself. Whatever we would have done under the same circumstances had we remained in Gaza we can do now, if not more. I still think it at least should be combined with diplomacy if possible. But Israel is not without power.

Furthermore, although I'm not a big fan of the prisoners' document, I think you present it in too bleak a light on two points. First, it does speak of continued violence, but it also speaks about restricting that violence to the territories. That is not enough for Israel, but it would be an improvement. Secondly, I do not think the document will restrict Abu Mazen as much as you say. If Israel were willing to negotiate with Abu-Mazen at all, (which it has not so far), than the constrains of the refugee issue and others would have been a burden on him in any case. If he is willing and able to overcome them than he is wiling and able to overcome these aspects in the document. If not, than the problem is not the document but the Palestinians' and Abu-Mazen's will to overcome these issues. The big question for me is should we place our bets on Abu-Mazen and start negotiating or not. Now we seem to be avoiding the question, again paralyzed like in the earler stages of the Intifada.

Posted by Micha @ 06/16/2006 06:22 AM CST


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