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'Government's policy a misconceived concoction of myopic wishful-thinking' Photo: Reuters
'Government's policy a misconceived concoction of myopic wishful-thinking' Photo: Reuters
 
 
Martin Sherman  

 

A study in fanaticism

Olmert regime is providing definitive an example of blind, obsessive fanaticism

Published: 04.17.06, 12:10 / Israel Opinion

…the ultimate test of this agreement will be a test of blood… If it becomes clear that they (the Palestinians) cannot overcome terror - this will be temporary accord and…we will have no choice but abrogate it...And if there is no choice, the IDF will return to the places which it is about to leave in the upcoming months (sic).

Yossi Beilin on the Oslo Accords, Maariv 26-11-1993

 

Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.

George Santayana

 

These two excerpts - the one from the leading architect of Israel's policy of territorial withdrawal adopted since the early 90s, the
other from the well-known Spanish-born American political philosopher - aptly underscore how corrupted the underlying rationale of Israeli policy (and policy-makers) has become over the last decade. Even more so, it so it highlights how utterly misguided is the proposed plan for further retreat put forward by premier-designate Ehud Olmert; and how misfounded are the tenets upon which it is based.

 

This proposal, euphemistically dubbed "convergence", is in fact a prescription for a unilateral withdrawal from areas of Judea and Samaria to a line not overly different from the 1967 Green Line.

 

As such is in fact a mega-version of the previous unilateral retreat, euphemistically known as "disengagement, which within a dizzying short period of time, has brought about all of the dangers its detractors warned of and none of the benefits its supports hoped for. Indeed, since its traumatic implementation and the transformation of thousands of productive Israelis into destitute, homeless – and largely abandoned - refugees in their own land, it has led to "little" - except increased Qassam attacks, heightened motivation of the terror organizations, intensified smuggling of evermore deadly weaponry in to the evacuated (or rather, "disengaged") Gaza Strip, the ascension to power of the Hamas, the establishment of al-Qaeda cells in the "territories" and the virtual elimination of the influence of any moderate element, such as there were, among the Palestinians.

 

No positive consequences

 

Yet in spite of this appalling debacle, the penny fails to drop. It should be crystal clear from the preceding citation from Yossi Beilin that withdrawal per se was never intended to be the aim of Israeli policy, even for people of his political ilk, but rather a means for attaining an aim – that of a peaceable settlement or at least, stable non-belligerency.

 

However, in practice, the more concessions Israel offered, the more belligerent Palestinian behavior became. Soon after the signature of the Oslo Agreement and the "Gaza and Jericho" first pull-out, terror attacks began to soar, dropping dramatically under the less concessionary Netanyahu administration, only to spiral spectacularly upward again in response to Ehud Bark's far-reaching proposal to withdraw from nearly all the "West Bank" and Gaza (and to actually compensate the Palestinians with territory inside pre-1967 frontiers, for the remainder).

 

Therefore there is no apparently rational reason to believe that the "convergence" initiative will generate any positive consequences for Israel – politically, militarily or economically. In the past few days the Palestinians, cross the board, dismissed the "convergence" proposal as a policy that could lead to any form of stability – from Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh's who declared that it was a" recipe for confrontation" (March 31st) to Fatah's Abbas who warned that it "would lead to war within a decade"(April 8th).

 

In view of these statements, the unilateral nature of the evacuation envisaged in the "convergence" plan appears especially imprudent.

 

For example, withdrawal is not contingent on the Palestinians fulfilling any demands whatsoever -- including the demilitarization of the abandoned areas or even any limitation on the kind of armaments that can be introduced in to them.

 

This is especially grave since not only have the Palestinian organizations made it quite clear that they intend "transforming the West Bank into a large base for the firing of Qassam rockets on the civilian population within the State of Israel"; but also "convergence" in the east - far more than "disengagement" in the south - will easily expose vital infrastructure installations and population centers to such attack.

 

Future does not bode well

 

These include major transportation routes such as the trans-Israel highway (Route 6), the eastern approaches to the Greater Tel-Aviv urban complex and the country's only international airport. The latter is especially vulnerable, since it will not require actual attacks on it to totally disrupt air traffic to and from Israel. The mere existence of a credible threat of such attacks will suffice to cripple the regular operation of Ben Gurion airport.

 

Given the notable lack of success in preventing Qassam attacks from within Gaza, it would appear the future does not bode well for the future of Israel's aviation links with the outside world…

 

In this regard, it should be noted that Israel's unilateral and unreciprocated retreat is an implicit but unequivocal declaration that it foregoes any claim of sovereignty over the evacuated areas.

 

Thus, while "convergence" is unlikely to earn international recognition of its sovereignty inside its newly self-demarcated borders, the international community is very likely to seize eagerly on Israel's self-conceded surrender of any sovereign claims beyond them – thus foregoing the right to a permanent military presence of any significance in them to ensure the protection of strategic targets within "Israel proper".

 

Likewise there is likely to be little economic advantage to "convergence". Current estimates of the cost of implementation put it around $ 30 billion (!) - with US aid to cover this highly unlikely. This is such an exorbitantly high figure, especially for a government pleading a lack of adequate funds to deal with pressing social ills afflicting the country, it seems outrageous that it would be seriously contemplated by any responsible leadership.

 

Obsessive fanaticism

 

Indeed, the projected costs make complete mockery of the claims put forward by proponents the "convergence/disengagement" thesis (such the avid and vocal Profs. Sofer and Schueftan of Haifa University) that its implementation would free up resources to deal with problems of social inequalities, the plight of the aged, prevention crime, the upgrading of national infrastructures and development of outlying peripheral areas in the Galilee and the Negev. (As an aside it should be noted that the combined cost of the "convergence/disengagement" project could finance the relocation and rehabilitation of a large proportion of the Palestinians in the "West Bank" and Gaza, facilitating both a considerable amelioration of their humanitarian conditions as well as an equally considerable alleviation of the demographic problem which unilateral withdrawal –erroneously – purports to deal will).

 

In the light of the dubious prospects of the "convergence" scheme – the security risks it involves, the strategic vulnerability it will create, its manifest political rejection by the Palestinians, and the breathtaking economic cost it entails – it seems almost inexplicable why any Israeli government would persist in pursuing such a policy – if one can use the word "policy" to describe such a misconceived concoction of myopic wishful-thinking and self-destructive malice, so replete with mortal perils and so devoid of positive payoffs.

 

Indeed with its reckless resolve to redouble its efforts (by evermore extensive withdrawal) having totally lost sight of the aim of those efforts (attaining an end to the enmity towards Israel) the Olmert-regime seems to be providing a definitive example of blind, obsessive fanaticism.

 

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