On May 10, 1940 Neville Chamberlain finally resigned his office as British prime minister due to the disastrous direction his policies had taken the country. Despite the fact that his policy of appeasement of the previous four years had been so totally discredited by the German invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, Chamberlain remained in office for another seven months. During this time he presided over the fall of Norway and Denmark to Germany and the invasion of Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg on the day of his resignation.
It seems odd that it took so long for a leader, who had advocated and pursued policies so inimical to his country’s security, to finally step down from the position he was so clearly unsuited for.
The comparison with the current situation here in Israel is apt. Ehud Olmert has adopted, pursued and carried-out a set of policies that have severely weakened the state’s security. And yet he remains perched in his seat of power, unmoved by the damage that continues to be wrought on a daily basis to the country because of his failed policies and, moreover, unmoved by the majority of the population calling for his resignation.
Olmert was one of the primary architects of the Gaza disengagement plan. Israel’s withdrawal has directly led to Gilad Shalit’s abduction, the launching of 4,000 rockets and mortar-shells on the heads of Israelis living in the south and an unprecedented level of weapons and war materiel smuggled into the Strip. Gaza is now a strategic threat to Israel, which it was not before the withdrawal, and 20,000 Hamas fighters stand ready to sacrifice themselves should Israel attempt to alleviate the daily suffering of its citizens in the south.
The north, contrary to Olmert’s assertions, is not quiet. Hizbullah has succeeded in equipping itself with a greater, more advanced arsenal than it had before the Second Lebanon War and now does not even need to be deployed south of the Litani in order to fire its rockets on Israeli population centers, including Tel Aviv.
The Hizbullah menace is therefore a strategic hindrance that hampers the IDF’s ability to conduct its affairs. In planning a major operation in Gaza, for instance, the IDF needs to consider the likelihood of whether or not Hizbullah will initiate a rocket bombardment, thus necessitating the deployment of forces on two fronts. Similarly, should the Israeli Air Force need to bomb Iranian nuclear targets it must take into account how many aircraft will be required to take out Hizbullah’s long range rockets, which will undoubtedly be unleashed on Israel should any attack on Iran be attempted.
Dangling tasty morsel of peace
In spite of these calamitous personal failures, Olmert continues to pursue the chimera of peace with Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. He acts as if Fatah and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades have had nothing to do with the daily firing of missiles from Gaza and the murders of Ido Zoldan, David Ruben, Ahikam Amihai and Rami Zoari in recent months.
The ceaseless terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians by elements of Abbas’ own faction highlight the fantasy of peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Yet Olmert continues to endanger Israeli security by persisting in negotiations and concessions, which only serve to raise the expectations of both the Palestinians and the international community.
By dangling the tasty morsel of a peace agreement before the hungry eyes of a floundering leader such as George W. Bush, Olmert’s diplomatic shenanigans have only served to increase media and diplomatic pressure on Israel to make more concessions.
The primary purpose and responsibility of a government to its people is to protect their physical well-being from external danger. Olmert has manifestly failed in this task and is today personally responsible for endangering the lives of Israelis the length and breadth of the country. Not only is he unrepentant for these past errors, he persists in compounding them with ongoing negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, dragging Israel deeper and deeper into the diplomatic mire.
Having placed Britain in such a perilous situation and with the threat caused by his failed policies not only current but increasing daily, Neville Chamberlain did finally have the good grace to resign. The words spoken to him in the House of Commons three days before he stepped down are particularly appropriate for our Prime Minister today: “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.”
Jeremy Sharon is a researcher and writer