Photo: ECF
Shaul Arieli

Threatening Syria comes with price

Military threats come at expense of socioeconomic pledges

By declaring that in a war against Syria "we'll lift the constraints we placed on ourselves," Prime Minister Olmert shows that even after the war he finds it difficult to recognize the effects of his diplomatic policy on socioeconomic issues.


Any commission of inquiry will make it clear to the PM that such threats, made without offering a "carrot" in the form of a diplomatic alternative, and particularly when made by someone who decided to go to war in a matter of hours, will necessarily lead Damascus to boost its military power, tighten ties with Iran, and rehabilitate Hizbullah as a defensive force against an Israeli move through Lebanon.


All of the above will require the IDF to initiate its own plan to boost its strength, more training sessions, and more high alerts. This will cost many billions of dollars, which will lead to the crumbling of Olmert's pledges to minimize social gaps and fight economic distress.


Had Olmert been more attentive to public opinion, he would probably realize the significance of the Dahaf survey from the end of the war. The poll showed that 86-88 percent of the public believes that the notion of cutting welfare budgets is unjustified and the government has no reason to add funds to the defense budget at the expense of welfare.


To this we can add that many discussions and the replacement of some Knesset Finance Committee members was required in order to approve the cuts to all government ministries, made in a bid to finance the war and rehabilitation.


Olmert is wrong to think that he will be able to fund both his unilateral diplomatic doctrine, which lacks the desire to seek peace, and also minimize social gaps.


The evacuation of Gaza, which cost about NIS 10 billion (roughly USD 2.2 billion,) the separation fence that cost a similar sum, and the growing cost of the conflict in the Strip, all come out of the State budget and without any foreign aid, which would have been provided to some extent had the withdrawal been carried out in the framework of an agreement.


This is certainly not the way to reduce the number of poor Israelis, which by the end of 2006 is expected to climb above 2.2 million, or to add the 6,000 classrooms needed in Israeli schools.


Israel ignores Assad's peace remarks

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak failed in his attempt to remove Syria from the cycle of conflict through a deal and withdrew from southern Lebanon. Sharon, in turn, chose to ignore Syria because it is "too weak" to sign an agreement. Now, Olmert is seeking to threaten Assad, who openly talks about returning the Golan to Syrian hands through violence.


Just like his two predecessors, Olmert is not wise enough to aim for completing the circle of peace around Israel when there's still a window of opportunity, on the eve of Iran's acquisition of nuclear arms and a radical movement taking over one of the states bordering Israel.


Had the PM and his predecessors acted differently, it would have indeed been possible to change the allocation of social resources in relation to defense expenses and deliver on social pledges.


In his famous speech, the Syrian president chose to open with "the strategic choice of peace". For various reasons, officials in Israel chose to ignore this part of his address. By doing so, Olmert is failing to fulfill the duty of any prime minister, to push back as much as is possible the time where he needs to order the IDF to act with full force.


The resources saved until that time must be earmarked for boosting the strength and welfare of the whole of Israeli society, which may be forced to contend with another war.


The short budgetary blanket will not grow larger through needless threats, but may become bigger through renewal of negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians.


פרסום ראשון: 09.06.06, 14:14
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