Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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13 Ellul 5766 - September 6, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











PM Finally takes Realignment Off the Agenda — For Now

by M Plaut and Yated Ne'eman Staff

Weeks after it became obvious to many with the start of hostilities in the North of Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert acknowledged that his Realignment plan in Yehuda and Shomron is no longer a policy option.

Olmert told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee: "What I thought several months ago would be the right thing to do on the Palestinian front has now changed.

"I must assess reality, not because I made a mistake, but because you must reassess priorities when they have changed," he said. "We have no intention of running away from the Palestinian issue. We cannot afford to do so. We must deal with the Palestinian issue, but will consider other ways of doing so."

Both regions from which Israel withdrew unilaterally in recent years — south Lebanon and the Gaza Strip — were the scenes of continued threats from the Arab residents as soon as the IDF left. Rather than beginning a momentum that could lead to peace or at least stability, the pullouts set the stage for more violence.

In both instances, the Arabs used their freedom from immediate oversight to arm themselves for further and better attacks. Rather than building a society that works towards prosperity, as most Western societies do, the Palestinian and Lebanese Hizbullah thrust their efforts at violence and preparations for violence.

There is no reason to even hope that an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank would produce any other result there.

"The notion of trading territory for peace was successful in two instances, Egypt and Jordan. It failed in two other cases, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority," Shimon Peres wrote in Britain's Guardian newspaper.

"The initiative to withdraw unilaterally from the West Bank has lost its attraction in the eyes of the Israeli public due to the aftereffects of withdrawal from the Gaza Strip," Peres added. "I cannot envisage a situation today in which the majority of Israelis will support such a withdrawal."

There was opposition to unilateral withdrawals from both the Left and the Right. Both argued that the Arabs do not view such actions as moves towards peace, but rather as a retreat from violence, that validates and encourages further violence by providing perceived evidence for its success.

The Left wanted only a negotiated withdrawal — but they wanted a withdrawal, though in recent times they have not had a proposal of how to achieve this.

The Right wanted things to stay as they are, with a firm hand to suppress terror.

Just what Olmert plans to do now, with his centerpiece plan shelved, remains in doubt. The most immediate option is to adopt an economic platform, especially when it comes to areas of northern Israel battered by Hizbullah rockets.

Analysts say the war cost Israel around $5.3 billion, and there are the added hefty expenses of rehabilitating the defense establishment and preparing it for the future. Israel's military and intelligence services are widely seen as having tackled Hizbullah poorly. With wars potentially looming against Syria and a nuclear-armed Iran, Israelis want to know all steps are being taken to protect them and to prepare for future wars.

With his popularity sapped and Defense Minister Amir Peretz facing challenges from within his Labor Party, Olmert must also deal with the problems within his governing coalition and the threats to his own political future.

That may mean reaching out to right-wing factions that could potentially join the coalition, but there is little evidence of any such moves taking place so far.

"We were prepared to enter into bilateral negotiations on the basis of the road map, but to date Hamas has prevented the Palestinian side from following through," Peres wrote.

"An alternative could take the form of a partnership involving Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians, following an economic route rather than a political one."

Olmert also issued a harsh threat to Syria, promising that Israel would use more force in any war with Syria than it did in the recent conflict in Lebanon. It was not clear if the primary intended audience was the Syrian leadership or the Israeli public, to show that Olmert can be tougher than he was in Lebanon.

A Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip spokesperson was not thrilled by Olmert's reported remarks. She said that the prime minister had made the statement out of political motives, since what concerned him was keeping his coalition together and not aggravating the opposition. She said that she thought that Olmert would revive his realignment plan in the near future.


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