Published by The Freeman Center

The Maccabean Online

Political Analysis and Commentary
on Israeli and Jewish Affairs

"For Zion's sake I shall not hold my peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I shall not rest."

By P. David Hornik | February 6, 2006

"We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies, we want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies. We want them to be our friends, our partners, our good neighbors. . . . we know that there is no alternative and we pray that the Palestin! ians will understand that there is no alternative. . . . And we will spare no effort in order to convince them, not by fighting with them, not by killing them, not by reaching out for their leaders, but by sitting with them, and talking with them, and helping them, and cooperating with them . . . so that the Middle East will indeed become what it was destined to be from the outset, a paradise for all the world.

These words, spoken by Israel’s acting prime minister Ehud Olmert last June when he was vice prime minister, did not prevent him last Thursday from sending a force of six thousand border policemen and elite riot policemen to clear out an unauthorized Jewish o! utpost of nine buildings.

On a psychological level, the contrast seems stark. The above-quoted words seem spoken by someone who has turned pacifistic, who has recoiled from conflict and seeks to resolve differences gently and sweetly. It is often the case, though, that those who decide to view real enemies as partners in dialogue show a discordant fierceness toward elements on their own side.

From afar, the severe intra-Jewish violence at the Amona outpost last Thursday, the worst in Israel’s history, may seem to have been a straightforward matter of law enforcement. The outpost was declared illegal, the security forces came to dismantle it, they met resistance and overcame it. The settler youth throwing eggs, paint, stones, and even cinder blocks were not a pretty picture. Neither, though, according to all eyewitnesses including reporters not sympathetic to the settlers, were the security men who reacted by beating teenagers with metal batons and injuring many of them, some of them only passively resisting.

Apart, though, from the bitter charges and countercharges between the two sides, which may yet be explored by an inquiry commission, what is most troubling is that the terrible scenario seems to have been avoidable. When the local council of the Binyamin district, where Amona was located, offered a compromise solution whereby the settlers would dismantle their own homes, the Supreme Court turned down the appeal in a 2-1 ruling. The state, on behalf of Olmert and Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, opposed the nonviolent compromise—strange behavior for a state headed by the proponent of “sitting with them. . .talking with them. . .helping them. . .cooperating with them. . . .”

Strange, too, was the timing of the Amona debacle, coming so soon after the Hamas victory in the PA’s elections. Many have asked what could have been so urgent about clearing out this tiny Jewish enclave when illegal building in the Arab sector continues unchecked on a vast scale, and if the law retains much validity when applied so selectively. And as Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief David Horovitz pointed out, “It’s more than a little disingenuous, more than a little hypocritical, to come over all law-abiding now, when it was your own political figurehead who encouraged the establishment of [Amona] and dozens of other illegal outposts in the first place”—referring to “Ariel Sharon’s exhortation [as foreign minister] to Israeli Jews of the late 1990s, to ‘grab the hilltops’ of Judea and Samaria.”

“At ‘illegal’ Amona,” Horovitz adds, “and even more so at all the ‘legal’ settlements in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria, it’s been a case of the government encouraging its citizens to build their homes and raise their families there one minute—openly in the case of Gaza and northern Samaria; with the broadest of winks in the case of the illegal outposts—only to turn against them the next.”

But a further question is what Olmert hopes to achieve by launching a campaign against the outposts, of which there are about a hundred more, that risks further internecine strife and the embitterment and alienation of the highly patriotic religious-Zionist! sector, at exactly the time when Israel faces a growing encroachment by Islamist terror from Hamas to its west and east, Hizbullah from its north, and Al Qaeda from all directions, with the Iranian nuclear program hovering in the background.

Many questions remain open—whether Olmert will continue with the campaign, and, if so, whether he will accept compromise solutions or make it as brutal as possible; and whether, if so, this will help him—by successfully demonizing the settlers—or harm him in the March 28 elections. The key issue, though, is whether Ehud Olmert—who still has time to do a lot of damage whether or not he wins—can recover from his fantasies of amity and paradise, and his concomitant aggression toward Jews, enough to function as the realistic leader of an endangered country.

In that, Olmert is paradigmatic of Israel, and even of the West, as a whole.