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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."



We must have elections now


ISI LEIBLER, THE JERUSALEM POST Jun. 28, 2005

In light of recent events, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon must heed calls to hold national elections: Failure to do so makes a mockery of our parliamentary system.

In a humiliating defeat for the prime minister, the Knesset recently carried three consecutive motions of no confidence against the government. While technically not amounting to the requisite majority to compel Sharon to step down, Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin, himself a Likud member, publicly urged him to do so and hold elections.

The nation is at a critical turning point. We have been repeatedly misled and fed half truths. Yet the prime minister still stubbornly refuses to hold a serious discourse on his controversial policies or take counsel from his colleagues.

In addition to the recent frightening warning conveyed by former chief of general staff Moshe Ya\'alon, disaster scenarios are also predicted by a wide range of other distinguished military and security experts, including former Mossad heads Ephraim Halevy and Shabtai Shavit, former intelligence chief Shlomo Gazit, former IDF deputy chief of general staff, Gen. Uzi Dayan and former Air Force commander Gen. Eitan Ben-Eliyahu.

In these circumstances one is left aghast at Sharon\'s apparent pig-headedness and autocratic behavior.

WE ARE also obliged to assess the new revelations in the book Boomerang by Raviv Drucker and Ofer Shelach, who reject the supposition that the disengagement initiative evolved from strategic deliberations at the highest level. They claim it was Sharon\'s lawyer and current adviser, Dov Weisglass, who persuaded the prime minister that only a dramatic and drastic step of disengagement proportions could deflect criminal charges against him arising from the Greek Island scandal. They say it was Weisglass himself who "sold" the disengagement concept to the Bush administration. One would assume that if such allegations were unfounded, they would surely warrant libel proceedings. Yet, to date, neither the prime minister nor Weisglass have initiated any.

So what is one to make out of all this? The facts on the ground certainly reinforce the critics who predict that our policies are leading towards disaster. This is what is happening:

  • Terror attacks, attempted suicide bombings and the launching of Kassam rockets continue unabated. Israelis are being killed and the IDF is once again being restrained in order not to undermine the "calm."

  • Mahmoud Abbas reiterates that he has no intention of curbing the terrorist infrastructure or curtailing their activities. In fact, he proudly announces that he has invited Hamas ghouls to join his administration and brazenly enrolls terrorists in the PA police force which Israel is being urged to rearm!

  • Like Arafat, Abbas insists that the Arab right of return is non-negotiable. He refuses to take any meaningful steps to rein in the incitement which continues unabated in the schools, the mosques and the media.

  • There is a general consensus that Hamas is poised to take control of the Palestinian region in the near future.

  • PA ministers have explicitly threatened to unleash Intifada III unless Israel makes further unilateral concessions after disengagement.

    The international scene is equally troublesome. Prior to the implementation of disengagement at a time the US and Europeans are supposedly "displaying restraint" in order not to create political difficulties for a domestically embattled Sharon, the Europeans reinstated ties with the "political" wing of Hamas; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the US administration appear to have reverted to Clintonian evenhandedness between Israel and the Palestinians. The US is also pressing Israel to free additional prisoners despite the fact that of the 900 released to date, some have already resumed terrorist activities.

    Rice repeatedly reiterates that, contrary to what Sharon says, the purported commitment by President George W. Bush to support Israel\'s retention of major settlement blocs is merely a gesture, because it included a caveat that any deviation from the 1949 armistice lines would require Palestinian approval.

    The US administration continues showering paeans of praise on Abbas despite his explicit refusal to dismantle or hinder the terror infrastructure, while even his own Fatah units blatantly continue engaging in suicide bombings and other acts of terror.

    It is generally accepted that the government will collapse immediately after the implementation of disengagement. Therefore, although elections will not provide a panacea for our problems, they would at least enable Israelis to review their options before, rather than after, withdrawal. It would also allow the public to express its outrage over the failure of politicians to curb corruption and their predilection to promote personal or sectional interests above those of the nation.

    Above all, elections would signal that we are tired of being led by people with Napoleonic delusions and we demand that no future leader be entitled to embark without prior consultation and public debate upon a course of action that could have profound repercussions on our future generations and even impact existentially on the state itself.

    The writer chairs the Diaspora-Israel relations committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public affairs and is a former chairman of the governing board of the World Jewish Congress. (ileibler@netvision.net.il)