Published by The Freeman Center
The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
Olmert: Tired of Fighting and Winning
by Evelyn Gordon
THE JERUSALEM POST - Mar. 15, 2006
Kadima\'s campaign spots, by highlighting Ariel Sharon and billing Ehud Olmert merely as his heir, send an unintentionally revealing message: that Olmert himself has nothing to offer the country, so he must instead exploit the popularity of Kadima\'s comatose founder. And an analysis of Olmert\'s recent statements confirms this conclusion: He indeed has nothing to offer - except lies, empty promises and evasion of responsibility. Consider, for instance, his pledge last week that a Kadima-led government "will not invest in construction or infrastructure development beyond the Green Line," thereby freeing up "billions of shekels for infrastructure development in the Negev, Galilee and Jerusalem."
If he truly intends to invest no money at all in the territories, that belies his repeated promises to strengthen the settlement blocs. But if, as his advisers later claimed, he only intends to halt investment outside the blocs, then where will those billions for the Negev and Galilee come from? Even today, there is almost no government-funded construction in the territories outside the blocs; a freeze that excluded the blocs would thus free up almost no money at all.
Or consider his pledge to finally build in E1, between Jerusalem and Ma\'aleh Adumim. Due to American opposition, Sharon never did this, and deputy premier Olmert, far from protesting, energetically supported this decision. Does Olmert now intend to break with both Sharon\'s legacy and his own previous positions and defy the Bush administration? Or is he merely fantasizing that the US, for no discernible reason, will suddenly withdraw its opposition?
Then take his statement to last week\'s AIPAC conference: that allowing Hamas to run in the Palestinian elections was a mistake. This decision was made by Olmert\'s mentor, Sharon, and Olmert himself was part of the cabinet majority that approved it, despite a recommendation by Justice and Foreign Ministry experts that Israel insist on compliance with the Oslo Accords\' explicit ban on parties that employ "unlawful or non-democratic means." Yet Olmert offered no apology; rather, he acted as if it had been someone else\'s decision.
Then, finally, there is the centerpiece of his platform: a massive unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank in exchange for international recognition of Israel\'s self-proclaimed borders. Quite aside from the irony of claiming Sharon\'s mantle for this idea - a claim that, given Sharon\'s repeated pledges to eschew further unilateral withdrawals, implicitly brands Olmert\'s mentor and role model as a liar - it is hard to imagine a wilder fantasy than this.
IN GAZA, Israel withdrew fully to the international border and pulled out every last Israeli, soldiers and civilians alike. Yet not one single country has been willing to declare Israel\'s "occupation" of Gaza ended; instead, the world still holds Israel responsible for Gaza\'s well-being, demanding, for instance, that it allow Gazans to work in Israel and to import and export via Israeli ports. So how does Olmert imagine that a far less complete withdrawal in the West Bank would be rewarded not only with international acknowledgment that the "occupation" had ended, but with recognition of Israel\'s unilaterally defined borders as well? After all, unlike in Gaza, he does not intend to withdraw to the Green Line; rather, he plans to retain major settlement blocs, including east Jerusalem.
Moreover, as senior Kadima official Avi Dichter correctly noted, the army\'s continued presence east of the fence is essential to Israel\'s security. But if, as Kadima therefore proposes, Israel withdraws its settlers but not its soldiers, does anyone seriously believe that the world would declare the "occupation" ended?
Indeed, the Gaza withdrawal demonstrates just how little international compensation Israel could expect for any West Bank pullout. In exchange for leaving Gaza, Israel received a letter from US President George W. Bush in which Bush, inter alia, wrote that "existing major Israeli population centers" in the territories make a full return to the 1949 armistice lines "unrealistic." Sharon and Olmert trumpeted this as a major achievement, declaring that it permitted Israel to "strengthen its hold" on West Bank settlement blocs.
A letter, however, is not a formal treaty; it does not even bind Bush, much less his successors. And indeed, far from allowing Israel to strengthen the blocs, Bush flatly forbade Israel to build in E1 - which, as Olmert himself acknowledged in weekend interviews, is essential to keep Ma\'aleh Adumim from becoming an isolated enclave.
And that is the disengagement in a nutshell: Israel gave up concrete territorial assets in order "strengthen its hold" on other assets, only to discover that the international community never supported that bargain and refused to grant the desired quid pro quo. And there is no reason to believe that the world would behave differently in response to the far less complete pullout that Olmert is offering in the West Bank.
Perhaps the root of Olmert\'s delusional policies can be found in his address last June to the Israel Policy Forum in New York, where he declared: "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 to be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies."
Unfortunately, an entirely different relationship with one\'s enemies is possible only if your enemies share that goal - which even Olmert admits that the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority does not. Until then, the only choices are fighting back or being destroyed, winning or losing, defeating one\'s enemies or being defeated by them. That is precisely why all Israeli governments pre-Sharon, even those that favored "land for peace," refused to concede land without receiving a peace treaty in exchange: They understood that until the Arabs were ready to make peace, there was no choice but to continue fighting - and that no Arab government would have any incentive to make peace if it could get the land for free.
But Olmert, unfortunately, appears to have meant exactly what he said. He truly is tired of fighting and winning - so tired that he would rather take refuge in fantasies, even if Israel ends up the loser thereby.