Since replacing Ariel Sharon in office last December, Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert has refused to permit a large-scale IDF incursion into the Gaza
Strip. The hundreds of rockets, mortars and missiles that have rendered the
Western Negev's population and economy hostages of Palestinian rocket crews
could not budge him from his refusal to take the war to the enemy. Indeed,
for months he ignored the pleas of residents of Sderot and told the IDF to
suffice with artillery fire into empty fields and aerial bombings of
terrorists en route to launching rockets at Israel.
The fact that Israel's intelligence collection capabilities in Gaza were
grievously undermined in the aftermath of last summer's withdrawal; the fact
that IDF commanders acknowledge that more weaponry has been brought into
Gaza in the past ten months than entered in the previous 38 years, made no
impression. Repeated reports of Al Qaida opening shop in Gaza and of Iranian
Revolutionary Guards units training Fatah and Hamas members in the destroyed
Israeli communities were dismissed as unimportant, irrelevant and
Olmert refused to send forces into Gaza to contend with the transformation
of Gaza into a strategic threat to Israel because doing so would involve
acknowledging that his plan to retreat from Judea, Samaria and parts of
Jerusalem will turn Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Hadera, Afula and Be'ersheva into
frontline communities. He refused to send forces into Gaza because doing so
would demonstrate that Israel cannot defend its cities from their outskirts.
He refused to send forces into Gaza because it would involve an
acknowledgment that Israel is at war and that the war cannot be ignored by
building walls or inciting the public against Israeli residents of Judea and
He refused to send forces into Gaza because doing so would be tantamount to
admitting that all territory abandoned by the IDF is taken over by Israel's
He refused to send forces into Gaza or take concerted action against
Palestinian terror leaders because, as the nasty upbraiding that Israel
suffered Thursday at the hands of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and
her colleagues at the G-8 showed, the international community sees Israeli
counter-terror operations in the aftermath of the withdrawal from Gaza as no
more legitimate than its counter-terror operations before the withdrawal.
So does the fact that this week Olmert finally permitted forces to reenter
Gaza mean that he now gets it? Does Olmert's decision to arrest Hamas
parliamentarians and government ministers in Judea and Samaria in spite of
Condi's objections signal that he has accepted that Israel must destroy its
enemies' capacity to attack its territory, its forces and its citizens?
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Does the fact that Olmert ordered IAF jets to overfly Syrian dictator Bashar
Assad's palace mean that he understands that the war being fought against
Israel is part of the global jihad?
Unfortunately, a close look at Olmert's counter terror measures makes clear
that, no, in spite of the wailing of the international press corps, and the
whining of the State Department and its European and Russian counterparts,
in fact, Olmert still refuses to get it.
Olmert and his associates in the government have pointed their fingers at
Hamas blaming it for the Palestinian guerilla attack on Israeli territory
Sunday morning while ignoring Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah
terror group's equal share of culpability. It was Fatah, not Hamas that
kidnapped and murdered 18 year old Eliyahu Asheri. It is Fatah that is
threatening to blow up Israeli embassies abroad. It is Fatah that is
threatening to renew shooting attacks on Jerusalem and attack Israel with
chemical and biological weapons. It is Fatah that is threatening to kill the
IDF hostage Cpl. Gilad Shalit.
While Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin was preparing the list of Hamas leaders
IDF forces arrested in Judea and Samaria Wednesday night, Abbas was
finalizing his deal with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh for the
formation of a Hamas-Fatah unity government. Abbas and Haniyeh not only
agreed to form a unity government, they also agreed that Hamas would become
a member of the PLO. Aside from that, they agreed that to establish a
unified force for fighting their joint war against Israel. That is, this
week, as Israel trained its rifles on Hamas alone, Abbas effectively unified
Hamas with Fatah.
Rather than contending with this development, Olmert and his colleagues
chose to ignore it. And this makes sense of course. Acknowledging that Fatah
and Hamas are equally at war with Israel would mean that Israel has no
option of giving away Judea, Samaria and parts of Jerusalem to any of these
Olmert's decision to blame Syria for Sunday's attack on Kerem Shalom is
similarly problematic. Yes, it is true that the orders for Hamas's major
operations, (like those of Fatah and Islamic Jihad) come from Syria and
Teheran. The fact that the government is acknowledging that the war being
fought against Israel is not simply a dispute between Palestinians and
Israelis about the partition of the western part of the Land of Israel is on
the face of it a welcome development. Unfortunately, the government's
acknowledgement of the foreign command of the Palestinian war against Israel
is being used not as a justification for fighting, but as a justification
for not fighting.
Olmert has used Syria's role in ordering attacks against Israel as a way of
letting the local terror commanders Abbas and Haniyeh off the hook. Rather
than recognize that they are both subordinate to and supportive of Damascus
and Teheran's terror war strategy against Israel, Olmert and his associates
are using the foreign elements of the war as a way to say that the
Palestinians are not responsible even though they are the ones carrying out
the operations on the ground.
As to the current IDF operation in Gaza, it is fairly clear that whatever
accomplishments the IDF may achieve over the next few days, Olmert will call
for a retreat rather than enable those tactical accomplishments to become
translated into an enhanced strategic environment for Israel. Olmert, whose
primary goal as prime minister is to reenact the failed withdrawal from Gaza
twenty-fold in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem cannot enable the Israeli public
to see proof on its television screens night after night that the withdrawal
was an abysmal failure. The footage that the Israeli public has seen every
night since Sunday shows them with absolute clarity that the country was
safer when the Israeli communities separating Gaza from Ashkelon and Egypt
were still standing and when the IDF was deployed in Gaza protecting
southern Israel and keeping the border with Egypt quiet.
Making this point absolutely clear, this week Olmert and Defense Minister
Amir Peretz paved the way for new pictures to be seen on the television
screens next week. Amidst the military earthquake in the south, the two men
repeated their intention to destroy four communities in Judea and Samaria
next week. What they refuse to recognize is that while doing so may confuse
the public for awhile about whom its real enemy is, the footage from their
planned operation will destroy in one fell swoop any accomplishments the IDF
may garner this week in Gaza. Pictures of Israeli police and military forces
forcibly removing Israelis from their homes will prove to the
Palestinians once again that their hope to destroy Israel through
jihad is well founded.
When one compares Olmert's management of the current crisis with former
prime minister Ariel Sharon's management of Operation Defensive Shield in
April 2002, the fact that this operation is not serious becomes manifestly
clear. On March 29, 2002 Sharon announced the cabinet's decision that
precipitated Operation Defensive Shield. In his words, "Israel will act to
defeat the terror infrastructure - all its component parts and facets." He
further announced that Yassir Arafat "is the enemy."
The reason Defensive Shield was a success is not because in its aftermath
the Palestinian terror infrastructure in Judea and Samaria was destroyed.
Indeed, shortly after it was officially concluded there was a suicide
bombing in Rishon Letzion. In fact, the terror never really stopped at all.
Defensive Shield was a success because it set the conditions for making it
impossible for the Palestinians to carry out an effective terror offensive
from Judea and Samaria. During Defensive Shield, the IDF reasserted its
security control over the Palestinian towns and villages in the areas, a
control it has not relinquished.
Because it remains in control of the area, rather than being forced to kill
terrorists from the air, as is done in Gaza where the IDF never reasserted
its control, in Judea and Samaria every night, forces go into the homes of
terrorists and arrest them in their beds with no collateral damage. And
every day, because the IDF is in charge, it is able to enhance its
intelligence capabilities. Those enhanced capabilities in turn make it
possible for the silent nightly raids that keep Israelis safe in their beds
But while Defensive Shield's goal was to "defeat the terror infrastructure,"
the current Operation Summer Rains in Gaza has set as its goal returning
Cpl. Shalit to Israel. Olmert and Peretz hope to somehow convince Hamas and
Fatah and their bosses in Damascus and Teheran that they are better off
coughing up Shalit. They are supposed to think this even though Israel has
made it clear that it won't stay in Gaza and is dead set regardless of
the outcome of Summer Rains on giving them Judea, Samaria and parts of
On Monday, Meretz leader MK Yossi Beilin told Olmert that his party, like
the Arab parties will not support Olmert's plan to retreat from Judea and
Samaria and parts of Jerusalem because Olmert plans to retain control of
some 5-10 percent of Judea and Samaria for the long haul. Two weeks ago
Beilin met with the EU's External Relations Commissioner Benita
Ferrero-Waldner and elicited from her a clear EU rejection of Olmert's plan
to determine Israel's borders. Beilin told The Jerusalem Post that Israel
must surrender all the Israeli communities to the Palestinians and sign a
deal with Abbas to this effect even if Abbas is incapable or unwilling to
uphold any pledge to fight terrorism.
In staking out this position, Beilin is repeating he actions towards then
prime minister Ehud Barak after the outbreak of the Palestinian terror war
in September 2000. Beilin, who served as justice minister in Barak's
government saw that Barak had lost all security credibility with the failure
of his peace talks and his inability to take effective actions against the
Palestinian terror offensive. Beilin understood that what Barak feared most
was the fall of his government and new elections. Because of this, Beilin
was able to force Barak to adopt still more accomodationist positions after
the outbreak of the Palestinian terror war than he had proposed at Camp
David in July 2000. Beilin convinced Barak to agree to the transfer of the
Temple Mount and the Jordan Valley to the PLO.
Olmert, like Barak was brought to power as the head of leftist coalition. If
Olmert loses that support base, his government could easily fall. In light
of this, and given the fact that through his actions and inactions Olmert
has made clear that he remains unwilling to reconsider his policy of
surrendering Judea, Samaria and parts of Jerusalem to terrorists, it is hard
to imagine that his decision to approve the IDF's operations in Gaza and the
arrest of Hamas leaders will have any ameliorative effect on Israel's
security situation. In short, the limited nature of this week's IDF
operations makes clear that Olmert still refuses to get it.
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