Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Olmert’s Non Strategy Revealed

David Bedein

On Sunday, following the weekly Israel government cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert dispatched cabinet secretary Oved Yehezkel and his official spokesman Yaakov Galanati to brief the press about the steps leading to the Annapolis Middle East Summit on November 26th, 2007 scheduled at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
Olmert’s spokespeople emphasized that the Israeli government did not expect to reach any agreement with the Palestinians at the summit, that the “only thing that would happen there would be declarations,” adding that “Israel will announce its recognition of a Palestinian Arab National state, alongside an Israeli Jewish national state, with Israel formally accepting the road map.”

That road map was presented by then - US Secretary of State Colin Powell and then- White House National Security Advisor Condeleeza Rice to Israel and the Palestinians in May 2003, and adopted by the Israeli cabinet underthen- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

However, this reporter asked Olmert’s cabinet secretary about the 14 reservations that the Israeli cabinet had tacked on as conditions to the road map, one week after the Israeli government had ratified the plan, in May 2003. How quickly people forget.

The cabinet secretary repeated himself, reading Olmert’s statement once again that Israel was accepting the road map. The cabinet secretary indicated that there were no conditions in Olmert’s statement.

As a reminder, the Israeli government had added to its acceptance of the road map a statement that “In the first phase of the plan and as a condition for progress to the second phase, the Palestinians will complete the dismantling of terrorist organizations (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front, the Democratic Front, Al-Aksa Brigades and other apparatuses) and their infrastructure; collection of all illegal weapons and their transfer to a third party for the sake of being removed from the area and destroyed; cessation of weapons smuggling and weapons production inside the Palestinian Authority; activation of the full prevention apparatus and cessation of incitement….There will be no progress to the second phase without the fulfillment of all above-mentioned conditions relating to the war against terror."

These conditions are missing in Olmert’s acceptance of the road map. Of the other eighteen reporters present at the briefing, only one reporter understood that Olmert had quietly circumvented this fundamental condition for accepting the road map.

In other words, the Olmert administration plans to use the Annapolis Middle East Summit to announce to the world that it will recognize an independent, sovereign and armed foreign nation state in the hills of Judea, Samaria (the West Bank) and on the coastline of Gaza and, perhaps, in some of Jerusalem without a prerequisite that the Palestinian leadership dismantle terrorist organizations.

This reporter also asked if the Israeli government would specifically demand that Yassir Arafat’s successor, Machmud Abbas, AKA Abu Mazen, would be required to dismantle the Al Aksa Brigades of the Fatah organization, which work under the direct command of Abbas, who is also the Chairman of the Fatah.

The answer from Olmert’s cabinet secretary was that the Israeli government had not taken a stand on that subject.

This reporter also asked Olmert’s cabinet secretary if the Israeli government would ask that Abbas order the cancellation of the Palestinian educational curriculum that is based on Israel’s destruction.

The answer from Olmert’s cabinet secretary was that the Israeli government had not taken a stand on that subject.

In other words, when the Israeli government cabinet secretary innocuously says that, at Annapolis, “Israel will announce its recognition of a Palestinian Arab National state,” that means that Israel accepts a “state of Palestine” contiguous to Israel without any formal requirement that this new nation state crush terrorist organizations that pose a threat to the lives of Israel’s citizens.

The precedent of Israel allowing a terror entity in its midst is exemplified by the situation in Gaza, where Israel now allows an Arab terrorist organization that rules Gaza to shell the entire southern region of Israel every day with only a tepid military response. Israel has limited its reaction to targeting some of those who fire shells into Israel, while beginning to limit Israeli electricity supplies to Gaza, while at the same leaving the Palestinian terror leadership unharmed.

On Sunday, the Israeli cabinet did approve electricity reduction measures against Gaza, following continuing missile attacks from there.

Israeli Security officials say that the goal is to make it clear to the Palestinians that Israel intends to sever all connection with the Gaza Strip and reduce economic ties with it. The Israeli army intends to close the two out of the three crossing points into Gaza.

In hard-hit Sedrot, reactions to these limited measures were mixed. "I am glad that the government is trying to do things like this. Until now there was a total stalemate," said Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal, who criticized the government in the past for doing nothing. "The Palestinians should pay a much heavier price for what they are doing to Sderot," Moyal said.

Meanwhile, the head of the Sedrot Parents Association, Batya Katar, said that "It's a mockery," saying that "Hamas leader Ismail Haniya and his information minister who give orders to shells Israel should be killed. Only then will there be quiet." The head of the “Task force for Sderot Security,” Alon Davidi, agreed with Katar. "Barak's decision is an attempt to throw sand in the eyes of the inhabitants of Sderot and the State of Israel," he said, claiming that the defense minister's measure will be interpreted as a show of weakness and a desperate, ineffective measure.

This reporter asked Olmert’s cabinet secretary what the response of the government was to this week’s latest shelling of Sderot and the Western Negev from Gaza.

His answer: ”It was not discussed.”

David Bedein is the bureau chief of the Israel Resource News Agency, located at the Beit Agron International Press Center in Jerusalem.

No comments: