TCS Daily


Israel Is Weaker Now

By Ariel Cohen - April 4, 2006 12:00 AM

Ehud Olmert's Kadima party won less than a quarter of the available Knesset seats (29 out of 120) in the March 28 Israeli parliamentary elections. It appears that a plurality of voters now favor left-leaning economic policies and unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Some allege that the ideology of the Land of Israel, which includes Judea and Samaria, has been abandoned.

Despite its post-Zionist dovishness, Israel lacks a Palestinian peace partner, which bodes ill for security and prosperity. The Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority continues to call for the destruction of Israel and is likely to start a new terror war in the future. The U.S. should recognize and prepare for this possibility.

Kadima disappointed in these elections. The polls predicted a massive victory, which would make Kadima a dominant force in the center, pushing aside Labor and Likud. But the elections, with the lowest turnout rate in Israeli history (63 percent), upset pollsters' predictions.

The Likud, headed by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, won only 12 seats. Unpopular after his 1996-1999 stint as prime minister and championing deep cuts in the social safety net under Sharon, Netanyahu led his party to its deepest humiliation since its inception in 1975. Several Likud leaders abandoned the party for Kadima, including Olmert, former defense minister Shaul Mofaz, and Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni.

The Labor Party, led by populist super-dove Amir Peretz, who advocates socialist tax and spend policies, came in second with 20 seats.

Olmert ran on a platform of unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank with no reciprocal political agreements, such as a peace treaty or a long-term ceasefire, with the Palestinians. The proposed retreat requires relocating up to 80,000 Jewish residents, and will further split Israeli society, possibly resulting in violent resistance. Olmert will need a coalition with Labor to implement his policies. Peretz is likely to demand a massive "social spending package," which will reverse Netanyahu's budget cuts and send Israel's economy back to the dark days of 2003, when it took a beating in the wake of repeated terrorist attacks. Smaller parties, such as Sephardi Orthodox Shas, may join the coalition in exchange for funding for its social programs, but the party is hawkish on security and its support may be tentative. As a result, Olmert's coalition will be narrow and divisive.

Olmert announced that he would seek a Palestinian partner for peace talks. But Hamas refuses to recognize Israel, calls for its destruction, and will not denounce terror. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose goal is to establish a Sharia state throughout the Middle East and beyond. Radical and often violent, it is supported by Iran and Saudi Arabia, and claims that all Holy Land is the land of the Islamic religious endowment (Waqf). Hamas has already allowed Al Qaeda and Hizballah to penetrate Gaza to provide terrorist training and begin recruitment of terror cells for the next war.

Under the circumstances, a unilateral withdrawal is likely to invite more violence. Despite Israel's complete withdrawal from Gaza, Hamas militants fire Qassam and Katyusha rockets on Israeli towns and cities daily, threatening one of the country's key power stations. If Israel pulls out, Hamas will control the strategic mountain ranges that dominate the coastal planes of Israel. If missiles are fired from the West Bank, Israel's densely populated central plane and its Ben Gurion International airport will be vulnerable. And Hamas, whose dozens of attacks have killed and wounded hundreds of men, women and children, is likely to resort to these tactics once again as it establishes political control.

U.S. strategic priorities in the Middle East are at stake, including credibility, ability to stand against terrorist organizations - even elected ones, and the hope to affect shifts in the direction of tolerance, civil society and the rule of law. The U.S. also needs to prevent Israel from becoming a security burden or being overwhelmed by terror. The Bush Administration and the State Department should take assertive diplomatic measures to promote stability in the face of these daunting challenges.

The U.S. should spearhead a worldwide campaign to isolate Hamas, not just among Western allies, but vis-à-vis the U.N., Russia, China, the Arab and Muslim world. This campaign should include cessation of all economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority, as in the past, hundreds of millions of misallocated assistance dollars ended up in off-shore bank accounts controlled by Yassir Arafat, his cronies, and his family members. Moreover, funds are fungible, and Hamas will likely divert them to terrorist uses, such as buying weapons and paying suicide bombers' families.

The U.S. and the international community should demand that Hamas not only recognize Israel, abandon violence, and adhere to the "road map", including dismantlement of its heavily armed militias, but also cease and desist from systematic brainwashing of the Palestinian population, including children, to become suicide bombers in the guise of "holy warriors" (m?ujahideen).

Israeli voters have demonstrated once again that they are willing to support far-reaching compromise for peace. Until such time as Palestinians produce a realistic leadership willing to compromise and negotiate peaceful arrangements, the U.S. should make it clear that Israel that it has full rights to protect itself against terror threats by all means necessary -- just as the U.S. does.

Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

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2 Comments

Olmert's New Peace Plan
Once Hamas has fully assumed leadership, and the new Government of Israel is established, Prime Minister Olmert should obtain approval for and announce the following policy:
1) Attacks based in Gaza or the West Bank against Israel will be considered ACTS OF WAR.
2) If the Palestinian Government is unsuccessful in eliminating attacks, Israel will DECLARE WAR on the state of Palestine.
3) If war is declared, Israel will use whatever force is required to end the war as quickly and decisively as possible.
4) Israel will support and co-exist peaceably with a de-terrorized and de-militarized State of Palestine…now and/or after a war.

Centered Solutions & Security
Kadima Shows Strength Of the Center
NY Sun, March 31, 2006

The centrist Kadima Party's victory on Tuesday sent shock waves through Israeli politics by relegating the conservative Likud to fifth place in the Knesset, down from winning 38 seats in 2003 to just 11 this week. It was a dramatic display of the electoral strength of the center.

But the results of the Israeli election should reverberate on this side of the Atlantic as well, because it exposed the degree to which conservative parties depend upon their more centrist leaders and supporters to get elected. The same fault lines that erupted in Israel still exist uneasily within American politics in general and the Republican Party in particular. Left unresolved, these tensions could have realigning effects in the 2006 and 2008 elections...

...At the end of the day what voters want in both Israel and America can be summed up in two words: solutions and security. High-pitch partisan battles between special interests increasingly alienate them...

http://www.nysun.com/article/30205

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