Friday, February 10, 2006
Weekly Commentary: Launching the policy debate in Israel
Aaron Lerner Date: 9 February 2006
With less than two month left before Israelis cast their ballots in the national elections it remains painfully unclear if what may be the most critical vote since the founding of the Jewish State will take place without any serious policy debate.
As both acting PM Olmert and DM Mofaz made clear in recent presentations, if Kadima forms the next government they intend to carry out major unilateral retreats in the West Bank after establishing that the Palestinians continue to fail to fulfill their Roadmap obligations to break up the terror infrastructure.
These retreats are to ostensibly unilaterally "set" Israel's permanent borders.
But as U.S. Secretary of State Rice made clear this week in her press conference with FM Livni, while Israel can retreat as much as it wants, it is America's position that Israel's permanent borders can only be set via negotiations with the Palestinians.
As was the case before the retreat from Gaza, Olmert again makes no bones that he is clueless as to who or what will fill the void - and doesn't care.
That's right. A Kadima headed government will retreat even if it means that a sovereign Hamas state fills the void.
It is interesting to note that the Meretz Party now takes the position that leaving a void by retreating is too dangerous. They propose that Israel only withdraw if an international third party is willing and able to take over control of the vacated territory.
Meretz is ostensibly to the Left of Kadima, but given Kadima's "retreat at any cost" program it might be more accurate to place Kadima in the radical fringe.
And what about border security?
Before the retreat from Gaza, the Sharon team was confident that arrangements would be made to insure that the Palestinians would not be able to exploit access to the outside world for the free movement of terrorists or dangerous contraband.
They were dead wrong.
After the retreat the Sharon team buckled to pressure from U.S. Secretary of State Rice and made the critical precedent setting concession of giving the Palestinians the final say on both who and what can pass through the Rafah Crossing, turning the international observers into nothing more than window dressing. An arrangement that is supposed to be a model for the Gaza airport and seaport.
The same thing would happen in the West Bank.
Yes, Olmert speaks vaguely about securing Israel's eastern border, but even if he doesn't immediately abandon the entire Jordan Valley as part of the retreat (as was the case with the Philadelphi Corridor, the narrow strip of land separating between Egypt and Gaza that Israel abandoned as part of yhe Gaza retreat) it is more than reasonable to assume that Olmert would quickly yield to pressure to provide for a Palestinian controlled access way to Jordan. An access way operating under the very same arrangements that the Sharon team so recklessly accepted at the Rafah Crossing.
All of the elements for a hot debate are in place: a dangerous policy based on a house of cards of assumptions that have already crumbled in Gaza.
But Olmert refuses to debate.
And the news media doesn't seem to care.
Can Netanyahu's campaign team raise interest in the policy debate in the absence of Olmert?
There certainly is a clear and harsh message to be delivered: a vote for Kadima is a vote for a reckless and unworkable policy that, if implemented, would cost Israel dearly.
Yes, it isn't easy to break this up into the 8 second / 7 word chunks that are unfortunately the upper limit of the attention spans of much of the Israeli voting public.
But a skilled campaign copywriter can do it. That's what they are paid to do.
The billboards, internet websites and public soundbites should already be full of these chunks today.
Chunks that tell a unified story drawing voters to the conclusion that Kadima's retreat plan is so profoundly dangerous that no other consideration could justify casting a ballot in favor of Kadima.
Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(Mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-7255730
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