Be careful what you want
Israel intends to redefine its borders in ways that are now starting to become clear.
May 4, 2006 (FIND Inc. delivered by Newstex) -- DATELINE: Jerusalem Israel's incoming prime minister, Ehud Olmert, says his country's new borders will be significantly different from its current boundaries. Presenting his new government to the Knesset, Israel's parliament, Ehud Olmert says Israel needs to get rid of numerous isolated settlements in the West Bank as part of his plan to redraw Israel's borders in the next four years. Olmert says while Israel will pull back from numerous settlements in the West Bank he intends to hold onto several large settlement blocs that are currently home to tens of thousands of Israelis. He says he hopes to work with Palestinians through the road map peace plan to draw Israel's final borders with the Palestinians, but if that fails his government will act unilaterally.
The Big Pharaoh links to a Yahoo news story which suggests that Olmert is, among other things, prepared to divide Jerusalem. The Big Pharaoh hears echoes of the "Clinton peace plan for Jerusalem ... If a previous Israeli leader (Ehud Barak) accepted a deal on Jerusalem in the past, there is no reason to think Olmert won't do the same thing in the future provided the Palestinians would do themselves, the world, and me a favor and not repeat what their dead leader did back in Camp David." The Yahoo story describes the proposed division of Jerusalem in this way:
Most of Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods would go to the Palestinians, he said. "Those same neighborhoods will, in my assessment, be central to the makeup of the Palestinian capital ... al-Quds," Schneller said, calling Jerusalem by its Arabic name. Israel would keep Jerusalem's Old City with its shrines sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians alike — an unacceptable plan to Palestinians, particularly if carried out unilaterally. Still, with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert determined to draw Israel's final borders by 2010, likely without waiting for Palestinian agreement, a division of Jerusalem looks realistic for the first time.
The American Thinker examines these developments from the context presented by Caroline Glick, who authored a paper at the Center for Security Policy describing Israeli PM Olmert's "Convergence plan" to redraw that nation's borders.
Glick argues in her paper published by the Center for Security Policy in Washington D.C., that the Gaza withdrawal has been a security disaster for Israel, and for its ostensibly pro-American neighbors (Egypt and Jordan, in particular).
Then she goes on to argue that Olmert's future plan for the West Bank will replicate the Gaza disaster on a much larger scale.
Glick argues that this second Israeli disengagement, from an area almost 20 times the size of Gaza, would be viewed and broadcast by the jihadist forces as a huge victory over both Israel and the United States. It would also serve as a major recruiting tool for their efforts to destroy Israel, overthrow Arab governments in the Middle East, drive the US from Iraq, and undermine Western nations in Europe, and other continents.
Now here comes the curve ball. Glick asks whether it is the American interest to get aboard this train wreck. The American Thinker continues:
Glick argues forcefully, that it is ... in America’s national interest to have the Olmert plan shelved. For one thing, the withdrawal will threaten both Egypt and Jordan, two countries in which the US has invested substantial political support and foreign aid. And behind the scenes, both Egypt and Jordan are trying to kill the Olmert plan. Neither of them wants a more powerful Hamas-run government operating freely in the West Bank, motivating and facilitating the efforts by Islamic radicals and Palestinian terrorists in both countries to step up the pressure on their regimes. ...
In essence, Glick is hoping that Bush will protect Israel from its own leader’s misguided plan. Since Olmert is coming to seek significant US financial support, as well as political support from the President, the issue is not as straightforward as the Gaza withdrawal last summer. ... And here is where it gets very tricky. It is difficult, if not impossible, for an American President to stand to the right of the Israeli Prime Minister and tell him not to withdraw from territories that most of the world (including our State Department) views as illegally occupied. American Presidents, prior to Bush, all gratefully acceded to any request for support from an Israeli prime minister (usually, though not always, from the left or center left), who was willing to negotiate with Arab countries, or the Palestinians, or offered to withdraw from territory captured in the Six Day War.
In From the Cold has noticed a related subplot which is probably part of the larger context of the Olmert visit: an unprecedented visit by the head of the Mossad to warn Washington that the Iranians are further ahead in their nuclear program than is publicly acknowledged.
Kudos to Rick Moran at RightWing Nuthouse, for his timely insights on recent meetings between the head of Israel's Mossad, and his counterparts in Washington. As Rick observes, last week's sessions are remarkable in a couple of respects. First of all, it is worth noting that the new Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, sent his spy chief (Meir Dagan) to Washington, setting the stage for his meeting with President Bush later this month. It is also remarkable that "news" about the meeting apparently came from Israeli sources--and not the U.S. intelligence community--suggesting that the recent "anti-leak" campaign is having some success. ...
According to the Sunday Times of London, the Mossad now believes that the Iranians have covert uranium enrichment sites, in addition to their "declared" facilities. That would allow Tehran to continue its pursuit of nuclear weapons, while officially "suspending" enrichment activities, possibly to avoid UN sanctions or military strikes. It's a possibility that we've covered on numerous occasions, and it certainly can't be discounted now. ...
According to the Israelis, Iran is much further ahead in its nuclear efforts than previously believed, and could be within one year of having an atomic bomb. By comparison, some U.S. observers believe Iran is three to six years away from nuclear weapons, and at least one official estimate puts the timetable at closer to a decade.
Dagan's message to the U.S. was apparently terse and serious: here's what we know about the Iranian program, and we're prepared to act if you don't. If media reports are accurate, the reaction from American officials reflected concern, but not panic. According to the Times, the U.S. reportedly plans to raise the issue at the G8 Summit in July, if the UNSC fails to act in the interim. That approach suggests that Washington still favors the diplomatic track, and believes it has time for more negotiation before military action might be necessary. It's a gamble that appears increasingly uncomfortable for the new Israeli government.
Whether or not one is willing to accept Caroline Glick's analysis that a withdrawal from the West Bank will be a Gaza disaster twenty times bigger; whether or not one is willing to believe the West Bank will be to Jordan what Gaza has been to the Egyptian Sinai, it is probably safe to assert that a unilateral redrawing of Israel's borders will have regional consequences and probably global ones as well. By threatening to hunker down inside his borders, Olmert will effectively turn the Palestinian problem inside out: it is Egypt, Jordan and Syria that must face the prospect of sharing frontiers with a new terrorist-infested state without the protection of Israel-style fence. After decades of being forced to accept Palestinian nationhood, Israel is paying its neighbors back in their own coin. By shutting itself in it is radiating the Dream of Palestine out. And whether or not Israel can rest securely behind its fortifications, Glick is probably correct in saying that the Olmert withdrawal will threaten both Egypt and Jordan; as well as create (in my view) an immense financial burden for the UN and the European Union. The Palestinian Dream could only be soothingly regarded as long as it was imagined within Israel. Outside of Israel it became the Arab Nightmare.
And here, perhaps, is where the Mullahs in Teheran will help Olmert out of a jam. With Meir Dagan darkly hinting that Iran is perhaps only a year a way from a nuclear weapon, not only the US but the Sunni nations of the Middle East are suddenly reminded of their need for the services of Israel's military and intelligence capability in dealing with the Mullahs. Surely under such circumstances it would be churlish of them to stand in the way of Israel's desire to redraw its own borders. Dagan gave America a peek at Israel's hole card. And Ehud Olmert may not be shy about playing it when he comes to Washington.
To the old saw that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stands at heart of instability in Middle East must be added another; that at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies the toxic politics of the Middle East. The two are inextricably linked; there can be no sequential solution to a problem which must essentially be solved in parallel. As Caroline Glick concludes in her paper:
There are a number of alternative policies that Israel could advance that would have a greater possibility of realizing a just and durable peace between Israel and its neighbors, increasing the stability of Israeli society, strengthening the Hashemite regime and weakening terror-supporting regimes like Iran and Syria while defeating their terror clients in the West Bank and Gaza. These alternative policies would enhance the political influence of the moderate elements in Palestinian society at the expense of forces like Hamas and Fatah. All of these policies, however, require Israel to acknowledge that it is not the only dynamic force in the region – and an acknowledgement by both Israel and the United States that their fortunes in the Global War on Terror are directly linked.
Olmert may not be able to opt out of the world and the world may not be able to opt out of Israel. His visit to Washington will be worth watching.