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Saturday, May 06, 2006

When Olmert goes to Washington

I know that a lot of you who read this blog think that you know a lot about Israel. And you probably do. But unless you actually live here, I'm sure that there's almost always something I can tell you when I introduce a subject that you didn't know before. Because while you may have visited here several times, I live and breathe this country 24/7. And unless you live here - or at least have lived here - you probably don't.

Caroline Glick says that what those of you who learn about Israel by reading the newspapers online are missing context. And because you're not here, you may not realize that people don't always mean what they say during political debates here. Political debates here tend to be very hyperbolic. Israelis know to discount the hyperbole. Someone reading the same article in Peoria may not know that. Let's let her enlighten you:

What is hard to understand from reading Israel's media is that the country is in the midst of a culture war. Leftist secular messianists, who have replaced their peace god which Yasser Arafat destroyed six years ago with a withdrawal god, are pushing for the Judea and Samaria withdrawal as part of their offensive against religious Zionism which is headquartered in the Israeli settlements of Judea and Samaria that Olmert's plan will destroy.

Similarly hidden from the view of an outside observer of Israel's political scene is the fact that religious Zionists are responding to these attacks by pouting and threatening to take their anger out on the IDF. They threaten not to serve in the army or volunteer for officer training just to show the messianic leftists that they are nobody's fools. They can endanger the country just as well as the Left can.

ISRAEL HAS had next to no debate either on the strategic consequences of the Gaza withdrawal or on the likely security consequences of a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria. Such a debate would note that the Gaza withdrawal was a failure on every level. It would also raise the likelihood that an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria will cause an inflow of terrorists and missiles that will place all of Israel's major cities as well as its major highways, seaports and Ben-Gurion Airport within missile range from Hizbullah forces in Lebanon and Palestinian forces in Gaza, Judea and Samaria.

Aside from that, such a debate would no doubt draw attention to the fact that a jihadist takeover of Judea and Samaria would cause an immediate danger to the Hashemite regime in Jordan. To date, Israeli military control of Judea and Samaria has made it difficult for Palestinian jihadists to threaten Jordan. But if Israel retreats, there will be no one stopping them from joining forces with their counterparts on the east bank of the Jordan River.

And so, an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria would cause the destabilization of America's two most stable and reliable allies in the Middle East. Fuel and other vital materiel for US forces in Iraq would no longer be able to be safely transported overland from Israeli ports through Jordan into Iraq due to the instability of both Israel and Jordan. This would increase American dependence on ports in the Persian Gulf. This increased American dependence would embolden Iran to cause the US Navy repeated headaches in the Straits of Hormuz. Judea and Samaria would be used as a terror training base for jihadists who would go on to fight not only Israel, but US forces in Iraq.

Aside from that, just as Israel's retreat from Gaza convinced the Palestinians that terror pays and so brought Hamas to power, an Israeli retreat from Judea and Samaria leading to the destabilization of both Israel and Jordan will be perceived by the Arab and Islamic worlds as a strategic victory for the forces of jihad. From Paris to Haifa to Islamabad to Baghdad, to Dearborn, thousands will answer the call to jihad.

By the same token, with the momentum on the side of the jihadists, the US and its allies will experience unprecedented difficulty in attempting to convince Arab and Muslim governments, opinion makers, intellectuals and activists to support them. Political and cultural leaders who today support the US's strategic goal of bringing democracy and liberalism to the Arabs and Muslims worldwide will be cowed into silence. After all, whether the US likes it or not, the Arab and Muslim worlds perceive Israel as an American client state and as a result, an Israeli retreat is seen as an American retreat. If Israel is weakened, America is weakened.

Read the whole thing.


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