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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Don't let up before you start to press

Last night, I reported that Housing and Construction Minister Meir Shitreet had told the Jerusalem Post: "There is no point in giving West Bank land and receiving nothing in return. The Palestinians don't want peace. They will use the land to attack the Dan region. I don't believe in another unilateral withdrawal. What is going on in Gaza reinforces the opposition to realignment."

Last night, Justice Minister Haim Ramon said that Prime Minister Ehud Nero Olmert's convergence consolidation realignment surrender, expulsion and suicide plan in Judea and Samaria, is more relevant now than ever, “and whoever thinks otherwise is mistaken.” Ynet quotes Ramon this morning as saying, "[T]he realignment and the disengagement were borne [sic CiJ] out of the understanding that Israel has no partner on the other side. The events of the past few days just prove this. Since Israel can’t be held hostage by Hamas and Qassam rockets, it must act according to its interests.” I suppose Ramon means our interest in committing suicide.

Olmert's office tried to chalk up Shitreet's comments to politics, claiming that Shitreet was about to announce that he is competing with Olmert for the Kadima Achora party leadership, but two other ministers from the Kadima Achora party also came out against Olmert's plan last night: Gideon Ezra and Zev Boim.

According to YNet:
A senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office said that “[Shitreet] is supposed to assemble today a large political convention. With that, I am confident and sure that when the subject of realignment is put to vote in the Cabinet and Knesset, Minister Shitreet won’t be rebelling and will act according to his obligations to the faction.” [Did I ever tell you all that when you become a member of a coalition in this country, you're supposed to check your sense of public duty and conscience at the door and vote the way the coalition tells you to vote? Well, if I haven't told you before, I have told you now. Isn't the parliamentary system great? CiJ]

However, Shitreet was not planning any convention, and as far as it appeared, the public altercation was sparked by genuine ideological disagreement. Shitreet was speaking from the Knesset Channel studios, and his comments were not written in advance but were made in response to Olmert’s statements promising to push forward the realignment. [All I can say to that is more power to Shitreet, if even the mainstream media can recognize that he was speaking from his heart. CiJ]
But what's most amazing about all this is not the strange thinking that characterizes Olmert's office and the coalition's ridiculous expectation that MK's will keep quiet and vote the way they are supposed to (that's standard fare here unfortunately). In fact, there is much more crooked thinking in the balance of the Ynet article.

What's amazing about all this is that the Yesha Council, the council that is supposed to represent the interests of the Jewish residents of Judea, Samaria and (until eleven months ago) Gaza, has decided on the basis of this chain of events that Olmert's convergence consolidation realignment surrender, expulsion and suicide plan will never happen in Judea and Samaria, and therefore there is nothing to worry about. You think I'm kidding? These are the same people who told us from December 2003 when it was 'floated' until well into August of 2005 when it happened that there would never be an disengagement expulsion of Jews from Gaza. Look what they're saying now:

The Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip was so unimpressed by Olmert's statement [to the foreign press that he planned to push forward with his convergence consolidation realignment surrender, expulsion and suicide plan in Judea and Samaria despite what is going on in Gaza. CiJ] that it did not even issue a formal response. It trusts that Olmert is still faithful to his plan, but it no longer thinks he has the power to execute it.

"I have no doubt that Olmert believes in realignment, but I do not believe the public and even the media would support it," council head Benzi Lieberman told The Jerusalem Post.

He is bolstered in that belief by the attack against realignment from [Shitreet], a member of Olmert's Kadima Party, as well as media commentators and polls showing a lack of approval for the plan.

Lieberman and other settler leaders said that all these things were evidence that public opinion had swung from a pro- to anti-withdrawal stance as a result of Hamas's attacks against Israel from Gaza over the last month.

The Israeli public had been influenced by recent events, "but Olmert has not learned anything from them. His attitude is irresponsible," said Lieberman.

The gap between the facts on the ground and Olmert's statements was so obvious that the prime minister was doing enough damage to the plan on his own, Lieberman said, and there was no need for the council to comment.

Hey Bentzi? Forget for a minute that we live in a country where one third opposes giving the Arabs anything, one third wants to give the Arabs everything and one third vascillates from day to day depending on which way the wind is blowing and what they had for breakfast. But remember how the "opposition in the Likud" was going to stop Sharon? Remember how Sharon agreed to abide by the result of a Likud referendum, and then ignored it when it went against the Gaza disengagement surrender and expulsion plan? Just because Olmert isn't as polished a politician as Sharon was, what makes you think he can't do the same thing? And unlike Sharon, who was doing this out of expediency to keep himself and his sons out of jail, Olmert is a true believer in giving the country away to the Arabs, having been converted by his leftist wife and children.

It's not just Bentzi Lieberman who thinks the fight is over. He was just the first and the most prominent one that the Jerusalem Post quoted. Tzvika Bar-Hai, head of the South Hebron Hills Regional Council is quoted similarly. And the Council even pats itself on the back:

Either way, settler leaders acknowledged that their 'wait-and-see' attitude, adopted after the right-wing parties lost the March election in favor of a left-leaning centrist bloc, had paid off.

In the aftermath of the elections, the council decided that it had time to regroup and work on a campaign against realignment that would be tailored to events as they unfolded.

Settler leaders said that the Kassam rockets that Palestinians launched from Gaza into Sderot and Ashkelon, as well as Hamas's kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, had helped them prove the point that further withdrawals would be dangerous.

Everyone in Israel now understood that if parts of Samaria were given to the Palestinians rockets would be launched against the cities of Kfar Saba and Ra'anana, said Binyamin Regional Council head Pinhas Wallerstein.

I would not bet on that. This country has a massive affliction of NotInMyBackYard syndrome. Here in Jerusalem, we watched Gilo get shot at from Beit Sahour for months on end, yet no one is saying a word about Olmert's plan to divide Jerusalem. People need graphic reminders again and again and again that the same Kassams that are reaching Ashkelon from Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun can reach Netanya (not 'just' Kfar Saba or Ra'anana) from Tulkarm. And how many Israelis would be willing to trust the 'Palestinians' again today (let alone six months or a year or two years from now) if Hamas agreed to a 'cease fire' or if they held new elections and elected Fatah? And who says Olmert will listen to public opinion? He won the election after having warned everyone that the election was the referendum about his plan. You guys in Yesha may want to forget that but some of you stayed home that day.

Bar-Hai said the council needed to campaign against realignment even so, as it remained a threat - just a less ominous one. "I am not panicked, but I'm not calm," he said.

Don't panic Zvika. But don't be so calm either. The fight is just beginning.


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