Sunday, March 05, 2006


We are just back from a lovely week in Spain (Seville, Madrid, Cordoba) to discover that – in our absence – Kadima dropped several seats in the polls.

Nevertheless, the party founded by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is still projected to come out well ahead of either Labor or Likud and to form the next government.

When Israelis go to the polls on March 28 they will know what the competing parties stand for.

Pray they choose wisely.

This election will be the belated referendum many of us wanted prior to the Gaza disengagement.

The steadfast (and rational) Right will know to vote for the “National Union/NRP.” Others may opt for Avigdor Leiberman’s “Israel Beiteinu.”

The irrational (and messianic) Right can choose from an array of smaller splinter parties.

Those who are taken in by charlatanism will vote for “Likud” whose leadership facilitated the disengagement, but then pulled out just prior to its implementation.

No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the masses. So Likud’s low-blow, personalized, anti-Olmert campaign ads portraying him as a “leftist” combined with the charms of the charismatic Binyamin Netanyahu will likely garner it the chump vote.

What Likud says it stands for is anti-unilateralism. Netanyahu claims he isn’t against cutting a deal with the Arabs, but any concessions should be based on give and take.

So, anyone who actually expects the Arabs to cut such a deal, or anyone who prefers the status quo more than anything else, might want Likud in power – assuming they actually believe Netanyahu would be faithful to his campaign promises.

The rational Left, I suppose, would vote for Amir Peretz’s “Labor Party.”

Peretz stands for unconditional negotiations with the Palestinians – but even he is hard-pressed to find Palestinians to talk to (and even he has ruled out dealing with a Hamas-led PA).

He’s just met with the ever-irrelevant Mahmoud Abbas, presumably to show that there is Palestinian partner.

A Labor vote would also be an expression of support for the party’s domestic agenda which includes increasing the minimum wage.

The more hardcore leftwing vote will go to “Meretz” under Yossi Beilin. But the party is in serious straits and there is a chance it won’t make it into the 17th Knesset. Good riddance.

Haredim (the ultra-Orthodox) will vote for the Ashkenazi “United Torah Judaism” or the Sephardi “Shas” parties because they have parochial interests and want to see them funded.

And, of course, the Arab citizens of Israel, will vote for the various Arab parties. But there too, the level of fragmentation and vote dissipation, may mean that fewer Arab Knesset members will meet the threshold necessary to be elected this time around.

THOSE of us who plan to vote for Kadima think we know what our party stands – at least on security issues.

This sense was reinforced by Avi Dichter, a former Shin Bet chief, and top Kadima Knesset candidate, when he described over the weekend how Kadima would seek to re-draw Israel’s map based on the still under construction security fence and settlement blocs.

Sunday’s “Yediot Aharonot” tabloid even published a map which purported to show the settlements that would likely remain and which would be evacuated under a Kadima-led government.

Any “second disengagement” would be from settlements, not the land itself – meaning Israel would retain military control over all of Judea and Samaria.

Dichter said “We have no intention of carrying out a military disengagement because we have no partner who will fight terror. The stage of a full hand over of the area will only take after place after a Palestinian Authority arises that proves that it is able to and will fight terror.”

According to “Yediot Aharonot,” there are to be seven settlement blocs:

* Ma’aleh Adumim (east of Jerusalem), Ariel, the Gush Etzion (south of Jerusalem) as well as the Jordan Valley.
* Karnei Shomron-Kedumim; Ofra-Beit El; and Hebron-Kiryat Arba

Smaller isolated settlements would be evacuated inside the larger settlement blocs closest to them.

This is not a plan to make life better for the Palestinian Arabs (though it may reduce the number of military checkpoints), but to enhance Israeli security.

The plan will reduce the number of enemy civilians under Israeli jurisdiction (and thus friction between the two sides) and increase the land available to the Palestinians.

But the main goal would be to reduce the number of isolated Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria that the army has to worry about.

This would presumably make it easier for the IDF to defend access to those communities that remain.

Is the Dichter plan Kadima’s final word on how it would re-draw our security map? I hope not.

It obviously makes security sense to retain the Jordan Valley. Not only don’t we know what the future will bring for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (whose population is overwhelmingly Palestinian Arab), but we can have no illusions about a Palestinian polity led by the Islamist rejectionists of Hamas.

Jerusalem can hardly allow the Palestinians to control the gateway to western Eretz Israel.

But I am curious why, under Kadima’s plan, the settlements of Shiloh and Eli which sit high on strategic mountaintops are slated for abandonment while Karnei Shomron (and Ofra) which sit relatively low are slated to be retained.

From a purely military viewpoint – why not retain Shiloh which sits literally midpoint in the very heart of the country?

Kadima’s bottom line philosophy blends unilateralism (vis-a-vis the enemy) with a desire for international support.

Sunday’s “Haaretz” reported that Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is hoping to enlist international backing – hoping that for starters Washington will formally recognize Israel’s new defense lines – for redrawing the map. I fear he will be disappointed, certainly by the EU and in all probability by the US as well.

Nevertheless, Kadima represents a pragmatic, centrist approach that accepts the status quo can’t go on; that the strategic, demographic and diplomatic balance of power demands Israeli unilateralism. And that the Israeli home front must made more cohesive if we are to overcome what the enemy (on all fronts) has in store.

The Right wants voters to believe that Oslo and the war it wrought have had no lasting deleterious diplomatic or military impact on Israel’s position.

The Left remains deluded that unconditional negotiations will lead to two states living side-by-side in peace.

Only Kadima seems to have a firmer grip on reality.

But that does not mean they have all the answers.

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