Aaron Lerner says simply what seems so simple that it shouldn't even need to be said; and yet, Olmert is poised to win in the coming elections.
Weekly Commentary: Thinking through retreat
Aaron Lerner Date: 23 March 2006
What happens if Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert succeeds next week in getting enough votes to put together a stable "retreat coalition"?
According to Olmert, once Israel determines that the absence of a Palestinian partner renders the Roadmap irrelevant (a determination that can be made in 60 seconds) his team would negotiate and implement an Israeli retreat from most of the West Bank.
These talks would take place both within Israeli society and with various foreign countries out of an interest in imbuing the retreat line international recognition.
Mr. Olmert has been careful not to specify where the retreat lines will be but has indicated that some major settlement blocs would be retained by Israel.
This is not the first time that the Israeli public has been assured that the reward for retreat would be international recognition of the "settlement blocs."
The Sharon team claimed that the major pay back for retreat from the Gaza Strip was American recognition of Israel's right to retain the "settlement blocs" when in fact the "reward" was only the suggestion by the United States that, contrary to the Palestinian position, those blocs were legitimate negotiating chips that could be expected to have some value in final status talks.
As a legitimate negotiating chip, for example, the United States might expect Israel to be able to trade them, for Ramat Eshkol, French Hill and other Jewish neighborhood beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem.
But, as America made clear repeatedly, they made these observations as kibitzers on the sideline - not negotiators.
To repeat: the "reward" for retreating from Gaza was not an American commitment to support Israel's retention of the major settlement blocs but instead only the remark from the sidelines that America thinks Israel might be able to get something in return for relinquishing them to the Palestinians - but that it is ultimately up to the Palestinians to decide.
While the Sharon team insisted that this wasn't the case, the route of the separation fence serves as a clear indication that they were well aware of the true meaning of the American remarks.
Here was Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the very apogee of world support thanks to his retreat plan and he couldn't put the Ariel bloc within the fence.
What then can be expected to be the dynamics of the "retreat talks"?
Internally, the Olmert team would negotiate with either official or unofficial representatives of the Israeli West Bank communities (there are some who joined the Kadima Party in the expectation that this would somehow put them in a more effective negotiating position) to reach ostensibly "consensus" retreat lines.
The area within these retreat lines would then be whittled down as the Olmert team sought foreign recognition of the retreat with each interlocutor seeking to take credit for inducing Israel to deepen its retreat even further both geographically and functionally.
Some retreat proponents claim that Israel would bulldoze the communities beyond the fence but still retain its military presence but the issue of military presence is exactly the kind of functional question that Israel would be pressed to yield on as it seeks foreign support for the retreat.
By the same token, one can expect considerable pressure on Israel to yield on such issues as the establishment of some kind of land link between the West Bank and Jordan (following the Rafah model that stripped Israel of control) and even possibly an air corridor.
But would this then ultimately mean retreating to internationally recognized final borders?
At best it means retreating to lines that would ultimately serve as the opening point for Arab-Israeli final status talks.
There is, of course, another element in the picture. The Hamas dominated PA.
The goal of the Olmert retreat is ostensibly to reduce Israeli casualties by retreating from areas where there is considerable "friction".
And since the contours of the Olmert retreat would also be driven by "friction avoidance" it follows that the Palestinians would do everything in their power to apply "friction" to induce greater withdrawals.
Put simply: the Olmert team would reward Palestinian terror with ever deeper retreats.
A vote for Kadima isn't a vote over nuance. It isn't a vote over personalities. A vote for Kadima is a vote for retreat to temporary lines that will only invite Palestinian terror to induce further retreats.
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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IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis