By Arieh Eldad
Thus spoke the Romans. We often appear to have forgotten this ancient rule.
Thus Israel was caught sleeping on the eve of the Yom Kippur War and again in last summerâ€™s Lebanese War. Because of our intense desire for peace on our northern border, we closed our eyes to Hezbollahâ€™s arming and entrenchment. Our army was not prepared for the war in Lebanon – as the warâ€™s outcome made clear.
But even more than these two examples, we should focus on the lessons of the summer and fall of 2000. In July of that year, Ehud Barak and Yassir Arafat held peace talks sponsored by U.S. President Clinton. The Camp David talks collapsed because of the Arabsâ€™ refusal to accept even Barakâ€™s munificent, some would say suicidal, proposals (97% of the territory, with a compensatory section of the Negev thrown in to make up for the remaining 3%, and a division of Jerusalem). At the time Arafat returned to Ramallah and ordered his forces to begin the second Intifada.
Had Barak understood that the Arabs interpreted his proposals as a sign of extreme weakness, and therefore as an incentive to engage in that little bit of additional terrorism that would complete the collapse of the State of Israel, he would not have offered Arafat the next phase of the Palestinianâ€™s phased plan, but Barak did not understand, and, moreover, did not prepare for the possible result of failed peace talks: war. The army did chatter much about it being a low-level conflict, but in the course of a year and a half did not succeed in preventing the mass murder in our streets. Only after Barak was replaced by Ariel Sharon, and after over a thousand of our people had been killed, and after the Seder night atrocity in the Park Hotel, only then did Israel open Operation Defensive Shield in the spring of 2002 and begin to fight the Arabs as necessary. Defensive Shield was a turning point in the second Intifada because only then did Israel realize that it was necessary to fight the Arabs in Shechem and Jenin rather than in shopping malls in Netanya.
A lesson must be learned from these events. Israel is again preparing with gusto for the previous war and Israeli soldiers are training now for the way they should have fought the Hezbollah, but Olmertâ€™s spins about â€œpeace with Syriaâ€ and peace conferences with the Palestinians and Arab states in the fall place Israel in serious danger of a multi-front war if and when these talks collapse.
The peace talks are bound to amount to nothing even if Israel should agree to willingly commit suicide and establish a Fatah state in Judea and Samaria , which will become a Hamas state as soon as Hamas chooses to fight. Olmert, despairing of any possibility of staying in office, may well agree to this. He may take similar risks with the Syrians. For a worthless piece of paper he may retreat from all of the Golan including the shoreline of the Kinneret. If he doesnâ€™t agree, a war of the October 2000 type is expected.
Is Israel ready for such a war with Olmert at its head? Olmert is the most egregious failure and most corrupt prime minister Israel has had, who in the last war proved that he cannot make a correct decision and when he does make decisions he doesnâ€™t understand their meaning or implications. Opinion polls after the war showed that only 3% of Israelis had confidence in Olmert. If we take into consideration that 10% of the adult population is hearing impaired, and above the age of 65, 1 out of every 3, we can assume that the 3% who supported Olmert simply did not hear the question correctly. Is Israel ready to take on the existential danger of a war with a leader who cannot be counted on? Whose peace efforts, too, are nothing more than â€œspinâ€ by promoters and P.R. men and corrupt officials seeking ways to prolong their time in power?
Considering that Olmertâ€™s American partner to the peace conference trap is a U.S. president who has not managed to win in Iraq and who is seeking a feather in his peace-cap before he leaves the public stage, why would we choose to take advice from someone who has failed in both war and peace? Considering that Hamas won the Palestinian elections thanks to the foolishness of the U.S. State Department and the White House, who insisted on allowing this terror organization to run in democratic elections, maybe we should more carefully examine their new proposals, which are to determine our fate. Considering that our Palestinian â€œpartnerâ€ is Abu Mazen, who failed to protect even his own office in Gaza when faced with Hamas and who has been unable to take any practical step at all, who is irrelevant as a leader, perhaps we should not take this train plummeting to the depths with Olmert as conductor.