Unilateral Withdrawal is Far From a Done Deal

Even if it has a mandate for “Convergence”, the new government of Israel will not be able to execute it.

By Ted Belman   Published: 

Many on the Left continue to present the election results as a mandate for “convergence”, but saying it is so will not make it so.  Ze’ev Orenstein took issue with this spin in “Shattering the Post-Election Myths”.

Nevertheless, Ehud Olmert continues to claim that the “election was referendum on our plan.”

What separated Kadima from Labor and the parties to the left was the insistence on withdrawing without an agreement with the Palestinian Authority and on keeping Ariel and the E1 area, east of Jerusalem. There is certainly no mandate to give up the large settlement blocs and perhaps not a mandate to withdraw without US agreement to the final borders. Thus, if Kadima is going to execute its claimed mandate, it must first build the fence around Ariel and build substantially in E1 before evacuating anyone. That’s the least it can do.

My own position is that, even if it has a mandate for “Convergence”, the new government of Israel will not be able to execute it. On March 27th, I summarized my position in “So much for Kadima’s withdrawal”. One of my reasons for so concluding was that Israel couldn’t afford it.

Shraga Brosh puts coalition demands at NIS 10 billion and points out that this is 1.5% of the GDP. Brosh, who is president of the Manufacturers Association of Israel and chairman of the Federation of the Chambers of Commerce, said such an expenditure would have disastrous consequences for Israel. So, where is the money going to come from?

According to an European Union official, the EU opposes Israel’s planned unilateral actions. As for the American position, it is non committal. But I believe the US will be against Kadima’s plans, because it doesn’t want to encourage the Islamists or strengthen them. The status quo is best for regional stability. Secondly, it will not agree to Israel retaining Ariel and E1 permanently.

When Ariel Sharon was selling us the Disengagement from Gaza, he said it would enable Israel to strengthen its hold on the settlement blocs; yet, the best he could get from Bush was a letter saying: “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949….”

The same letter stressed the need for a negotiated settlement and a two-state solution. When Israel asked the US for money to cover the cost of Disengagement, the US insisted that all those dispossessed must be settled behind the Green Line and said it would only give money for infrastructure in the Negev and the Galilee to accommodate them. No money was forthcoming, because of financial demands in the wake of Katrina. Subsequently, the US opposed building in E1 and retention of Ariel.

The US is unlikely to alter this position. The ball will thus be in Olmert’s court. And Olmert is unlikely to order the execution of his plan without US agreement to keeping EI and Ariel. He may try to finesse the issue to allow withdrawal without anything tangible in return, but the Israeli public won’t buy it.

In fact, a top Labor party official is warning that the Olmert government will fall when the Convergence Plan begins. If you are still not convinced of my position, factor in the escalating war with the Arabs in the territories and the looming escalation with Iran.

April 16, 2006 | Comments »

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