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Olmert’s Retreat By: Ariel Cohen
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, May 22, 2006

When Ehud Olmert, the new Israeli Prime Minister comes calling at the White House this Tuesday, his main objective will be to receive President George W. Bush’s support for and Israeli retreat from the West Bank, Judea and Samaria of the Bible, the historic birthplace of the Jewish people. President Bush should voice his strongest opposition to this dangerous and reckless scheme.

Olmert wants to pull out without any reciprocal concession from the Palestinians or Arab states. The retreat, following the ongoing terror war against Israel, will be conducted without a partner or a permanent peace agreement. It will not bring either peace or security to either the Israelis or to Palestinian Arabs. Internationally, the withdrawal plan is a dud: Arab countries and the members of the “quartet” – the U.N., the European Union and Russia, do not recognize the suggested withdrawal lines as future Israeli borders. This retreat will cause a tremendous upheaval inside Israel, triggering internecine violence. Islamists will be convinced more than ever that terrorism achieves political goals, that Israel is weak, and that the U.S. retreat from the region – a goal publicly touted by Osama Bin Laden’s -- may be not far behind. Importantly, it will cause massive destabilization in Israel’s moderate neighbor, Jordan, a staunch U.S. ally in the region. Triumphant jihadis and a weakened Israel and Jordan are not in the U.S. national interests. If executed, the pull-out will send exactly the wrong signal throughout the Middle East: that brutal terrorism and suicide bombings pay.


Talking to Israeli officials and analysts in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv a couple of weeks ago convinced me that Olmert’s withdrawal is being proposed in the surreal hope that the region will be better off if territory is ceded to Hamas, which is supported by Iran and the international jihadi movement. In fact, the Hamas government is so implacable in its opposition to the mere existence of the Jewish State, its leaders proudly proclaim their will to destroy it at every opportunity. So do their websites.


Palestinian TV is continuing the practice started under Yassir Arafat, in which children as young as kindergarten age are brainwashed by the vicious anti-Jewish propaganda and prepared for the bloody sacrifice of jihad – the “holy war” against the West. Hamas, like Yassir Arafat’s Fatah before it, is running the Palestinian economy into the ground by supporting terrorism and refusing to allow Palestinians to build their economy through ties with Israel.


President Mahmoud Abbas, often hailed as a potential negotiating partner by the “peace process” crowd, presides over unprecedented corruption in the Palestinian Authority, his popularity flagging. He did nothing to intercept or disarm terrorist groups and is still demonstrating stunning impotence – waiting for everyone else to do the job of establishing law and order and stopping mass murderers for him.


This reality is “take two” of another Israeli “sacrifice for peace” – the ill-fated Oslo Accords, hailed then by the same peace camp as Olmert’s suicidal retreat of today. In fact, the notion that tiny Israel – not the Arabs – needs to “take risks” and make sacrifices for peace is a pillar of faith among the leftist and secular Israeli elitå.  It is acting as Olmert’s ideological guide, providing justification through an endless campaign conducted through the media and academia for yet more "concessions".


They decry the so-called “occupation,” ignoring the fact that Fatah and Hamas have brought immense suffering and decline upon the Palestinians. It is the ideology of hate, intolerance and religious exclusion that brought on the humanitarian disaster in Gaza. No amount of international aid money poured down that black hole will succeed in reversing the trend. It is Fatah, Hamas, and their backers who reduced the Palestinians to murderous factions. Olmert, following the Israeli left, has engendered the greatest danger Israel and the Palestinians have faced since Israel’s founding: a Hamas terror state.


The idea of this withdrawal is even more ill-conceived than the reckless “concept” of inadequate military deployment along the Suez Canal and the Golan Heights in 1973, when the Israeli government erroneously convinced itself that after the 1967 Six Day War Arab debacle Egypt and Syria would not dare to attack again. They did, and many young Israelis died defending the border.


Hamas leaders have revealed in confidential conversations that if Israel retreats from the West Bank, Hamas will turn on Jordan, whose population is 75 percent Palestinian. In cooperation with the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Hamas will strive to bring down the moderate Hashemite dynasty. Such a move will create an uninterrupted jihadi Lebensraum from the Sunni Triangle in Iraq to Qalquiliya next to Tel-Aviv. Hamas, dominating the mountain ranges of Samaria, will be able to strafe and shell the heavily populated Israeli central plane with Qassam and Katyusha rockets and shoot down civilian airplanes at the Ben Gurion International Airport. A faltering Jordan and weakened, bleeding Israel are not in the national interests of the United States. The Hamas mini-state in Gaza has already allowed elements of Al Qaeda and Iran-backed Hizballah to set up shop in Gaza and elsewhere in Hamastan.


But the repercussions of the retreat from the West Bank will not impact only  Israel and Jordan alone. Buoyed by success, other Islamist forces, from the Islamist Justice and Development Party of Morocco, which is favored to win the 2007 parliamentary elections, to the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, to Al Qaeda of Iraq, are likely to double their efforts. At stake is nothing less than the success of the Islamist project to remove secular and moderate governments throughout the region and replace them by a Shari'a (Islamic Law)-based Califate, a militarized autocratic super-state aimed at waging war against the West. Some Jihadi websites specifically call for reconquering of Spain (“Andaluz”) and Sicily.


The proposed Israeli retreat promoted by Olmert, will also open the battle for Jerusalem, the city which under the Islamist rule will be likely to be depopulated of Christians and Jews just as Bethlehem already has– to the great displeasure of fifty million American Evangelical Christians, the core constituency of the Republican Party, and scores of others around the world, who care about the future of the Holy Land and its capital city.  President Bush should send Prime Minister Olmert home, not with a pledge of American support for this reckless scheme, but with a clear understanding that the United States will have no part in this risky business.


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Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Security at the Sarah and Douglas Allison Center of the Davis Institute for International Studies at the Heritage Foundation.

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