Castles in the Air

Sooner or later it will become clear to all that there can be no escape from reality. The peace process can take off only after Palestinian terrorism has been decisively defeated.


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on August 14, 2007.)

What luck! Hamas has taken over the Gaza Strip, and Mahmoud Abbas obviously has no control over the terrorists there. The peace process with its political horizon for the Palestinians, which was stuck as long as Mahmoud Abbas did not dismantle the Palestinian terrorist militias – and which after all was a precondition according to the road map for any progress – has now become unstuck.

Forget about Gaza, that is now another world. It’s true that in Judea and Samaria, Mahmoud Abbas is as impotent as he was in Gaza, but here the Israel Defense Forces will take care of the terrorists. So full steam ahead with the peace process. Hamas has removed the terrorism roadblock.

It does not matter that Qassam rockets keep raining down on Sderot every day. That is not Mahmoud Abbas’ responsibility any more. That is the IDF’s responsibility, no matter that even under the old-new defense minister the IDF does not provide protection to Israel’s citizens there. That is not Mahmoud Abbas’ fault. So after insisting for two years that there is no Palestinian partner for the peace process, thanks to Hamas, we have finally found a Palestinian partner for the peace process.

After his defeat by Hamas in Gaza, Mahmoud Abbas has not become any more capable, efficient or forceful. But he has acquired an important ally – the government of Israel. Olmert hugs and kisses him, showers him with good-will gestures, like the release of Palestinian prisoners, the transfer of large sums money, and the removal of IDF roadblocks (if the defense minister will only agree). And like an empty rubber balloon that had been thrown aside, air is being blown into him, so that he will begin to rise like a true balloon, and look like a respectable peace partner to whom we can turn over 100 percent of Judea and Samaria.

“Creating” a partner for peace is something unprecedented in the history of international relations, and this Israeli-American venture will surely be studied in the academic world for years to come. But it is hard to believe that anyone really believes that the air so laboriously being pumped into the balloon will not sooner or later escape and leave the balloon flat.

This is not the first time that Israeli governments have tried their hand at manipulating internal Arab politics. The record is pretty bleak. It seems to be a self-defeating exercise.

But all is not lost. Olmert can still go back to unilateral withdrawals, which at the moment are held in such poor repute. Here he is being assisted by the defense minister, who is funding the development of a series of missile interceptor systems that will knock out of the sky anything the Palestinians on the other side of the security fence will fire against us. Once the development of these systems is completed, and the problem of tunnels under the fence is solved, we shall have nothing more to worry about, and will be able to turn 100 percent of Judea and Samaria over to Mahmoud Abbas, or if he his not there at that time, retreat from the areas unilaterally and implement Olmert’s original realignment dream, and turn Israel into a “fun place to live.”

These are all castles in the air, or castles built on sand. As everyone knows, their primary purpose is to keep Olmert’s coalition afloat, until the next Winograd report, or until the Winograd Committee resigns, or until State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss gives up, or until the Israeli public gets completely fed up with spin politics.

But Olmert must keep an eye on his minister for strategic threats if his coalition is to survive. Not that blowing air into the Abbas balloon constitutes a strategic threat. But that 100 percent withdrawal formula may not sit well with Avigdor Lieberman’s electorate. He too must be thrown a sop. So Olmert’s plan is purported to include Lieberman’s insane idea of stripping Israel’s Arab citizens of their citizenship and transferring them to Mahmoud Abbas’ care. They don’t need to worry, as nothing will come of these wild schemes.

Sooner or later it will become clear to all that there can be no escape from reality. The peace process can take off only after Palestinian terrorism has been decisively defeated.

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