Before we say anything else, let’s begin by declaring that the six Palestinian murderers of Rehavam Ze’evi deserve the punishment meted out to them when they were convicted of his assassination. They should have rotted there for their mortal lives. While Gush Shalom may have a point in noting that Israel’s prior targeted assassination of the PFLP leader spurred Saadat’s targeted assassination of Ze’evi (“…The [Palestinians] which the army was sent to Jericho to capture or kill are marked…because, when taking revenge for the targeted killing of their own leader…they selected Rehav’am Ze’evi, a general turned politician who was the foremost of Israeli racists and who built a political career upon crude hate propaganda); and that Ze’evi’s far-right, racist political views somehow marked him as not being an “innocent civilian,” I still cannot stomach what Sa’adat did. If it is wrong for Olmert to threaten to assassinate Arafat and Ismail Haniye, then it is equally wrong for the the PFLP to have murdered Ze’evi.
That being said, the IDF’s massive military incursion to arrest the wanted Palestinians was another boneheaded move by Israel in its ongoing war against Palestinians and moderation.
Some Hamas representatives had talked of releasing the six killers from their Jericho jail. But they had made no moves to do so. So the removal by Britain and the U.S. of the security guards (because the two nations claimed that the PA was not upholding its agreement to protect their personnel) who insured the killers would not be freed, became a pretext for typical Israel muscular overreaction. Commentators are noting that the Israeli military operation to break into the prison and arrest the PFLP operatives bore all the mark of a pre-election stunt. This is rather self-congratulatory puffery from Haaretz which proves the point:
…As soon as it [the incursion] was forced upon him by the desertion of the foreign monitors, he had to act. If Ze’evi’s murderers had escaped and given ludicrous interviews to the Israeli television channels, Olmert and his Kadima party would have been badly hurt. He would have been seen as weak, as someone who can only give back territory. Both the left and the right would have had a field day with him. On Tuesday Labor and Likud were forced to praise the “security forces.” Had the operation gone wrong, or if the prisoners had escaped, the criticism from both sides of the political spectrum would have focused on Olmert, not the army.
Kadima’s strategists could not have wished for a more successful operation only a day before the pollsters began their work for the weekend papers. This week’s polls are critical: If Kadima’s slide can be halted at 37 or 38 Knesset seats less than two weeks before the election, then there will be a general sense that the battle has been won.
And whadaya know? A Tuesday poll announces that Kadima has shot back to 42 seats and Labor has sunk to 16 with Likud at 15. You see, cynicism pays dividends in Israeli politics. Though the poll was taken before the Israeli attack on Jericho, I have no doubt that it will add even more seats to Kadima when the next poll is completed.
Speaking of cynicism, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has the temerity to declare there were no political motivations in the attack:
…Mofaz Wednesday dismissed criticism of the Jericho siege as politically motivated.
The timing of the siege was tied entirely to decisions by the Palestinians, and had nothing to do with the fact that elections are two weeks away.
Asked if there was such a link, Mofaz told Army Radio:
In some ways this jailbreak in reverse reminds me of the post 9/11 terror arrests here in this country for which John Ashcroft used to call press conferences in order to showcase his terror-fighting credentials–till many of those detained turned out to be innocent of whatever charges alleged against them. Unlike so many Justice Department terror prosecutions, there’s no doubt that Sa’adat and his henchmen were guilty. But like the ill-fated post 9/11 prosecutions, the Jericho attack will come back to haunt Israel in ways we can contemplate and in ways we cannot yet foresee.
We should note that while Kadima still retains great support according to election polls, that support has been steadily eroding. And most, though not all, of that vote is shifting rightward toward Likud and farther right parties. So the Jericho shuffle was a grand opportunity for Olmert and his security hawks, Avi Dichter and Shaul Mofaz to flex those military muscles in the service of political ends. And given Israelis’ heightened sensitivity to anything that smacks of national security (shades of our own country!), Olmert will score well for this.
Clearly, he didn’t give a crap how this would go over among Palestinians. He didn’t give a crap that it might provoke terror groups like Hamas and Fateh, who’ve been honoring the hudna into blowing off this truce. He didn’t give a crap that Islamic Jihad, which has not honored the truce, will redouble efforts to hurt Israel. And he didn’t give a crap that there might be rampant anarchy and chaos in the midst of the Palestinian protests over this provocation. In fact, one might say (somewhat callously perhaps) that such counter-reaction from the Palestinians would further burnish Olmert’s security credentials since he’d be able to say: “You can’t trust those damn Palestinians to honor their security agreements, so we had to go in and take care of the job; and now look how we’re repaid?” It may play well to such a “running scared” terror-obsessed electorate. In addition, the Palestinian violence will, at least in Olmert’s mind, play well to the international community which Israel is attempting to rally against a Hamas government.
I’m sorry to say that Israeli policy seems to either unintentionally or deliberately sow chaos. Somehow Israeli leaders believe that such chaos is good for them. They seem to prefer it to the tranquility and permanent security that would derive from an actual peace agreement with the Palestinians. To me, this shows the utter cynicism of Israeli policy. They don’t care that this action will probably cost more Israeli lives. They certainly don’t care that it has cost and will cost further Palestinian lives.
The U.S. further tarnished its “honest broker” status between the conflicting parties when it quashed an attempt by Qatar to introduce a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Israeli attack.
All I can say is some days you wonder why you should continue caring about this conflict. It seems so utterly devoid of sanity or reason. How can you try to be reasonable about it in the face of this lunacy? That’s how I feel on a really bad day. Luckily, there are other, better days.