Menachem Klein, senior lecturer in the Department of Political Studies at Bar Ilan University and currently visiting professor at MIT, joins a long and growing list of prominent Israeli analysts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict who scorn Ehud Olmert’s new “plan” to fix Israel’s permanent borders without consulting the Palestinians and against the opposition of the world community. Olmert is counting on American support for the “convergence” plan to work. It hasn’t been forthcoming yet and one hopes it will never be. But one cannot underestimate George Bush’s willingness to collaborate with the Israelis in creating such “facts on the ground” (as Sharon was so fond of calling Israeli settlements back when they were in favor). After all, it takes a unilateralist to know one, right?
Klein’s most recent statement on this subject was published at the Hebrew-language site of Yediot Achronot (thanks to Kibush for Mike Marshall’s translation). He begins by pointing out that those who believe that Olmert’s plan will “end the Occupation” or ensure “separation” from the Palestinians are sorely mistaken:
Is this going to be a regular border, that is, a clear line with walls and fences beyond which there are no Israeli forces? Absolutely not. The very fact that according to Olmert there is no partner on the Palestinian side obliges the Israeli army and the GSS* [Shin Bet] to be present on the other [Palestinian] side of the convergence line…
According to Olmert’s plan, Israel must deter about two million Palestinians from rebelling, press the Palestinian Authority to eject the terrorists from its midst and recruit collaborators and informers from its ranks. So it will be necessary to continue with the system of encirclement, enforc[ed] closures, checkpoints, arrests for the purpose of intelligence gathering, recruitment of collaborators, night-raids and assassinations of junior and senior activists. In other words, the settlements will converge behind the fence, but the military occupation will continue outside it. There will be a certain amount of relief for the Israeli army, because its soldiers will not be obliged to escort settlers to their aerobic dance classes or to evacuate buildings in illegal outposts in the face of resistance from the settlers and their supporters. But in terms of the security burden, nothing substantial will change…
The presence of many security forces in hostile territory and long border lines convert every soldier, vehicle and installation into a target for the guerrilla warfare that Palestinian forces will conduct. The tunnels that were dug in the Gaza Strip and the Qassam missiles exposed the weak points in Israeli superiority. Many more such weak points can be expected in the West Bank, where the length of the border lines that Olmert proposes and the level of friction are much greater than in the Gaza Strip.
Klein also has a refreshing analysis of the Gaza withdrawal saying that despite any positive results derived from it–it has been an abject failure. Along with this discussion of the withdrawal Klein also points out the abject failure of Israel’s policy of liquidating Hamas’ leadership through extra-judicial assassination:
Olmert’s proposal shows that he learned the lessons of the experience of the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza Strip. The credit-column shows the achievement – soldiers and settlers are not present in the Gaza Strip; but the debit-column is much longer. Most of the Israeli and [US] American illusions did not materialize, because it was a unilateral process. Unilateralism obliges Israel to employ force in a variety of ways, and that in itself motivates the Palestinians to respond, sometimes with terrorist attacks and sometimes through the ballot-box. And thus Israel finds itself in a state of strategic fragmentation.
But it was not only the experience of the withdrawal that failed in Gaza; also the policy of assassinations was a searing failure. Israel assassinated most of the founders and leaders of Hamas and its main activists, but the Palestinian people brought Hamas to power through democratic elections. What was seared into the Palestinian consciousness was the opposite of what Israel wanted to be seared there. The strategy of containment and management of the conflict was shattered with the rise of the Hamas government. The call of Olmert’s government for a total boycott of the Hamas government and the public that elected it shows that it understands that it failed on this point. And what solution does Olmert propose? A return to the unilateral path on a large scale, on a much larger scale.
People may more easily dismiss the criticism of non-Israelis and confirmed doves like myself. But what I find interesting and refreshing about Klein and Gershom Gorenberg–who I wrote about yesterday–is that they are young Orthodox scholars. They come from the milieu that hitherto–and currently–provides the strongest support for the settler movement and Sharon’s policies. When an Orthodox Israeli Jew turns against these policies, people should sit up and take special notice.
Steven Fodor says
There are only few decent people like Menachem Klein, and undeservedly, I am his humble friend.
Our grandfathers lived in the Hungarian countries,
Menachem has a good working Arabic knowledge, and has a wide circle of Palestinian friends and working partners.
He is the pragmatic mind. He knows the value of the traditions, but open minded, and recognizes the existence of a Palestinian neighbor, He respects the Palestinians since he knows many excellent people there.
It is a big error not to know the neighbor, or lump its peole in to one category.
The message of Menachem is that the decent majority of Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace.
He is the sane voice who can tell every body the errors and sins of both nations’ leaders.
Dov C. says
I am new to your blog, I came across it from a link on a Blog (the Mother and Child in Gaza).
After a (very) quick review of your blog, I can see that you and I don’t have a lot in commen. But that is ok, I like reading and talking to those who think differently than me.
The only comment I have about the post (since I am not really a great supporter of Olmert or his “plan”), is that We already tried the negotiation strategy. it didn’t go too well for us last time. What makes you think that the palestininas have changed (for the better) in the past 6 years. Actually what makes you think that Israelies Want to try that again?
Richard Silverstein says
Dov: Welcome-barch ha-ba. I am gratified you came by even though our politics diverge.
All I can say about the “negotiation strategy” is that it may’ve failed in the past, but it’s the only real, viable strategy that will work. Time & history have proven that there’s no substitute for it in terms of resolving conflict. As for why the Palestinians have changed in the past 6 yrs, you’ll have to read a few of my posts about Hamas & Palestinian public opinion to confirm for yrself that change has indeed happened and in a big way (just as change has happened in Israel as well). Just a fer-instance: a majority of Palestinians support negotiations with Israel, a majority support a 2 state solution.