Don't go to Masada
If Olmert insists on providing a close-up examination of the legend of brutal and pointless Jewish radicalism, it is not necessary to drag the Bush to the shores of the Sea of Death.
It is unfortunate that Ehud Olmert chose to invite George Bush for a tour of Masada of all places. Perhaps it is still possible to alter the program and offer the guest of honor for the 60th Independence Day anniversary celebrations a visit to the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, where Israeli scientists are working on life-saving medicines. But There are sites of collective suicide throughout the territories occupied by Israel.
In order not to give the guest the impression that bleeding-heart military shirkers are pulling him to the left, a few officers, veterans of elite units, can take him on a tour of Masada-Now. Major General (res.) Ami Ayalon, of the naval commando unit and the Shin Bet security service, will surely be thrilled to introduce Bush to the residents of the "quality of life" settlements that have turned into dying communities. There he will find hard-working people who wanted "a home with a garden," and found themselves stuck in a battle zone. Ayalon will tell Bush that a few have left, but many are unable to find anyone who wants to buy their home. The minister will inform the president that the prime minister supports the proposed legislation providing compensation for those settlers who voluntarily leave the West Bank, which was put forth by 16 MKs, but because he fears the extremists, Olmert has abandoned these poor souls to their fate.
Colonel (res.) Shaul Arieli, who commanded the Gaza Brigade in the past, can accompany the guest on a tour of the large gaps in the buffer zone between Israel and the West Bank. In Arieli and Michael Sfarad's book, "Wall and Failure, the Separation Fence - Security or Avarice?" the president can find evidence that these breaches invite terrorists, because the representatives in the political and defense establishment of modern-day Israeli extremists are seeking to transform a means for the defense of Israeli citizens into a method of annexing territory for settlements. The Supreme Court justices, who stand in the breach once in a while, have discovered that, at times, the greed for land results in security threats.
The court ruling last September in the case concerning the fence at the Bil'in area stated that "in general, the military commander presents, during many of the instances of planning the route of the fence, the holding of hilltops as having security significance, but in the case before us, the route of the fence, part of which is in low lands compared to the hills... endangers the forces patrolling it." The justices concluded: "The route of the fence can only be explained as a desire to include the eastern part of Matityahu East into the area west of the fence."
While he is visiting the buffer zone, Brigadier General (res.) Amos Ben-Avraham, who is a member of the team of experts that offered an alternative to the use of roadblocks, will surely not oppose showing the president one of the transit points. The man who was commander of the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, and of the Judea Division, will explain to the guest why cars with yellow license plates pass by soldiers at the roadblock at high speed on their way to Israel; hundreds of internal roadblocks, spread throughout the West Bank, are meant primarily to ensure that Palestinian drivers do not have access to the road network reserved only for Israelis. This ensures that we can be sure that the drivers arriving at the transit points are "our people" and therefore there is no need to "open the trunk."
In a position paper Ben-Avraham and his colleagues have tried for months to present to the defense minister, they warn that segregating roads endangers the lives of passengers, because terrorists lie in wait along roads meant only for Israelis, and the militants know they do not have to fear that they may harm one of their own. "The roadblocks create the motivation for terrorism," the document states, "and a significant shrinking of their numbers will contribute to calm in the West Bank and to undermining the position of Hamas in the Gaza Strip."
Apropos Hamas, it is possible to ask Brigadier General (res.) Ilan Paz, who used to head the Civil Administration in the West Bank, to introduce the president to his Palestinian colleagues so they could prepare a joint program for the gradual release of prisoners, as part of the elements of a cease-fire and for improving the general atmosphere in anticipation of a final-status agreement. Paz, who was in charge of the operation in which Marwan Barghouti was arrested, will tell the guest that if the release of the Tanzim leader will be part of a process that results in changes to the terrible situation on the ground, he would be glad to see the Palestinian leader back at home.
A prime minister who believes that if we do not leave most of the territories, Israel is "done for," should not allow himself to be led by a fundamentalist minority, whose belief in a supreme power ignores reality. There is nothing for Olmert at Masada.