Talk of Churchills and Chamberlains
Justice Minister Haim Ramon is one of the few government ministers, if not the only one, who believes in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's ability to muster 61 Knesset members in favor of the plan to hand Shilo and Beit El over to Hamas.
MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz-Yahad), for example, has announced that his party will, of course, support any decision to reduce the dimensions of the occupation, even by one square meter. However, if Olmert plans to give Pinhas Wallerstein and Baruch Marzel brand new villas that will be built for them on lands confiscated for this purpose on the edge of Jerusalem and on the slopes of Ariel, Beilin suggests that he not tell this to the five Knesset members from Meretz.
The Arab parties will of course find it difficult to vote in favor of a proposal that is not supported by the party of the Zionist left.
Even the Labor Party is not in Olmert's pocket. The prime minister intends to explain to Defense Minister Amir Peretz that he does not have a mandate to talk about negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) on a permanent status agreement, as long as Hamas is in government.
Olmert refuses to make a distinction between the two branches of the PA (an Israeli-U.S. invention, it must be recalled).
The chairman of the Labor Party has no intentions of not paying in kind; and he will remind Olmert that he does not have a mandate to speak with U.S. President George Bush about unilateral convergence.
The coalition agreement and the government guidelines stipulate that prior to a unilateral move, the government will make every effort to reach an agreement with the other side. But there is no hint of an outline for an agreement supported by all the coalition partners.
Let us suppose that Olmert waives his opposition to negotiations with Fatah's Abu Mazen, in the shadow of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. What instructions will the Israeli negotiating team (which has yet to be set up) be given? Will Labor agree to the annexation of E1? Will Kadima support exchanges of territory? Will Shas relinquish sovereignty over all areas of the Temple Mount? Has the Pensioners' Party formulated a position on the refugee issue? Will United Torah Judaism sacrifice the child allowances in order to fund compensation for the settlers?
Any one of these issues is enough to dismantle the government before the members of the Israeli negotiating team hold their first meeting with their Palestinian counterparts.
As a result, as though gathered around a deathbed, the ministers are being careful to speak in low tones about the premature death throes of the convergence plan.
Behind closed doors, they are saying that Olmert just wants to come home from Washington safely, and is directing his aides to focus the visit on the issue of the Iranian nuclear program. There is nothing better than that for a demonstration of national and international solidarity. When we are threatened with an atomic bomb, only an indefatigable politician like Culture, Sports and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ophir Pines-Paz can pay attention to trivia like, for example, the disappearance of the ministerial committee for the implementation of the Sasson Report that, more than two years ago, recommended dismantling dozens of illegal outposts without delay.
Here you have another time bomb in the political balance of fear. Peretz is not in any hurry. Two years from now, when the late lamented convergence is at the top of Olmert's list of achievements, Peretz will dismantle the government. His problem is that diplomatic stagnation is a sure recipe for a negative security balance, and for this, too, he is responsible.
A few days after September 11, 2001, when it seemed to Ariel Sharon that the United States intended to sacrifice Israel on the altar of the war against terror, he let slip something about Munich, and hinted to George W. Bush that he should not follow in the footsteps of Neville Chamberlain, the disciple of the policy of appeasement, which has a bad reputation since the agreement with Hitler.
Now it is the turn of Sharon, and perhaps his successor, Olmert, to be honored with a comparison to the reviled British statesman.
The reviler - the chief of staff of the second intifada, Lieutenant General (res.) Moshe Ya'alon. The distributor - Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, the right-wing marker of Jewish go-getters who staunchly leads any struggle against diplomatic initiatives for an agreement between Israel and its neighbors.
After having led the campaign against the disengagement, he is now preparing his modest troops for the battle against Olmert's convergence. Not every day does he have the opportunity for a henchman from among the heroes of Israel's wars.
In an "opinion piece" he distributed over the weekend, Klein reports on a lecture Ya'alon delivered to an audience of 500 Jews in a synagogue in Manhattan. "We don't need Chamberlains, we need Churchills," declared the chief of staff emeritus, after arguing that it was a grave mistake to have withdrawn from Gaza and explaining at length why the occupation of the West Bank must continue.
Ya'alon argued that Israel's policy of appeasement (he used Chamberlain's term) is encouraging Iran to support terror. He declared that the 1967 borders do not provide a security solution, and said in the same breath that the source of the terror attacks lies in the Arab world's refusal to recognize the existence of the State of Israel.
Does he know something we don't know about the peace with Egypt and Jordan? Has the Arab League retracted its proposal concerning normalization with Israel in return for a withdrawal to the 1967 borders?
Settlers in the sewers
It was reported here last week ("Even sewage is not free of politics," Haaretz, May 9, 2006) that there is also a danger that Israeli children will drink the murky water of the freeze on the aid to sewage purification plants in the territories.
According to data and testimony gathered by the Yesh Din - Volunteers for Human Rights association, the Jewish settlers have made an important contribution to the pollution of the ground water that trickles from the holy lands of the Samaria hills to the coastal plain. For example, for years now, sewage from the Jewish settlement of Immanuel has been polluting the springs of Wadi Kana, and has made the ground water in the area unusable. The agricultural productivity of the villages in the area has been severely damaged, and the extent of the crops is shrinking.
Over five years ago, following extensive local and international pressure, a sewage purification project centering on a pool located between Kafr Bara and Jaljulya (inside the Green Line) was initiated. To this end, olive trees in the wadi were cut down, a main pipe was laid, and accompanying items were prepared. A small problem remained - the plant was never hooked up to anywhere.
Nafez Mansour, the council head of the nearby village of Dir Issta, notes that Israel has declared the area a "nature reserve," and that a local resident caught picking a protected flower from the edge of the sewage swamp can expect to be punished.
The Jewish settlers of Revava and Yakir have also solved the problem of the drainage of waste water by directing the flow of their sewage to the lands the settlements have left in the hands of their Palestinian neighbors. The olive trees of the village of Jinsafut, those that have been rescued from the lawless settlers' axes, are falling victim to their excrement. And as if this were not enough, for three years now the waste from the pickle factory in the Immanuel industrial zone has been flowing across open ground, draining down the hillside and flooding the groves.
The Karnei Shomron laundry, which provides services to hospitals in Israel, makes its contribution to public health by sending its waste into the agricultural lands of the village of Haja.
Here is an abbreviated account from a resident of the village, Intissar Hilan, who reported the following to a Yesh Din volunteer: "Ever since my husband fell ill, I have been taking care of our olive grove. Some 13 years ago, when they built the laundry, they dug a cesspool and they would pump the dirty water out into containers and take them away. Four years ago, they said this was too costly and the water started to flow 24 hours a day, except for Saturdays and holidays. Sometimes the water is half a meter deep. As a result of this, the trees in the flooded area have begun to turn yellow and wither.
"In order to drain the water, we hired a tractor and we dug a ditch of about 1,000 meters long. The problem is that the wild pigs break up the ditch and then the water again spills out in the direction of the trees. Now I am fighting both the laundry and the wild pigs.
"In August 2004, I went with my brother-in-law to the laundry and the manager came out with us to the field to examine our complaints. He offered us money for digging the ditch and for 70 olive trees that had died. We rejected it. We want them to solve the problem in a thorough manner."