Convergence to combat lines
Since in essence, the convergence plan is a unilateral withdrawal, it is important to clarify to the public that the chances are the convergence lines will be Israel's new combat lines.
It is possible that Israel will maneuver itself into a unilateral implementation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's vague convergence plan. Since in essence, the plan is a unilateral withdrawal, it is important to clarify to the public that the chances are the convergence lines will be Israel's new combat lines. A leader who deceives himself and the public about this is being irresponsible.
That is what happened with the lines of the disengagement from Gaza: They turned into new combat lines - after the entire world had praised Ariel Sharon for the withdrawal. The settlements were evacuated unilaterally, without negotiations in which the Palestinians and Mahmoud Abbas could have chalked up a political achievement. Israel retreated without getting anything in exchange.
It is natural that Hamas chalked up a military achievement, as the group that employed force and pushed Israel into the withdrawal. That is how things look to the Palestinians. Their sense of victory increased because of the Israel Defense Forces' continuing failure in the war against the Qassams. Hamas' election victory only magnified its triumph.
The first to argue that the disengagement was conducted without comprehensive groundwork was the former chief of staff, Moshe Ya'alon, who warned about what was coming. Because of that, he was maneuvered out of the chief of staff's office. Giora Eiland, the former head of the National Security Council, reiterated what Ya'alon said. The disengagement may have shortened the IDF's lines and saved money, but the savings will be spent - after delays that outraged the state comptroller - on defensive fortification of the communities around Gaza.
Now there is talk about a new unilateral convergence/withdrawal, as if nothing had happened. It is not clear who is doing detailed preparatory work on the convergence now, even as a contingency plan. I searched everywhere for these experts and failed to find them.
With a new unilateral convergence, Israel will repeat its great mistake of giving up on the demilitarization of any Palestinian territory from which it retreats. Demilitarization was a key issue in every plan for an agreement with the Palestinians and was discussed with them at length. The unilateral convergence will give new momentum to Hamas, not to Abbas. And it will be a failed strategic move, because Israel will endanger Jordan and the Hashemite regime.
Jordan is beseeching Israel not to act unilaterally. It understands that unilateralism would mean a continuation of the fighting, and that could increase instability in Jordan. In Israel, such a move would strengthen those demanding no withdrawal from the Jordan Valley. President Bush may have called the convergence a bold plan, but anyone concerned about the future of Jordan would do well to pressure Olmert to avoid such a unilateral step.
Once the withdrawal lines turn into new combat lines, it will only be a matter of time until the IDF moves into the towns and cities of the West Bank in full force. All it would take is one Qassam landing at Ben-Gurion International Airport. Qassam attacks on the coastal towns are a strategic threat and might require indiscriminate attacks on the Palestinians. The history of the conflict shows that there will always be extremists among the Palestinians who will agree to commit suicide in a terror attack. This time, Iran could assist in their desire to undermine the region's status quo.
To all this must be added the suspicion that Olmert does not really want to negotiate with Abbas. It seems that he is ready to "talk" with him, but not to negotiate. He is apparently afraid of a crisis early in the negotiations. If Olmert is ready to withdraw, "to converge" and straighten lines, he should do so through negotiations, with mutual understandings and concessions made to Abbas personally. If he wants to evacuate settlements, let him start evacuating the isolated settlements, in addition to getting rid of the illegal outposts.