March 14, 2006


Israeli politics reflects desire to end conflict (Matthew Gutman, 3/13/06, USA TODAY)

Kadima's popularity reflects a combination of fatigue stemming from the 5-year-old Palestinian uprising and the relative success of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza last year. A growing number of Israeli voters want the quickest route to ending the violence and worry that the formal peace process is taking too long, says Asher Cohen, a political science professor at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv.

This is the first Israeli election in which the question for many voters is not whether to withdraw from the West Bank, "but how fast and where to draw the border," Cohen says.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the top Kadima candidate, has pledged to set Israel's borders with the Palestinians by 2010 by withdrawing from most of the West Bank without a peace treaty. Olmert says Israel will leave areas that are dominated by Palestinians but will keep control of three large Israeli communities. Israel will not wait indefinitely for an agreement, Olmert has said. [...]

Kadima is the first leading Israeli party to explicitly commit itself to evacuating some troops and settlers from the Palestinian territories within a specific timeframe, says Eyal Arad, the party's chief strategist.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon created Kadima in November, weeks before he suffered a stroke Jan. 4 and fell into a coma.

It is no longer Sharon's personality but the "policy of unilateralism that is the source of Kadima's power," says Yaron Ezrahi, a professor of political science at Jerusalem's Hebrew University. Sharon managed to turn a policy of evacuating settlements "that was once considered political suicide into a political gold mine," Ezrahi says.

Unilaterally setting Palestines borders is one of those simple ideas that was denounced as strategically and politically impossible right up until it worked brilliantly and proved enormously popular.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 14, 2006 8:14 AM

Horrible as it is to contemplate, Sharon's stroke is turning out to be fortunate for Kadima.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 14, 2006 8:24 AM

The unfortunate thing for the Israli Right is that it was Sharon who understood security and Bibi who understood Third Way economics--now they're divided from each other.

Posted by: oj at March 14, 2006 8:27 AM

Israeli politics reflects desire to end conflict.

Presumably, therefore, the Oslo process, which culminated with the Barak government's offer at Camp David and later at Taba was not a reflection of Israel's desire to end conflict?

Nor was Israel's stated intention to adhere to the "Roadmap," nor its release of Palestinian prisoners, nor its continued insistence that the PA crack down on terror (a rather ludicrous insistence, since the PA was itself affiliated with terror organizations, such as Al-Aksa Brigades and Tanzim).

Nor was the departure from Gaza.
Nor will any unilateral exercise in the future.

Simply because (yes, this is becoming wearisome) when someone wants you out of their neighborhood ENTIRELY, it doesn't matter how much land you relinquish to them, or how high you build your walls, or how much you make nice. Or how much you show that you've tried to be helpful or how much you apologize for past transgressions, or how much you insist that it is in their interest to play along and very much against their interests not to.

(And by the way, Orrin, they don't want a state.)

The conflict will continue. For the very same reasons that it has continued for the past five and a half (not "five") years. (Though, Iran, endorsed by the current government of Palestine, has certain ideas on how to end the conflict.)

Keep in mind that for every unilateral fact on the ground, there is always the claim to return to the 1967 borders, and then there is Jerusalem to claim, and after that, there are all those refugees to resettle back within the 1967 borders. Certainly, more than enough reasons for continuing this war.

Until Israel disappears.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at March 14, 2006 9:28 AM

Barry: When the wall is finished and Israel says, "There's your Palestine," what exactly can happen other than acceptance or actual war? And isn't Israel's strategy to force either peace or war?

Posted by: David Cohen at March 14, 2006 9:56 AM

Barak didn't reflect the will of Israel, which is why he failed.

Posted by: oj at March 14, 2006 10:04 AM

Assume that the Israeli's succeed in pushing Palestine to a peace/war dichotomy instead of some terrorist limbo. Assume Palestine chooses war. What peace can Israel impose that is any different than what exists now?

Posted by: Chris Durnell at March 14, 2006 10:56 AM

Carthaginian, but that's a last resort.

Posted by: oj at March 14, 2006 11:01 AM

Well, the second to last resort.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 14, 2006 12:16 PM

An enemy state that has delcared war on you can be smashed, it's electricity and water infrastructure destroyed, it's armed forces exterminated, it's leaders captured or forced into exile. In other words, it can be properly punished and it's people made to suffer and realise that war isn't fun, profitable or a spectator sport. From that realization comes the desire to peace. The Germans were all pretty keen on war while they were winning, it's only when their cities were firebombed and ill-disciplined Russian soldiers streamed into their country looting and raping that they suddenly discovered their love of peace which they've been lecturing us on ever since.

By voting Hamas the Palestinians have voted war, give them a state so they can have it.

Posted by: Amos at March 14, 2006 8:10 PM

Mr. Cohen;

It's never been about the Palestinian will, but the Israeli. Will the wall and a state give Israel the will to inflict Amos' scenario? Unless it does that, it is pointless.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at March 14, 2006 8:37 PM

It's also about a test of how binding Arab brotherhood will be - if there is a general war with the Palestinians, will the other Arabs help? And If I were a Palestinian, I would darn sure know what history says about that pipedream.

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 16, 2006 9:31 AM