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by Nadav Morag


Now that the dust has settled and the outcome of the recent Israeli elections is clear, it has become apparent that Ehud Olmert will be able to form a government consisting of parties who favor, or at least do not seriously oppose, his proposed policy of unilateral withdrawal from most of the West Bank.

The disengagement policy adopted by Ariel Sharon with respect to the Gaza Strip has now become the policy of Hitkansut -- a term which does not easily translate into English, but has connotations of "circling the wagons" and "pulling in" or "ingathering." The best way to think of this is to use an analogy. When a turtle is frightened, it pulls its head and limbs into its shell -- that is Hitkansut in a nutshell.

This "Turtle Strategy" is based on the same premise a turtle uses when in danger, pull back and hide inside a protected zone -- in this case, behind the security barrier. While this may work, in most cases, for turtles - given the kinds of threats that they face, it seems hopelessly naïve and ineffectual as the basis for Israeli policy.

The first rule of policymaking is that it needs to be firmly grounded in reality, even if that reality is unpleasant. Consider the following:

IT IS important to recall that the entire Oslo peace process was predicated on the idea that the Palestinians would fill the political/security vacuum left by Israeli withdrawals - something that, of course, never really happened.

The unilateral withdrawal policy, on the other hand, was based on the idea that Israel could live with a political/security vacuum on the Palestinian side.

It is not likely that Israel will be able to do so much longer, with respect to Gaza, now that the Palestinians have devised even more effective ways to strike at Israel from the Strip. Olmert's proposed policy takes the same principle applied to Gaza and shifts it to the West Bank thus putting Israel's central population centers within rocket and missile range.

The barrier that Israel is building is not a panacea that will enable Israel to withdraw behind it and forget the Palestinians. Israeli voters may want this to be the case, but wishful thinking does not substitute for realism. The barrier may be effective to a large degree in preventing infiltration, but it cannot prevent the firing of rockets and missiles over it. Moreover, if Palestinian terrorist organizations are afforded free reign in the West Bank, as they now enjoy in Gaza, they will find ways to dig under or fly over the barrier or otherwise compromise it. In order for the barrier to be truly effective, it must be defended from both sides, yet Olmert's plan, if implemented, would ignore this important truth.

REMAINING IN the West Bank is important for Israeli security. This is not about the settlers, Olmert can remove them if he deems their presence in the West Bank as one that ties down the IDF (though sometimes their physical presence helps increase the Israeli control in some sectors thus ensuring that they will not be abandoned to Palestinian terrorists).

However, even if the settlements are evacuated, they should be transformed into military bases.

It is crucial to bear in mind that Israel's success in thwarting the majority of terrorist attacks is due, in large part, to its ability to conduct operations in Palestinian cities and villages. Withdrawing from the West Bank will, as it has done in Gaza, provide the Palestinians with safe havens from which to conduct terrorism against Israel. Olmert may be right in concluding that Israelis very much want to disentangle themselves from the Palestinians, but will the Palestinians let them?

The strategy that works for the turtle will not be as effective for Israel. If Israel comes under increasing attacks in the wake of further withdrawals, and yet continues to insist that this policy will create greater security, we will know that the next Israeli government no longer holds to the turtle strategy - it will have then adopted an "ostrich strategy."


23. IDF to stay in Judea?
04/07/2006 03:58

Now lets get this straight, uhm, The 'Settlers" help the IDF just by their presence in the region, yet when the government removes them all it will maintain the IDF there for protection of the State of Israel from these unfriendly people. But what do we read in the news?? One of the first things the new government is to do is to reduce the cost of the IDF by 2-4 billion. Uhm, they are reducing the army yet will be doing more defending, somehow these sums do not add up. Some financial wizards need to give 101 maths to the polies.

18. Disengagement or fight back
josephpalazzo - Canada
04/06/2006 16:00

After WW1, the Germans were not convinced that they had lost the war, a rallying cry for Hitler and his thugs to get into power. We also know that the Allies made sure in April 1945 that the Germans would understand total defeat. Disengagement is certainly not the way to show the Palestinians on the real meaning of total defeat. Unless they are made to understand it, Israel will always be at the mercy of its enemies.

CANADA 04/06/2006 08:32

Did Hitler stop at Belgrade, Warsaw, or Paris? No! He went on to London, and Moscow, and before the end, he almost reached New York. The lesson for Israel is that Tel Aviv will be an ash heap, and about a million Israelis will be in very serious trouble. As for the much vaunted I.D.F., it will no longer have the manpower available to draw on, from which to field a credible force. Being that there is no deterrent, the surrounding Muslim armies, on a campaign to save the Israelis from a terrible disaster, [ caused by one or two men; not a whole nation, for everybody loveth the Jew ] will rush in, and slay another million. Disarm the entire Muslim mid east, and be quick about it.

8. The stupidity of "disengaement"
BenZion - USA
04/06/2006 13:16

All political "parties"in Israel are responsible for this stupid "disengaement" policy. The secular left and right because they are illiterate in military history and the religious because the value their belies (zechuyot) over the Torah and Talmud lessons on the consequences of division in the Maccabbe era. Their "Wall" solution was tried by the Chineset with the Great Wall, the Romans with Hadrian's Wall in Scotland, the Dacian Wall in Hungary and the Limes in the Negev. In the end despite the "powerful Roman Legion", both empires were overrun by a bunch of barbarians on horseback. It took them centureis because they had no missilves & nukes. President Bush recognizes that but not the State department. As for the Europeans: The Kingston Trio had a song in the 1960's with the words:"When will they ever ;earn" For Jews not to worry-The Talmud predicts that the "Mixed Multitude" that bulit the Golden Calf will rule prior to the coming of the Messiah,

13. "Lip Service" is a plus?
David Teich
04/06/2006 14:24

The author shows the ignorance typically displayed when describing the Palestinians by his claiming that at least Fatah "paid lip service to fighting terrorism." Any bit of logic or experience would show that is more dangerous. Fatah used PR to lie about what it wanted. It's consistution still calls for the destruction of Israel and it still supports terrorist actions. Yet it's managed to convince people who claim to be friends of Israel, such as Nadav Morag, that it's a good choice for leadership. Hamas is run by fundamentalist, so they're even worse at PR than is Israel. They say they want to destroy Israel. If Israel knew how to react, it could use that to help fight the global anti-semitism that was able to use the cover of Fatah's lies. Pulling out of hard to defend areas of the West Bank, areas we know will be part of any second Palestinian State, helps Israel's security and save taxpayers' money. That would be the case under Fatah or Hamas.

04/06/2006 14:31

It is all so simple to all but the willfully blind or delusional. This is war, war pure and simple. Not between Israel and the Palestinians . There are no Palestinians - if you think there are, show one before 1964. There were none. Does an ancient and venerable nation just pop out of no where? No this is a global jihad between the Islamic Nation and the free world in which Israel stands at the front line. In war one does not give over strategic assets to the enemy. In war one either conquers the enemy or is conquered by it. Convergence, Disengagement or what ever palatable label the Israeli Left wants to sugar-coat it is capitulation with, is capitulation pure and simple and signals our defeat.

20. potential threat from West Bank
David Katz - USA
04/06/2006 16:20

Prof. Morag has it exactly right: withdrawl from the W.B. will merely provide another venue for launching rocket attacks on Israel. The current official strategy is based on the same type of flawed premise as was that prompting construction of the Maginot Line. That is, it fails to factor the permeability of borders due to advances in military technology---in the first instance, Stukas and powerful armored vehicles; in this case, rockets that will no doubt become increasingly accurate over time, as the Iranians develop their own version of "vengeance weaapons." Any Israeli government failing to acknowledge these realities will be failing in its duty to protect the State.

16. Let's call a spade a spade
Peter Yurowitz - USA
04/06/2006 15:00

What Mr. Duke of England calls "Usual Right-Wing Scaremongering" is typical Left Wing naive denial of reality. Let's call it like it is. Israelis have a Western philosophy which tends to try to solve problems by negotiating agreements. The Arabs have an Eastern mentality which tends to solve problems by show and use of strength. If Israel is to survive, it must remain strong, and use her strength and resolve to solve her problem with her neighbors. Sadly, but truly, any indication, any hint at a willingness to compromise on anything is viewed by the other side as a victory. Mr. Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza and Mr. Olmert's stated intention of withdrawal from the West Bank is a disaster of proportions that will be felt for years to come. They have to deal with the Arabs in a manner that can be clearly understood by the other side. If this is is "Right Wing Scaremongering", then I'd prefer to be Right than wrong.

21. IDF Is NOT Tasked For Victory. This Is The Root Of The Issue
Adina kutnicki - US
04/06/2006 21:09

This analysis is very well laid out. The tragic upshot is that the Israeli regime is NOT aiming for victory, but for slow defeat. This sounds very strange and most would call it a hysterical opinion. However, as long as one can presume that those running Israel are not mentally deficient, then one must see where they are leading the country - into a bloody outcome that will cause Israel to become an Israeli state and not a Jewish one. This IS the goal of the Oligarchs, the media and their political puppets.

Nadav Morag is Chair of the Department of Political Science and Senior Research Associate at the Center for Israel Studies, at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. He previously served as a Senior Director at the Israeli National Security Council.

This article and the accompanying readers' comments appeared April 6, 2006 in the Jerusalem Post. It is archived at JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull


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