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by Martin Sherman


In a recent article in this section, "A convenient partner", Dov Weisglass, Ariel Sharon's former bureau chief and senior adviser, provided a very upbeat assessment of the upcoming November conference near Washington on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It is an article that should give the citizens of this country cause for grave concern regarding either the integrity or the intellect of those charged -- past and present -- with molding the future of the country. He claims that the current Palestinian leadership has good intentions; we should seize opportunity.

It is extremely difficult to follow the logic Weisglass presents for his wildly optimistic analysis -- and virtually impossible to reconcile it with a prudent regard for Israel's national interest and the physical security of its citizens. Moreover, the fact that Weisglass endorsed the disastrous disengagement debacle with similar enthusiasm is hardly reassuring.

In order to understand the basis of such a severe indictment of an individual, who until recently held a position of tremendous influence, and even today has ample access to senior policy-makers, two things should be kept in mind: One is the significance of the substantive measures Israel will be undoubtedly called to make in the forthcoming conference devoted to promoting implementation of the Road Map. The other is the reasoning that Weisglass expounds for his recommendation that Israel seriously considers undertaking these measures.

WITH REGARD TO the former, in any conceivable variation of the "two-state-solution" envisaged in the Road Map, Israel will be called upon to make territorial withdrawals that will:

It should be underscored that these potential dangers inherent in the Road Map are neither subjective assessments nor derivatives of any particular political proclivity. Any one armed with a map of the country, a ruler, and modicum of general knowledge can verify them with ease.

Clearly then, the terms of the Road Map entail Israel taking enormous risks upon itself. The only possible justification for willingly placing the country in such a potentially perilous position would to place equally enormous trust in the Palestinian side -- not only in whoever is party to any agreement, but also in any probable successor in the foreseeable future.

Otherwise, even if all the concessions are made to a genuinely "moderate" regime, what reason is there to believe that a more radical group will not come to power and end up controlling territory that can cripple Israeli roads, railways, airport, power and water supplies as well the routine of daily life in the coastal plain?

Yet without providing any compelling proof that such an eventuality can be avoided or dealt with, Weisglass blithely encourages Israel to venture exposing itself to it -- for the most astoundingly flimsy, even self-contradictory, reasons.

Instead of providing elements of permanence as a basis for his recommendations, he offers only the epitome of transience; instead of a promise of durability, only an admission of fragility. Indeed, he bases his buoyant appraisal of the prospects on three elements that are manifestly impermanent and/or ineffectual: Salam Fayyad, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Bush administration.

Glaring flaws

With regard to Fayyad, Weisglass tells us: " I know Palestinian Prime Minister Dr Salam Fayyad well ...He is an intelligent and honest man who is well aware of the need to re-organize the Palestinian administration." Even if we accept Weisglass's glowing assessment of the man, it should be given little weight in Israel's strategic decision-making process. No one, including Weisglass himself, can predict with any degree of certainty whether Fayyad will be able to implement his professed good intentions -- or even sustain his term in power.

What we should remember about Fayyad's standing in the Palestinian public is that his party (The Third Way) that he headed together with the high-profile Hanan Ashrawi won a grand total of two (!) seats out of 132 in the last elections -- compared to the 75 won by the Hamas, which like Fayyad's party, highlighted anti-corruption reforms in their platform, apparently with far greater effect.

Indeed, Weisglass himself admits that his position is tenuous to say the least, conceding that "the level of support he will receive from Mahmoud Abbas, his superior, and the backing he will receive from the Palestinian public will determine whether he will succeed in implementing his good intentions."

Weisglass's prognosis regarding Fayyad's source of authority, Abbas is hardly more encouraging: "With regards to the chairman, Mahmoud Abbas ...his weaknesses are also well known: He is not a charismatic leader and his ability to lead the Palestinian people through controversial issues is doubtful". A frail foundation indeed on which to take so large a gamble with Israel's security!

His reasoning on the question of terror is scarcely more consistent. On the one hand he observes that, "terror from Judea and Samaria has decreased, primarily due to Israeli security operations" admitting that in spite of some improvement of late "efforts on the part of the Palestinians ...are far from satisfactory." On the other hand he urges negotiating the far-reaching withdrawals set out in the Road Map, which will necessarily reduce the IDF's ability to curtail terror and leave far more to the "far from satisfactory efforts" of the Palestinians.

Weisglass' fervor for complying with the alleged wishes of the Bush administration "for progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track" as its term draws to a close is puzzling to say the least. For if this administration really has such "great friendship" for Israel, why would it press Israel into the very same perilous position that far less friendly administrations have tried to foist on it before? And why should Israel subordinate its vital security interests for the sake of an outgoing foreign government -- however friendly?

Moreover, if Israel were to commit to the kind of the territorial concessions implicit in the Road Map, how would it cope with possible future pressure for further concessions (on, say, refugees/right of return) by administrations who may not be so friendly ... especially from its new position of strategic vulnerability,?

Weisglass also grossly underestimates the strategic significance of the Palestinian issue, blithely stating that it "does not pose an existential threat to Israel." Even if this were true, the security challenges that the Road Map withdrawals will necessarily create are likely to siphon off huge resources that could otherwise be devoted to other "existential threats."

And given the results of last year's war on the northern border, it seems a little flippant to dismiss as a "non-existential threat" the specter of regular Arab (or Iranian) troops deploying along an eastern frontier less than 10 miles from Tel Aviv, at the invitation of a future, more radical, Palestinian regime.

In light of the above it is difficult to avoid posing the following question: Can someone of Weisglass's stature really be unmindful of the glaring flaws in his proposal?

If he is, the citizens of this country should be deeply troubled as to the acumen, foresight and prudence of the people responsible for the formulation of national policy.

If he is not, there is even greater cause for concern. For then it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Weisglass's proposal is a reckless recommendation, reflecting distressing disregard for the nation's security.

Either way the Israeli public has cause for grave concern regarding the integrity and/or the intellect of those charged with shaping their future.

Comments on the original articles with additional information

1. "Sharon's advisors were clueless. weisglass: learned nothing"
dante, uk (10.01.07)

Israel's position vis a vis the arabs has been tentative, timid, and apologetic. under Sharon, Israel did not protect its people, its land, and did not protect its soldiers. the government did not protect Jewish rights to Jerusalem. can anyone figure out why Israel participated in the absurd and misnamed "prisoner exchange"? why did Israel not shout about the continued detention of Ron Arad, Zachary Baumol, ET AL.? and, why did Israel insist that the discussion of arab refugees would take place only after the issue of the larger number of far wealthier Jewish refugees from arab lands is resolved. and, of course, the tragedy of the ill-conceived expulsion from Gush Katif showed that Sharon's advisors did not have a clue and did not care to make the required plans for the expellees. weisglass deserves to be ignored.

8. "Bush is no friend; he is an enemy of Israel"
Steve, US (10.01.07)

Mr. Sherman wrote: "For if this administration really has such "great friendship" for Israel, why would it press Israel into the very same perilous position that far less friendly administrations have tried to foist on it before?"

Only days after the September 11, 2001 Saudi-backed, Muslim terrorist atrocities on American soil, Mr. Bush announced his "vision" for a Palestinian terrorist state in Israel.

Bush promised then Saudi Crown Prince Abduallah bin Abdul Aziz he would do this is a two page letter to the prince, August 2001. Saudi complicity in the September attacks left Bush unmoved.

Ariel Sharon protested early October 2001, pleading with the American leader to not do to Israel what the great powers did to tiny Czechoslovakia at Munich, 1938.

Sharon protested, "Don't appease the Arabs at our expense. Israel will fight terrorism..."

A couple of threatening phone calls from Secretary of State Colin Powell was all it took to get a public retraction from the politically weak Israeli prime minister.

It was then, only days after the September 11 attacks, I realized we had an enemy in the White House.

People, especially my fellow conservatives, don't like to hear this. Bush is an enemy of the Jewish state. End of story.

21. "Preventing Bush from installing a terror state"
Carl, Indianapolis, USA (10.02.07)

There's a column called "Preventing a Terror State" on Israel National News which says that many Congressmen would like to help Israel but ...

"because the government of Israel hesitates to challenge the Palestinian policies of the Bush administration, many members of Congress remain passive in their opposition to these policies; the truism about not wanting to be more Catholic than the Pope applies here.

Congresspersons are more likely to respond with vigorous opposition to the Bush policies if: they have solid, cutting-edge information on the issues; they hear from Israelis prepared to counter their government's passivity; and they are encouraged by their constituents to act."
(See "Preventing a Terror State" by David Bedein)

I've heard this before: Israelis do not seem to care enough for their land, so why should anyone else...

The author goes on to give suggestions to pro-Israel Americans on how to encourage those Congressmen and what information to give them.

For example:

All efforts in the USA should focus on the ways in which the Bush-Olmert policy is detrimental to US goals and best interests.

Bring Israeli experts to Washington DC to speak about PA textbooks, matters of security, etc., and hold briefings with key staff members on Capitol Hill.

Channel information on Fatah to key Congressional staffers, key members of the press and key opinion-makers.

Hold press conferences to expose information about Fatah with journalists.

Maybe you and I can't do that on our own, but we all belong to some social group and if we organize and pool our resources, we can get something started.

The way I see it is that even if this Roadmap attempt by Bush and Olmert fails or drags on for many months, the Arabs aren't giving up, so this is going to be a long campaign and our efforts should pay off in the end.

Battle fire with fire. The Arabs have a powerful lobby in the US, much wealthier and influential than the Israeli lobby, if there's one.... and we must counter their influence with solid, true information, and be relentless in our efforts.

So what if the Israeli government seems more like a pro-Arab than a pro-Israeli government. There are millions of us who can make a difference.

22. "To #18 Brooke"
Canadian Otter (10.02.07)

In answer to your question on another news story wandering what accounts for the madness of the present government in Israel, I too am at a loss.

Personally, I'm not surprised at the fact that corrupt people have crawled all the way to the top in almost all Israeli institutions. All countries have a share of corruption.

What is really a mystery to me is why are they still in power. It's amazing how they protect each other. I read that Dichter wanted to freeze the probe into allegations against Olmert, then backed down.

The whole system, including the Courts, seems stacked in favor of keeping the Left in power or at least Leftist policies in effect, even when popular support for the Left is very low.

I guess all that leads to some kind of demoralization in the population. I don't know. Maybe they think what's the use of demonstrating when nothing changes.

So that's something still unexplainable to me, why haven't everybody stormed the Knesset. Or at least swamped the MKs with e-mails and phone calls. Or demonstrated in front of the building....

My only hope now is that the Arabs' own internal disagreements will derail the Roadmap and save Israel from itself once again. And my own hope in G-d's intervention. Nothing but a miracle can save Israel now.

The Yesha kids are doing what they can with IDF guns pointed at them, Arabs throwing stones, and the Left harassing them everywhere they can, including the Courts.

But the politicians, including those who call themselves Right Wing, are just sitting pretty and doing nothing to save the country. It's madness, as you say. That's for sure.

25. "Retreats are illegal and dangerous"
Dr Yoram Shifftan (10.04.07)

This is an excellent article.

One should note that the long-range intention of the Arabs is reflected in their writings in Arabic, in their military preparations, in their education and propaganda, in particular with children. Their fudamental documents were never changed:

Abbas and the PA control the religious-journalistic-educational system which pours anti-Jewish hatred and yet they do not put an and to it, see PMW and Memri, e.g.:

It is more than reckless to curtail the almost non-existent strategic depth of present-day Israel. We should remember the relief the 6 day war brought because of this depth and the ability to be in the liberated territories (where Jews legally lived until 1948 but were driven out by Arab aggression).

But the integrity of those recommending further retreats is best seen in their concealing fundamental facts instead of asserting them in the national and international arenas. Why, for example, Israel's MFA does not attract the attention of the world to Jewish refugee from Arab countries? Why official Israel is not highlighting the fact that there is already Palestinian Arab state in four fifths of Palestine? see for example or the relevant chapter of Julius Stone's book "Israel and Palestine".

Why official Israel (Sharon-Olmert-Weissglass and their MFA) is not responding to the pernnial allegation about the "Israeli OCCUPATION of Arab land"? why not highlight Israel's rights according to international law, see e.g. even if only to decrease the motivation of Jew-killers and thus save Jewish blood? Or why they do not highligh the fact that all Jewish generations are the beneficiaries of the Palestine trust of the League of Nations whose obligations and rights are still valid and confirmed by the UN charter and international court of justice. Therefore the Weissglass-Sharon uprooting in summer 2005 was a violation of international law, and the current (roadmap) uprooting intentions of the Olmert-Weissglass school are illegal too in international law. See the first part of,, and

It is precisely because Ben Gurion was aware of this international law that it took much convincing that he would agree to surrender Gush Etzion in 1948, since he knew that this would be illegal according to international law, unless under real force- majeure circumstances (recall the massacre in the first kibbutz of the Jewish defenders despite the promises before the official surrender). Compare this legal behaviour of Ben Gurion in desperate circumstances to the illegal Sharon-Weissglass surrender of Gush Katif and North Shomron not at all under force-majeure desperate circumstances. It is because of this international law that Ben Gurion said in 1937:

"No Jew is at liberty to surrender the right of the Jewish Nation and the Land of Israel to exist. No Jewish body is sanctioned to do so. No Jew alive today has the authority to yield any piece of land whatsoever. This right is preserved by the Jewish people throughout the generations and cannot be forfeited under any circumstance. Even if at some given time there will be those who declare that they are relinquishing this right, they have neither the power nor the jurisdiction to negate it for future generations to come. The Jewish Nation is neither obligated by nor responsible for any waiver such as this. Our right to this land, in its entirety, is steadfast inalienable and eternal. And until the coming of the Great Redemption, we shall never yield this historic right."

Dr. Martin Sherman is in the Department of Political Science at Tel Aviv University. He was a senior research fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, and served for seven years in Israel's defense establishment. He has written extensively on water, including "The Politics of Water in the Middle East," London: Macmillan, 1999. To read Sherman, "Water in Israel: the Dry Facts", click here).

This article appeared as an opinion piece October 1, 2007 in Ynet News,7340,L-3454750,00.html


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