Israel Update 

A False Calm Leading to Failed Peace:
Is This Israel's Future?

By Sarah Ann Haves


Exclusive to The Messianic Vision

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s political problems have not deterred him from his ambitions to find a solution to every problem Israel faces diplomatically and militarily.  He is taking an active role to further every possible avenue of a comprehensive peace with the Arabs, and he is looking at every possible way of providing Israelis with security, preparing for a possible military confrontation with Iran, while holding Hamas to a tentative cease-fire agreement in Gaza.

Olmert’s negotiations with the Palestinians and Syrians for a peace settlement comes at the same time that indirect negotiations are going on with Hezbollah and Hamas for a prisoner exchange.  Whether the steps he has taken politically are for selfish reasons or for the good of the country remains to be seen.  Nine out of 10 Israelis believe he is corrupt. Citizens are dismayed with his continued political manipulations to hold on to power as leader of the Kadima party and as Prime Minister of Israel, despite the cloud of possible indictment hanging over his head.

It’s worth noting one significant decision that Olmert’s government has taken recently.  After oscillating on military action vis-a-vis Gaza, Olmert’s Security Cabinet finally voted to accept a six month tahadiya (period of calm) with Hamas.  It’s been the Security Cabinet’s conclusion that it is better to have a time-out from the constant rocket barrage against border town communities, and hope for a possible release of P.O.W. Corporal Gilad Shalit, than it is to send in ground troops in a military confrontation with Hamas, even though Olmert realizes the latter is inevitable. He knows that Hamas will continue to try and smuggle weapons into Gaza during this time, even with Egypt’s attempt to stop the infiltration. In addition, Hamas will look to increase its power base not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) -- hoping to eventually usurp power from Fatah in the West Bank as suddenly as it did in Gaza in June 2007.

Olmert’s tendency in the Lebanon War of 2006 was to try and stop Hezbollah’s advancement on Israel’s northern border, by going after rocket launchers and terrorists, but relying mainly on air power.  Olmert’s unsuccessful plans ended in a truce with Hamas but no apparent victory for Israel.  What Olmert failed to do in that war was to send in ground troops early enough to try and obliterate Hezbollah’s war machine.  Olmert did not use the full capacity of IDF ground forces. 

Olmert’s actions in Gaza have been similar in that he has used air power to target rocket launchers and terrorists, but has been unable to wipe out the terror infrastructure that continues to rain rockets down on Israeli civilians in Sderot and the Negev. Hand to hand combat with Hamas could mean a significant loss of ground forces which Olmert is not willing to risk.
Before accepting the tahadiya with Hamas, Olmert tried, somewhat successfully, to show the world community a political distinction between Gaza and the West Bank.  In attempting to settle terms with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, that would guarantee the Palestinians a state on West Bank land, Olmert strived to isolate Hamas in Gaza. Because Hamas has continued to refuse to recognize the Jewish state, and accept international conditions, Olmert has been able to convince global leaders not to do business with the terrorist entity....that is, up until now.  The tahadiya, negotiated indirectly between Hamas and Israel, which met many of the terrorist group’s demands, has unfortunately legitimized more direct contact between Hamas and Western leaders.  This has become a fundamental problem for Israel.  In other words, if Israel can have indirect negotiations with Hamas, why can’t Western leaders do the same?

Dr. Matti Steinburg, former Senior Advisor to the heads of the Israeli General Security Service (GSS) spoke, recently, at the Mishkenot media forum in Jerusalem. He explained that for Hamas there is only one solution and that is an Islamic solution.  “Hamas is not expected to give political concessions to Israel.  Hamas is an ideological movement. There is room for maneuvering, but this is defined by their model of management of conflict.”
For Hamas the solution to the problem between the Palestinians and Israel is a one-state solution -- Palestine in all of Israel.  That means that Israelis would have to leave the land of Israel, or be living as subordinates to an Islamic entity. 

Israeli leaders like Steinberg are continuing to push for a two-state solution, which would still divide Israeli territory. They are looking to divide the land into two entities -- an Israeli state next to a state of Palestine. They hold on to the possibility that Israel will not be required to give up all Jewish settlement cities; and, will not have to share political power in the city of Jerusalem.  But, the Arab states have agreed to the Arab Initiative plan proposed years ago by Saudi Arabia, which does insist on those requirements.  To date, there has not been an agreement on a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, and prospects do not look good.

It is possible that during this six-month period, the Palestinian people, themselves, will give up on a two-state settlement, and begin to demand a one-state solution according to Islamic ideology...a sure formula for war.
According to Steinberg, “Whenever the leaders of Hamas talk, the Hamas wants a Palestinian state, according to the lines of 1967, but they are very insistent not to say, ‘side by side with Israel.’ A Palestinian state to the 1967 line means withdrawal of settlements, division of Jerusalem, in return for time....only time; maybe 5 years; maybe 10 years.”  Such a solution would not bring an end to the Middle East conflict.

Analysts in Israel believe there are negative effects to the current period of calm between Israel and Hamas.  Within six or more months, the Palestinian nationalist movement could be doomed politically, taken over by much more radical forces within Islam who will not engage in a final peace agreement with Israel.  Currently, the Palestinians in the West Bank still want to prove their nationalist model with Israel is the correct political model for the future, and Hamas wants to convince the Palestinians that the model of radical Islamic ideology in Gaza is the correct political model for the future.  But, will either model work?  And, should Israel be compromising land for peace in the first place?

In governing Gaza, Hamas needs political stability right now, and the tahadiya is necessary to achieve that stability. Hamas wants to reduce economic and social problems within Gaza society. They want open borders so that Gazans have more freedom of movement. They want to see the siege on Gaza lifted so there’s greater humanitarian aid reaching their population, and they want more political acceptance by Western nations.  The question is, will these goals achieve security for Israel, especially if the borders are open and terrorists can infiltrate?

To achieve their objectives, Hamas will look to form a national unity government with Fatah leaders, but only according to the dictates of Hamas.  This would include setting up a puppet government and giving limited presidential powers to Abbas or another Fatah leader that takes his place. Hamas would push their political agenda behind the scenes in what appears publicly to be a legitimate democratic government run by Fatah, and acceptable to Western leaders. But, behind that government Hamas would look to take over more and more territorial control from Israel through military confrontation, using other terrorist groups to carry out attacks; terrorists that are aligned with the ideology of Hamas. 

In Lebanon, Hezbollah has become a state within a state.  It has controlling powers in the government, and power on the streets of much of Lebanese territory, but it is not seen, publicly, as responsible for the daily affairs of the nation. Hamas is looking at that as a successful model for Gaza and the West Bank.

Israel may be aware of this scenario, but is more concerned now, with keeping Hamas out of the political picture, hoping to settle with the Palestinians before the last breath of Palestinian nationalism is expelled.

Meanwhile, Steinberg believes that Israel should have been the one to initiate a period of calm on its own timetable to stop the rocket war against its citizens. “Now, we are seen as being dragged into this policy -- to the management of the conflict by Hamas,” he explains.  It currently appears, politically, like Hamas forced the tahadiya on Israel.  Hamas also appears to have the upper hand, which weakens Israel’s negotiating power with the Palestinians and Arab states. 

To date, the period of calm has held despite some rocket fire hitting Israeli border towns. But, there is still no sign of Corporal Shalit’s release from Gaza.  Hamas is demanding the release of 450 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.  With no pre-determined Israeli POW policy on hand, Hamas may extract such a high price from Israel. This is especially true because Israel’s POW in Gaza, and the situation of Israel’s two POW’s in Lebanon (Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev), is being discussed and debated openly in Israeli society.  Furthermore, the families of the POW’s are taking their cases against the government to the Supreme Court.

For the time being, Olmert will continue to work on other diplomatic and military fronts until he achieves a victory for Israel while in public office.  He will work until he succeeds; and, so far, nobody has been successful in stopping him from trying to reach his determined goals.  But, many are praying that his objectives will benefit the country and not just the legacy he leaves behind. Otherwise, Israelis have much to lose in reaching for the fulfillment of their security needs in this often hostile region of the world. 

“Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time.” Deuteronomy 4:39-40

Ms. Haves
is a news analyst, reporting from Israel on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues affecting the nation.

(c) 2008 Messianic Vision all rights reserved. This article is not reproducible except with permisson from Messianic Vision. 

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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