On the front lines
My home is alongside the ambulance route in Jerusalem so I don't need to listen to the radio to know when bombs go off in the city. If I don't hear the blasts themselves, I hear the ambulance convoys – their sirens screeching and howling as they pummel into traffic on their way to evacuate wounded and take them to the trauma wards. The sirens are a constant reminder that I live on the front lines of the war.
By noon yesterday, I received a more personalized confirmation of this fact. I heard news that among the wounded in yesterday's carnage are two of my friends. One is still in surgery as I write these lines. I am told that his wounds are not life threatening. The other, who got off with a broken knee, lies in Shaare Zedek's orthopedic ward awaiting word of whether she needs surgery.
Government sources were quick to tell us that there is no connection between the carnage in Rehavia and the deal negotiated with Hizbullah that was proceeding in Germany as our enemies murdered and maimed us in the streets of Jerusalem. Science Minister Eliezer Sandberg announced, "There is no connection and it is forbidden to make a connection between the bombing and the deal for the prisoner swap."
The fact that the PLO's Fatah terror group claimed responsibility for the attack on Hizbullah television should give considerable pause to those like Sandberg who protest that there is no connection. In fact Fatah and Hizbullah have been cooperating closely since late 2001. Fatah receives funding and direction from Iran. Hizbullah is an Iranian organization.
The date of the prisoner swap was announced publicly last week. No doubt, Hizbullah has known the date for some time. There is no reason not to suspect that this information was passed on to Fatah and so today was chosen for the attack. What better way for Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah to declare complete victory over Israel than for his allies to carry out a massacre of Israeli civilians the day he secures the release of hundreds of their terrorist brethren?
We shouldn't be surprised that our national leadership is making such statements in the wake of the bombing. In the sensational build-up to the prisoner swap, we have received a full diet of groundless assertions by our leadership. IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon for instance said on Tuesday in the Knesset that Hizbullah would be unlikely to resume kidnappings after the prisoner swap because its leadership knows that the IDF will respond militarily to such an action. Even Channel 2's left-wing commentator Amnon Abramovich couldn't resist mentioning that given Israel's decision not to retaliate for the abduction of our soldiers and subsequent Hizbullah attacks, Israeli threats today have little credibility with Nasrallah.
Indeed, how can anyone with a modicum of common sense make the argument that terror doesn't pay when they look at the current positions of our government and security brass? Hizbullah received 461 live terrorists and 59 dead terrorists for going to the trouble of abducting and murdering our soldiers and kidnapping Elhanan Tannenbaum. If that isn't a good payoff for terrorism, what is?
And yet, the deal with Hizbullah is but one of the strategic errors of the government in recent days and weeks.
On Sunday, the government approved the election of Irineos I as the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem. In July 2001, Irineos penned a letter to PA chief Yasser Arafat riddled with anti-Semitic slanders. He told Arafat that the Jews are "crucifying" the Palestinians. In addition, Irineos informed Arafat that he looked forward to cooperating with Arafat in Jerusalem. Irineos has claimed that the letter is a forgery, but a police investigation, which was closed two weeks ago, substantiated its authenticity. Sources close to the investigation say that three people were with Irineos when he penned the letter and all provided testimony to the police that the letter was authentic.
The Greek Orthodox Church is the largest landowner in Israel after the Jewish National Fund. The church owns large swathes of Rehavia and Talbiyeh neighborhoods in Jerusalem including the land on which the Knesset, the Prime Minister's Residence and the President's Residence are located. As patriarch, Irineos will have the power to refuse to renew the leases for the land when they come due in the coming years.
The cabinet had no reason to approve the appointment. Israel is under no obligation to approve the lifetime appointment of an anti-Semite to an office which owns such sensitive sites. One must wonder what motivated our ministers to approve this appointment that risks handing control of such vital properties to Arafat's friend. In an interview with Kul al-Arab last week, Irineos's spokesman said that the cabinet bowed to pressure from the US and Greek governments as well as to pressure from Israeli businessmen in approving the appointment.
It is hard to imagine what sort of pressure could have possibly justified such a dangerous move. And yet, Irineos's appointment is small potatoes when compared with the prime minister's newest plan to unilaterally withdraw from Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. This plan is packaged as a way of enhancing Israel's security. And yet, any way one looks at it, it involves the surrender of control of large swathes of strategically vital areas of Judea and Samaria to terrorists in the midst of war.
In the hours after yesterday's attack, unnamed government sources were quick to see the massacre as a way to advance the program. Sources claimed to Ynet, "If the Palestinians were behind fences, maybe they would finally reach the conclusion that terror doesn't pay." This little bit of strategic wishful thinking was apparently directed toward the two US envoys, David Satterfield and John Wolf, who are here visiting this week in yet another attempt to draw water from a rock and get Palestinian terrorists to reform themselves. The sources argued, "The unilateral steps the prime minister advocates are the only way to save the president's vision and the road-map plan."
How exactly a unilateral withdrawal under fire by Israeli security forces would advance anything other than Yasser Arafat's vision of the destruction of Israel is unclear. Why would the forced transfer of Israeli citizens from their homes in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and the redeployment of IDF forces out of Palestinian population centers, make the situation better for Israel and worse for the PLO?
Advocates of Sharon's plan claim that it has four distinct advantages for Israel. They say that unilateral withdrawal will reduce contact between Israel and the Palestinians and, as a result, lessen the Palestinians' desire and ability to kill Israelis. They say that if the IDF leaves the Palestinian population centers and redeploys behind static barriers like the fence, Israel's lines of defense will be enhanced. They say that an Israeli withdrawal will increase the international legitimacy of Israeli counter-terror measures in the future and they argue that unilateral withdrawal will enhance Israel's demographic balance with the Arabs.
But the Palestinians, like their ally Hizbullah, have already proven all these contentions false.
When Israel transferred control of Palestinian cities to the PLO, the government built bypass roads around the cities to enable Israelis to drive through the territories without contact with the Palestinians. Yet, this move to prevent contact failed to prevent attacks. The Palestinian gunmen simply left the cities and began shooting Israeli motorists on the bypass roads. In so doing they proved that it isn't contact with Israelis that moves Palestinian terrorists to murder, it is the existence of Israelis that moves them to murder. Retreating behind a barrier won't make them stop killing us. It will only make them change their route of approach.
The fact of the matter is that Arafat has taken the territory that Israel transferred to his control and transformed it into a terror fiefdom. If IDF forces withdraw, these areas will not magically become islands of tranquility. They will, like South Lebanon, become strongholds of terrorists who will train and arm and set out for attacks from their now safe havens.
The main reason that Israel has yet to seriously retaliate against Hizbullah is that Hizbullah, in the wake of the IDF's withdrawal from South Lebanon, has deployed thousands of rockets along the border. If Israel attacks, they will launch the rockets against us. So who has deterred whom here?
Another reason for lack of action by the IDF against this unacceptable terrorist threat is international pressure. The US opposes IDF action in Lebanon for fear that such action will destabilize the region. Why would the US respond differently to attacks emanating from behind the fence after an IDF withdrawal?
Finally, how will the demographic balance be in any way enhanced by the withdrawal? The only population that will dwindle as a result of the plan is the Israeli population in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Aside from that, the situation will be unaffected.
In short, the prime minister's withdrawal plan will simply reenact in Judea, Samaria and Gaza the IDF retreat from Lebanon in 2000. The Palestinians see the plan as such. Hizbullah too sees it as such.
As Thursday's massacre in Jerusalem proved, yet again, our terrorist enemies have transformed our entire country into a frontline community. Our enemies see no difference between civilians on a bus, soldiers on a border or businessmen traveling in the Persian Gulf. All of us are targets for murder, blackmail and manipulation.
They view Israeli retreats as their victory. They view Israeli concessions as their gain. This week's retreats have no doubt played into our enemies' hands. If our leadership's strategic blindness is not soon rectified it may usher in a more dangerous phase in our war for national survival.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.