Tzipi and the drug lords
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has finally found a mission she can sink her teeth into. This week Israel's would-be prime minister declared that she will leave no stone unturned in her quest to commute the sentences of two Israeli drug dealers just condemned to death by a court in Thailand.
Yigal Mahluf and Vladimir Agronik were arrested in Bangkok last December while in possession of some 23,000 Ecstasy pills. Livni has promised that she will take their case all the way to the King of Thailand if she needs to.
Livni's decision to champion degenerates appears to be just another example of what happens when a government has no sense of priorities. Indeed, she seems to have no idea what her job is. Rather than use diplomacy to advance the national interest, Livni uses diplomacy to help two criminals who have harmed Israel's reputation. More tellingly, she embraced these national embarrassments the same week she chose to do nothing as Israel was repeatedly condemned for its crime of existing at the UN General Assembly.
As it does every year, this week the UN marked the General Assembly's November 29, 1947 decision to accept the partition of the British Mandate of Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state with a full schedule of events bemoaning that decision and decrying the existence of Israel. If Livni had any sense of priorities, she would have used the week as a means of delegitimizing the UN, which is today the largest and most powerful anti-Semitic organization in the world.
She would have ordered Israel's ambassadors in places like Thailand to use the week as a way of persuading foreign governments to stop supporting the UN's anti-Semitic agenda. But instead, her ministry announced that it was going to ignore the UN this week. There is no point, the Foreign Ministry said, to defending the country when the cards are stacked against us. The notion that Israel can win by losing never seemed to occur to Livni.
ARGUABLY MORE disturbing than Livni's failure to grasp the purpose of diplomacy is what her embrace of drug dealers tells us about what she values, and what the government she represents values. Livni's actions on behalf of Mahluf and Agronik call to mind the government's decision to free unrepentant baby killer Samir Kuntar and four other Hizbullah terrorists and hand over the bodies of 200 Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian terrorists to Hizbullah, in exchange for the bodies of murdered IDF reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser this past July.
Livni, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and their colleagues presented their decision as a testament to their commitment to IDF soldiers. But in their self-praise they conveniently forgot that their actions empowered Israel's enemies and so increased the chance of war. Far from a testament to their dedication to IDF soldiers, their decision increased the chance that countless soldiers and civilians will be killed in another war.
As with the bodies-for-terrorists swap last summer, so with the clemency-for-drug-dealers this week, Livni exhibits a consistent moral obtuseness in her repeated habit of placing the interests of the few above the general interest of the country. And then after abandoning the common good, she cynically presents her devotion to the few as proof of her patriotism and leadership skills.
While Livni's actions lend to the conclusion that the government lacks any sense of priorities, the truth is far more disturbing. The fact of the matter is that the Olmert-Livni-Barak government lobbies for drug dealers and frees baby killers not because they don't know what they are doing. They advance these absurd policies to divert public scrutiny away from their actual priorities - which are truly dangerous.
One of the government's main priorities is to inculcate Israel's vital national institutions with its perverse view of the national interest. Doing so will ensure that Israel suffers from the government's legacy of incompetence and failure long after it is gone.
Take the IDF for instance. Last week the Prime Minister's Office leaked a classified document to Haaretz which detailed the view of senior military brass that Israel should give the Golan Heights to Iran's best Arab friend Syria. By placing its national security in the hands of Iran's Arab proxy, the General Staff claims absurdly that Israel will be better off because Assad will disavow the very ties to Iran to which he owes Israel's willingness to give him the Golan Heights.
More than anything else, the leaked document showed that despite all the added training that soldiers have undergone since the Second Lebanon War, and all the talk about learning the lessons of that war, the IDF is still led by politicized generals who are willing to sacrifice the nation's security if it makes them popular with the leftist media.
Top commanders like Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, OC Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin and their underlings are the legacy of this government which promoted them. Their unreasonable and frankly dangerous willingness to trust Assad exposes an ugly truth: If Hizbullah (which thanks to Livni, Olmert, Barak and their strategically challenged IDF subordinates has tripled its military strength since the 2006 war) renews its war against Israel tomorrow, there is no reason to believe that the IDF would be any more successful in defending the country and defeating Hizbullah than it was in 2006.
The corruption of the IDF General Staff by incompetent and opportunistic leaders exposes clearly some of the massive challenges that will face the next government. But those challenges pale in comparison to the strategic disaster that Olmert, Livni and Barak are preparing for their successors.
IN ITS waning days in office, the Olmert-Livni-Barak government is seeking to tether the next government to a set of policies that when taken separately and together empower the country's enemies, destroy Israel's strategic importance as a US ally and make it impossible for Israel to defend itself either diplomatically or militarily.
During his visit last week to Washington, Olmert set out his agenda for his last months in office. First, he is ceding massive amounts of territory to the Palestinians. And second, he is seeking to commit the next government to ceding still more territory to the Palestinians.
Over the past few months, Olmert has been rolling back all of the IDF's military successes from Operation Defense Shield in 2002. He is transferring control over Judea and Samaria to Palestinian militias and restraining IDF operations in the areas to such a degree that within a short period of time, the Palestinians will be able to rebuild their terror infrastructures in the areas. This week Bethlehem was the latest city surrendered to the Palestinians and from which the IDF will be all but barred from operating. Hebron, Jenin, and Nablus have already been handed over to Fatah.
Olmert's massive land giveaways are being carried out with absolutely no public discussion. They are being billed as a way to "empower" weak, lame-duck Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. But the fact is that they simply set the course for Hamas's takeover of Judea and Samaria.
As for Hamas, while Olmert was in Washington, he sent his emissary Amos Gilad to Cairo to negotiate an extension of Israel's one-sided cease-fire with Hamas. The cease-fire that Gilad secured this summer did four things. It enabled Hamas to stage a massive build-up of its military capabilities in Gaza free from any threat of Israeli attack. It surrendered the military initiative to Hamas. It paved the way for Hamas's international legitimization. And it committed Israel to cease its counter-terror operations in Judea and Samaria six months later.
This last devastating aspect of the cease-fire is the least discussed. Hamas demanded that in return for its limitation of rocket and mortar offensives against southern Israel, Israel cease its counter-terror efforts not only in Gaza, but in Judea and Samaria as well. Israel balked but reportedly agreed to curtail its activities in Judea and Samaria in six months.
In the intervening six months, Israel has set the conditions to do just that. By transferring control over Palestinian cities to Fatah, which is no match for Hamas, Israel has not only curtailed its own operations. It has set the conditions for a Hamas takeover of Judea and Samaria in the coming year.
But this not all Olmert is doing. Aside from actually handing over territory to the Palestinians, Olmert is striving to commit Israel's next government to ceding still more territory including all remaining portions of Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem to the Palestinians. With Livni's full support, Olmert is attempting to conclude a US-guaranteed agreement with Abbas that will make such Israeli concessions binding on his successors.
If the next government tries to disavow Olmert's 11th hour surrender talks, Olmert is setting conditions that will make it all but impossible for the country to disengage from his commitments without wrecking its relations with Washington. During his visit to the US capital, Olmert sought to formalize his view that Israel is a US client state rather than a US ally and so render it all but impossible for a future Israeli government to stand up to US pressure.
Olmert's declared goal in his meeting with President George W. Bush was to have Bush provide a meaningless pledge that the incoming Obama administration and the Congress will honor Bush's already proffered empty pledge to provide Israel with financial handouts for the next decade. By presenting his request for handouts - in the midst of the gravest financial crisis to hit the US economy in decades - as his chief concern, Olmert cast Israel as a strategic liability and welfare case and so tried to undermine any residual US support for Israel as a strategic ally and asset for Washington.
AND THIS isn't all. While Olmert surrenders Israel's military initiative to its enemies on all fronts and wrecks Israel's most important international alliance, he seeks to take away Israel's long-term capacity to defend itself from future military and diplomatic assaults. With his enthusiastic embrace of the so-called Saudi peace plan, Olmert is committing Israel to accepting the Arab narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The Saudi plan is predicated on the wholly mendacious claim that there has never been any Arab aggression against Israel - only Israeli aggression against Arabs and legitimate Arab resistance to Israel. With Olmert now giving his stamp of approval to the Saudi plan, he is denying the country its moral right to defend itself both militarily and diplomatically.
In the coming weeks, as the elections draw near, the Israeli public will be subject to countless mini-crises of the magnitude of the plight of Livni's drug dealers to convince the public that she is a competent leader. Some of these crises will be aimed at obfuscating the fact that she is a full partner in Olmert's agenda. But no matter what their proximate cause, all of these crises will serve the wider aim of hiding the government's real priorities and actions from the public.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.