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Our World: Ehud Olmert’s mythological settlements

Caroline Glick, THE JERUSALEM POST May. 15, 2006

Last week, as he presented his new government to the Knesset, Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert proclaimed that the scattered Israeli communities in Judea and
Samaria present a threat to the country and so they must be destroyed.

If what Olmert says is true, then no patriotic Israeli or friend of the
Jewish state can countenance the continued existence of these communities.
Doing so would be tantamount to providing aid and comfort to Israel’s

A central question for those who care about Israel and believe that its
national security is crucial in the global war against Islamofascism thus
becomes: Is Olmert correct when he states that scattered Israeli communities
in Judea and Samaria are a threat to Israel’s existence?

Olmert and his political associates provide two justifications for this
assertion. First, they claim that protecting these communities is a drag on
the resources of the IDF. They argue that the military would be able to
significantly cut back on its operations and troop levels in the areas if it
didn’t have to protect them.

Second, they claim that the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria create
friction with the Palestinians, and that this alleged friction is the root
of Palestinian and Arab resentment of Israel that motivates them to wage war
against the Jewish state.

According to this reasoning, if these communities were destroyed the
Palestinians would lose interest in fighting Israel and so, more than
terrorism, these communities are the reason that peace has eluded the
region. Yet when one examines these twin justifications, it becomes apparent
that Olmert’s claims are incorrect. Far from being a drag on IDF resources,
the isolated Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are a tactical and
strategic asset for the IDF.

Today, of all the thousands of IDF forces stationed in Judea and Samaria,
only some 300 troops are dedicated to protecting the Israeli communities in
the areas. Most of the communities that depend on IDF protection are located
in the Jordan Valley, along the international border with Jordan. The rest
of the forces in Judea and Samaria are stationed there in order to protect
Israel’s major cities – Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Afula, Netanya and
Beersheba – from attacks by terror forces operating in Judea and Samaria.

ISRAEL’S MILITARY doctrine has always recognized the necessity of defeating
Israel’s enemies before they are able to reach Israel’s population centers.
Israel is such a small country, and its urban areas are so densely populated
that it has always been understood that our enemies must not be allowed to
operate in our cities.
This view was vindicated between 1994 and 2002, when Israel transferred its
control over Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority. Throughout
those years the IDF drastically curtailed its operations in the areas. As a
result, for the first time since the 1950s Israel’s enemies were able to
consistently attack its civilian population centers, causing an
unprecedented civilian death toll. This trend was reversed only after
Israel’s counter-terrorist offensive in Judea and Samaria in April-May 2002,
when, during Operation Defensive Shield, the IDF reasserted its control over
the Palestinian towns and villages in Judea and Samaria. The drop in the
Israeli urban civilian casualty rate since then is the direct result of the
IDF’s maintenance of that control in a manner than enables it to
continuously curtail the seeding and growth of terror cells in the areas.

In Operation Defensive Shield, the IDF reached the city of Nablus in one
day. It was able to do so because it launched its operations against the
city from the isolated Israeli communities of Elon Moreh, Yizhar and
Itamar – all of which Olmert intends to destroy. The communities, and all
others like them, constituted friendly, fortified and stable forward
operating bases for the IDF.

If the IDF had not had these communities, it could easily have taken seven
to 10 days of heavy fighting for the IDF to have been in a position to
launch its offensive against Nablus. That fighting would have been over
control of the highways.

In Lebanon in the 1990s and in Gaza from 2000 on, the IDF surrendered
control of the highways to Hizbullah and the Palestinian terror units. Once
it lost control of the highways, it garrisoned its forces in static,
fortified locations and so surrendered the initiative to its enemies. In
both Lebanon and Gaza the IDF suffered its highest casualties from roadside
bombs and attacks on convoys.

The IDF has not suffered a similar fate in Judea and Samaria since 2000
because of the isolated communities in the areas. When Israeli families are
driving in unarmored cars, the IDF cannot very well limit itself to armored
convoy traffic. To a degree, it is the presence of the Israeli civilians in
the areas that has forced the IDF to maintain control of the roads. And it
is this IDF control of the roads that is most responsible for keeping
suicide bombers out of Israel’s major cities.

EVERY MONTH IDF forces intercept dozens of Palestinian terrorists at
roadblocks. The Hawara checkpoint outside Nablus on the road to Itamar, for
instance, has been the site of hundreds of such intercepts. By stopping them
at Hawara and in other isolated spots in close proximity to isolated Israeli
communities, the IDF saves the police the need to try to find the terrorists
in Jerusalem or Netanya and has saved the lives of countless Israelis who
would otherwise have been murdered.

Proponents of destroying the Israeli communities in Gaza argued that by
removing them Israel would gain the tactical benefit of shorter defensive
lines. Yet far from conferring a tactical advantage, the shortening of the
lines caused by the destruction of the communities of Gush Katif gave the
tactical advantage to Israel’s enemies.

Israel’s chief advantages over the Palestinian forces are its superior
technology and firepower. But these advantages are neutralized by our
enemies’ ability to carry out their attacks from among a civilian population
that Israel is unwilling to target.

Gush Katif constituted an irresistible target for the Palestinians. In
attempting to attack its communities, the terrorists were forced to separate
themselves from the protective shield of their civilian populations and so
exposed themselves to IDF guns. In most cases, they were killed.

Now that Israel has no communities in Gaza, it is unable to effectively
separate terrorists from the general population, and so its operations
against terror cells are both ineffective and open the IDF to condemnation
by the Israeli and international Left.

IN THE SAME manner, the isolated communities in Judea and Samaria have been
the site of countless terrorist operations. Some, like the massacres of the
Shebo family in Itamar and the Gavish family in Elon Moreh in 2002, have
been murderously successful. Most have failed at great cost to the

In all cases, the Israelis who live in these communities have demonstrated a
heroic willingness to place themselves at risk and accept losses to ensure
the security and well-being of the country as a whole.

Last Friday the PA’s Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said, “From Lebanon
to the West Bank, the Zionist enterprise is in retreat.” Haniyeh contrasted
this perceived retreat with what he views as the rise of the Palestinians on
all fronts. He singled out Arab Israelis for special commendation for
refusing to accept the existence of Israel within the 1949 armistice lines.

Against statements like Haniyeh’s, Olmert’s assertion that the existence of
isolated Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria is a root cause of the
Palestinian and Arab war against Israel today is exposed in all its
strategic blindness. Far from moderating the Palestinians, Israel’s retreat
from Gaza last summer radicalized them and their allies throughout the
Islamic world by fanning their faith that Israel will one day disappear

At the end of the day, Israel will achieve peace only when the Palestinians
and the Arab world in general accept the fact that Israel will never be
wiped off the map and so agree to peacefully coexist with the Jewish state.
By asserting that the commingling of Jews and Arabs in Judea and Samaria is
a cause of the war, Olmert is saying that there is no chance of ever
coexisting with the Arabs. In so doing, he is effectively telling Israel’s
worst enemies that they are right – that the Jews are retreating and will
eventually disappear if they keep fighting.

In light of all of this, it is terrifyingly clear that Israel’s new prime
minister has placed as the centerpiece of his government’s goals the
implementation of a policy that is based on mythology and will lead not to
the enhancement of Israel’s national security and the strengthening of the
forces fighting the global jihad, but to the destabilization of Israel’s
national security and a strategic defeat for the nations, led by the US,
that are fighting the war against Islamofascism.]

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