The Meretz party is narrowly threading its way. On Lebanon, it voices some qualified support for military action but also acts outside the overwhelming consensus enough to draw harsh fire, labeling it as unpatriotic. Meretz MKs abstained on a recent no-confidence vote, protesting the government’s apparent lack of an exit strategy.
Yossi Beilin was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle, three days ago, with the following:
“[Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah managed to unite Israel in a way that no president, prime minister or chief of staff has ever been able to do. Our operation is very much justified,” said Yossi Beilin, leader of the left-wing Meretz party.
Beilin also sounded a note of caution.
“Without a diplomatic process, this story will never end. Anyone who thinks that the Hezbollah will be pushed back and the kidnapped soldiers returned through military action alone is wrong,” he said.
The following analysis by MK Beilin of the situation in Gaza is from a Haaretz feature, reprinted in the July 14 issue of The Forward, in which he was one of four prominent Israeli security and political figures interviewed:
…. People on both the right and the left believed a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza would strengthen the extremists, who do not want dialogue and peace. That is exactly what happened. From the point of view of many Palestinians, the withdrawal proved it is possible to achieve with violence what cannot be achieved by negotiation. Ten years of dialogue did not produce the results of four years of intifada.
No Palestinian bought the spin according to which the disengagement was due to some deep political consideration on the part of Sharon. The disengagement was perceived as capitulation to terrorism. It played into the hands of Hamas, which used it to show that it was the only one that could liberate territories. Did Hamas win only because of the disengagement? No. But the disengagement gave it a tremendous advantage….
As a result of the disengagement and as a result of the waste of an entire year in which Abu Mazen was in total control in the PA – from January 2005 until January 2006 – many Palestinians formed the impression that the Jews understand only force. Those Palestinians concluded that only the use of force and more force and more force would get Israel out of the West Bank in the same way that Israel left Gaza. Even before the Hamas victory, pragmatic Palestinian leaders asked me in closed meetings what in the world Israel was doing to them, why Israel was rendering them irrelevant. After all, it is very difficult to persuade the Palestinian public to embark on the oath of compromise and negotiations when Israel is giving everything for free, as a consequence of violent pressure.
Not long ago one of the most senior and most moderate of the Palestinians told me even harsher things. “For years, he said, “we have been struggling on the Palestinian street for an Israeli-Palestinian peace. We explain that we have to accept the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and an exchange of territories and agree to demilitarization and make a compromise on the question of the refugees, so that in the end there will be a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But if Israel leaves all of Gaza and 90 percent of the West Bank, do you think we will be able [to] persuade any Palestinian to agree to these painful concessions in return for the remaining 10 percent of the area?”
… [T]he cumulative result of the disengagement and the realignment will not be the hastening of a political process, but a forgoing of a political process. I say this unequivocally: the unilateral withdrawals distance the prospect for peace. We are asking the Palestinians to forgo quite a lot in a peace agreement. They will not agree to that in return for 10 percent of the West Bank.
The disengagement had two virtues. One was that, as a result, we rule fewer Palestinians. The second was that it created the precedent of the evacuation of settlements on a massive scale. In both of those senses, it succeeded. But if anyone thought it would bring calm, the disengagement failed. If anyone thought it would bring us closer to a political process, it failed. It was the most idiotic way to leave Gaza…. It gave the Palestinians the feeling that there is no reason to make concessions and it gave the Israelis the feeling that withdrawals do not produce quiet. And now both of those feelings are mutually reinforcing each other. The Palestinians say that only force leads to withdrawal and are using force, and the Israelis see that use of force and conclude that withdrawal only heightens the violence.
I foresaw this. I knew the disengagement would strengthen Hamas and that if it was not followed by negotiations, it would also heighten the violence. As a result, I faced a harsh dilemma over whether to support the disengagement. What tipped the scale is that a party like Meretz could not vote against the ending of occupation, however partial, or against the evacuation of settlements. A party like Meretz has no choice in this matter. . . .
So I supported the disengagement… even though it was the most wrong-headed idea in the world. Now Olmert is talking about convergence. It’s clear that convergence is the most idiotic way to leave the West Bank. To leave 90 percent of the area? To leave without negotiations? Without a quid pro quo? Without an agreement?
Last week I met Olmert and I told him: Benjamin Netanyahu is sitting here. He says the partner is weak and he doesn’t trust him and therefore he is not budging. I think he is wrong but I understand his logic. What I don’t understand, Olmert, is your logic…. What are you saying? That I have a weak partner whom I do not trust and therefore I am giving him 90 percent of the area for free?
It’s clear, you know, what will happen in the territories if we implement the convergence. We will have Hamastan on both sides. While the whole world is fighting Islamic terrorism, we lend a hand to the development of a terror source. And we will make [an] historic concession of recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and on recognition of our eastern border, and on the removal from the agenda of the refugee problem….
Anyone who gives up 90 percent of the area and thinks this is an opening to [further] negotiations is hallucinating. A unilateral withdrawal from 90 percent of the West Bank means that there will be no incentive for a Palestinian leader ever to reach an agreement with us. The convergence means the most dramatic possible diminishment of the chance to reach a peace agreement in our lifetime.
The convergence is worse than the disengagement from another point of view as well. In the disengagement, at least there was the complete evacuation of the settlements. Not one settler remained in the Gaza Strip. In the convergence, in contrast, the intention is to sweeten the pill for the settlers by allowing 70,000 of them to live in the 10 percent of the territory that will remain in Israel?s hands. That means building 15,000 homes across the Green Line. It means a building boom in the settlement blocs. We will not lend a hand to that. At most we will vote in favor of disengagement in the West Bank; we will not vote in favor of convergence. If the departure from the West Bank is conditional on the building of settlement blocs, we will vote against the convergence. Under no circumstances will we raise our hands to support massive building in blocs.
Therefore, the convergence plan will not pass. Without Merertz, Olmert has 55 supporters on a clear day. With us, he has 60 and the prospect of support or abstention by the Arab parties. If we vote against the convergence, there is no chance that an Arab party will support it or abstain. On the other hand, if we vote for disengagement, there is a chance that some of them will vote in favor or abstain, in which case Olmert might have a narrow majority. So I say that there will be no convergence. Politically, there cannot be convergence. It is utterly absurd. But there might be disengagement.
It is possible that in the end I will again support and cry. We are liable to undertake a historic move, which I will support, and which will prevent the attainment of the Zionist goal: a Jewish state living in peace with its neighbors. That could happen. But Ehud Olmert is intelligent. I respect him. So I hope he knows that he bears a heavy responsibility.
And I insist that before leading us into such a wrongheaded move that he give us an explanation. An explanation of the logic. After all, he knows today that he will not get international recognition for the West Bank line. The Europeans told him explicitly that there is no chance that Europe will recognize his border as a permanent border. And if he said 90 percent as an opening position, he will get to 95 percent, too. In my opinion, he will not be able to get to less than 100 percent. And, if so, why not try an agreement? If you are ready to pay a Beilin price, why not try to get a Beilin quid pro quo?
Take the worst-case scenario. Take the scenario in which, on the day after the signing, the Palestinian partner leaves for Paris and does not implement anything. You will still have foreign embassies in Jerusalem. You will still have diplomatic relations with Arab states. You will have international recognition of the eastern border. You will have no refugees on your head. So why not do it? For 10 percent? For 530 square kilometers? This is an incomprehensible approach. Incomprehensible. So I say that you can be Bibi. That has logic to it. And you can be Beilin. I certainly think that has logic. But you cannot be Olmert. Olmert’s unilateral conception lacks all logic.”