Olmert Give Up Sderot Too?
sooner had Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert taken off for
London, Paris and Berlin – against the advice of security
experts – when defense
minister Amir Peretz vetoed the IDF high command’s package of comprehensive
measures to scotch the ongoing Hamas all-out missile offensive.
it turned out, the first leg of the prime minister’s
tour was mostly a waste of time; British prime minister Tony
Blair declined to hear of his realignment plan for the West
Bank, even though Olmert pledged 90% of the West Bank for a
Palestinian state and a major effort to achieve a negotiated
agreement with the Palestinians. He also omitted to endorse
Olmert’s ringing declaration that Israel will not tolerate
a nuclear-armed Iran.
Israeli leader’s entire trip is dogged by TV footage
of a Palestinian child, 7 of whose relatives were killed in
an explosion on Gaza beach. It is taken for granted
that Israeli artillery was responsible, even though a military
probe points strongly in the direction of a Hamas bomb trap
laid on the beach for Israeli commandos.
its prime minister far away, the small town of Sderot is being
battered non-stop by Qassam missiles night and day from the
Gaza Strip one kilometer away. One citizen was seriously injured,
dozens suffered minor injures, the schools are shut for lack
of shelters, and a steady exodus of refugees is depleting the
struggling Negev town of 20,000 inhabitants.
Hamas threat to turn Sderot into a ghost town is coming true.
unprotected nearby villages and kibbutzim are taking damage
to homes, schools and farms, day by day.
Mayor Eli Moyal has accused the IDF of using only 5% of its
resources to stop the barrage. The figure is arbitrary but
his message is spot on.
he returns home, Ehud Olmert will no longer be able to escape
a decision to cut the Gordian knot and choose, after more than
five years of neglect by one government after another, between
saving Sderot by adopting the army’s recommendations
– at the risk of casualties on both sides – or losing Sderot
to a triumphant Hamas. The latter decision would bring about
the most significant Israeli withdrawal from sovereign territory
since 1948 and give the terrorists who rule the Palestinians
a free bite of the Israeli Negev.
town is forcing him to decide. Sderot, with its large immigrant
population and unemployment, had had enough of being used for
target practice by the Palestinian terrorists running loose
in the Gaza Strip. Now that the Hamas has taken over the Qassam
offensive, having ended its semi-truce with Israel last Thursday,
June 8, the barrage has intensified tenfold.
Sderot dilemma is complicated:
The danger hanging over the Negev – and potentially central
Israel – from the offensive waged by Israel’s most
ruthless and implacable enemies, is the direct consequence
of the unilateral pullback from the Gaza Strip which Ariel
Sharon orchestrated last summer with Olmert’s enthusiastic
Because he cannot admit the blunder and draw the logical tactical
conclusions, Israel’s military deterrent strength is
being ground down.
Israeli ministers’ stop-go decision-making habits are
further hobbling Israel’s military forces in their efforts
to put a stop to the Qassam offensive from Gaza. The Olmert
government appears more concerned with its international image
and attuning its policies to Washington and Europe than the
safety of its Negev citizens. Israeli artillery has been booming
in their ears for months, uselessly shelling vacant ground
in northern Gaza. The missiles keep on coming – but as
each day goes by without an adequate Israeli military response,
more people pack their possessions, lock up their houses and
townspeople were joined for the first time Monday, June 12,
by their kibbutz and village neighbors, who too are on the
point of deserting their homes.
these circumstances, the realignment plan Olmert is hard-selling
to foreign leaders makes less and less sense. Any part of the
West Bank Israel abandons for the sake of demarking its eastern
border – as the prime minister puts it – will go the same way
as Gaza. After the Negev, it will be the turn of Israel’s
heartland to come into close proximity of the Palestinian terrorist
bases that will be newly established there.
violence and fractiousness will spread like a forest fire
and threaten neighboring regimes. DEBKAfile’s Middle
East sources report that this warning was conveyed by Jordan’s
king Abdullah to President George W. Bush, in the name of
the Saudi monarch and the Egyptian president. The Jordanian
king informed Bush
that acceptance of any part of the Israeli prime minister’s
realignment plan would lead to a rift b between America and
the pro-US Arab governments of the Middle East.
same message went out to the French and German leaders whom
the Israeli prime minister met wit, namely, realignment
will generate the same upsurge of violence, instability and
damage to Israeli security as the Gaza disengagement – only
more so. He would have done better to visit Sderot.