"There are only two ways of telling the complete truth—anonymously and posthumously."Thomas Sowell

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Christmas Derangement

From Yahoo News:

Israel agreed Monday to remove some of the military roadblocks that have hindered Palestinian travel in the West Bank, one of several gestures aimed at boosting moderate President Mahmoud Abbas in his bitter struggle with the militant Islamic Hamas.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert approved streamlining checkpoints and removing roadblocks "to strengthen moderate (Palestinian) elements," according to a statement from his office. Olmert has already offered $100 million in frozen tax income to Abbas and indicated he might release some Palestinian prisoners.

Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said inspections would be eased at 16 checkpoints, and 27 unmanned roadblocks would be removed. Also, crossings for people and cargo between Gaza and Israel would be upgraded "in order to accelerate the economy in Gaza to lessen the poverty and despair."

This may appear as insane to you, Gentle Reader, as it does to your Curmudgeon. But, needless to say, it does not appear insane to Ehud Olmert. Why?

Heads of state habitually favor other heads of state, including heads of hostile states and pseudo-states such as "Palestine," over other forms of life. It's midway between professional courtesy and a fantasy that elected officials are inherently supreme over their peoples. Olmert probably believes he can buttress terrorist-turned-politician Abu Mazen -- Abbas's cognomen from his terrorist days -- in a fashion that will conduce to the security of his own consitutents. But has he reckoned with the hostility of HAMAS, or with that of the many thousands of Palestinians who voted HAMAS into overwhelming power? Is his belief in the supremacy of political authority as firm as that?

Possibly. And let's be candid: Olmert could be right even against such formidable odds. But he's playing high-stakes poker with the lives of Israeli citizens, when the evidence is strong that the dominant sentiment in the West Bank is viruently hostile to Israel. If the slackening of security eventuates in an increase in Israeli deaths at Palestinians' hands, will he take responsibility for the outcome? Will he admit that his gambit has failed and should be retracted?

Admitting their mistakes is another thing heads of state don't do terribly often.


Tom Van Dyke said...

I have read, in those western media personal interest stories (none of which are ever interested in say, the grieving family of a terrorism victim) that the roadblocks and checkpoints are the main daily interface between the two peoples---both sides are quite obstreperous, the Israelis for fear of being blown up by somebody's grandmother and the Palestinians because that's how they generally go about things.

To give the non-Hamas political forces some breathing room to inhale some popular support, it's my guess Olmert is doing what he can. The options have become severely limited.

Besides, glorious victories over invading Arab states, like in the golden days, suited Israel just fine, but as for recreating the role of the Roman centurions in that part of the world, well, their heart just isn't in it.

Evanston said...

Even more disheartening than the use & removal of checkpoints as "gestures" is the "good will" release of prisoners/criminals. The military and police arrest them for good reason but see politicians let them go. As a post-Vietnam era veteran, I was trained by men who knew that politicians had no real staying power and the American people (whom we often referred to as "slimey civilians" -- sorry to mention it, but while we were no angels at least we had standards and I will offer no apology for the phrase...) would only back a fight that looked "clean" (like WWII movies). While I thought the Grenada operation was over-hyped I did (and still do) absolutely applaud Reagan's prohibition against media of any kind. No "pools" or "embeds" or nothing, zeeeeeero. The reason that the general public (either Israeli or American) and military (ditto) have no stomach for roadblocks, etc. is that they're always cast in the worst light by journalists. Now, most of you writers at Reform Club think of yourselves as part of the media (though the MSM may not recognize it) and may think that access to information is always a good thing. To me, it is not. Train your defense forces and let them execute the mission and arrest anyone who takes a photo or video, period. A decision to use force is just that. Occasionally "innocent" people will get hurt, it should be understood from the outset, and that on-balance it is necessary for national defense. Once you cross that Rubicon it's a lot easier to get about the business of keeping a place safe. We see a parallel in the use of force by the police in a functioning, peaceful society like the U.S. Personally, I expect when pulled over by the cops to be treated as a potentially violent person. If I do not cooperate fully, I expect to be treated firmly (both verbally and physically). In the tradeoff between stability and freedom, we must decide that a law will be fully enforced to the point of full completion of sentence by the criminal (subject to parole, if also part of the law). Release of criminals as a political gesture is just another form of scofflawry. Sure, it looks legal and I expect it is done under the broad power of any Executive to unilaterally pardon offenders. But the Executive should understand that this discourages his/her own law enforcers and encourages those who oppose the law. Since the release was poltical, the offenders (in this case the Palestinians) have a seeming endorsement of their claims that the original arrests were poltical. These gestures end up validating the positions of murderous groups. The right way is provide full freedom to those within the law. Full enforcement to those outside the law.
All other actions (or inaction)ultimately undermine the very same people who promote pious platitudes about the "rule of law."

Tom Van Dyke said...

Since the release was poltical, the offenders (in this case the Palestinians) have a seeming endorsement of their claims that the original arrests were poltical. These gestures end up validating the positions of murderous groups.

Excellent point, E.