Saturday, April 01, 2006

Olmert's gamble under sustained hostility to Israel

From The Australian April 01, 2006 by Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor ...

....Olmert is not a charismatic military figure like Sharon, Ehud Barak or Yitzhak Rabin. But Israel's greatest prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, was a civilian and he made the right political and military judgments.

Olmert will try once more to negotiate a settlement with the Palestinians, but he will not deal with Hamas and a final negotiated settlement looks unlikely. He wants Israel's final borders determined by 2010 so the country will no longer be held responsible for the quality of life in the Palestinian areas.

This is driven in part by the sustained hostility to Israel in much of the Western media and overwhelmingly at Western universities. Olmert and other Israeli leaders realise that Israel is in danger of losing much Western support, though support seems solid in the US and Australia.
A telling example of the toxic anti-Israel atmosphere at Western universities was a recent essay in the London Review of Books by two US academics, John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt, entitled The Israel Lobby.

This is a quite disgusting screed of juvenile conspiracy theory which posits that the pro-Israel lobby is the all-powerful driving force behind all US policy towards the Middle East. It is a ridiculous piece, with faux-academic footnotes and patently absurd assertions, such as the idea that concern for the Palestinians was a prime motivator for Osama bin Laden when in fact the al-Qa'ida leader added Palestine very late to his menu of causes.

Similarly, the authors' line of causation is ludicrously simplistic, as though no other factor has ever weighed with American policy-makers except Israel.

The article, full of half-truths and misrepresentations, is a first cousin of anti-Semitism in the way in which it posits a vast, predominantly Jewish conspiracy apparently ruling the world. It seems to be motivated more than anything by a hatred of US neo-conservatives and a desire to damage them by attributing to them a motive for supporting action against Iraq that was not the motive they themselves cited. But in its bilious hostility to Israel and its simplistic and ridiculous assertion that Israel is the cause of Muslim hostility to the West, it is a perfect exemplar of the temper of even US universities towards Israel.

Whether Olmert's bold gamble can counter the attacks on Israel's legitimacy throughout the West is another thing. The Israeli electorate is committed to disengagement purely on pragmatic grounds. One way for Hamas and others to sabotage it, therefore, is to raise the level of trouble that greets disengagement. Such a strategy would not lead to an independent Palestinian state but, in a worst-case scenario, it could lead to a renewed Israeli occupation, which would certainly put Israel firmly back in the dog house of international opinion.....

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