The Gewalt agenda

Date: 11-20-06

By Akiva Eldar

Ehud Olmert reminds us of a guy who shouts Gewalt! from the roof of his burning home, instructs his neighbors and disrupts the fire brigade trying to find the blaze. Meanwhile, he keeps adding logs to the fire. The prime minister embarked on a performance tour in Israel and the world to cry out Hamas!, and warn against Iran's nuclear program and the spread of radical Islam through the Middle East. He is asking the international community for help while meanwhile fanning the flame of radical Islam and fending off concerned neighbors and volunteer firemen seeking to block it from taking over the region.

One cannot expect a leader who declares he has no need for an agenda to contribute to the regional and international efforts to stabilize the Middle East. Nonetheless, unintentionally, Olmert's anti-Iranian campaign places this region at the top of the agenda of every country interested in what goes on here. The significance and urgency the international community gives the crisis increases with the intensity of the Gewalt. When a Jewish leader draws a parallel between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hitler, he should not be surprised when Europe rushes to his aid.

The closer the nuclear threat gets to center stage, the higher the Arab-Israeli conflict climbs on the list of international priorities. Anyone who fears radical Islamic elements will take control of the territories and spread out over the neighboring Arab states must offer the occupied Palestinian population a just and acceptable solution. Whether this does or does not fit Olmert's "no agenda," even the friendly United States has discovered that pictures of children killed by an Israeli artillery shell do not contribute to a moderate Arab coalition.

Olmert recognizes that a coalition of this sort is invaluable in the struggle against a radical Shi'ite-Sunni coalition that refuses to come to terms with Israel's existence. In his address to the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities of North America in Los Angeles, he called on the pragmatic Sunni leaders to cooperate in the struggle against Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and their partners.

And for its part, what is Israel willing to do, besides offering military advice, undermining diplomatic initiatives, cutting off electricity in the Gaza Strip and starving its population? The Olmert-Peretz government has not even carried out its commitment to evacuate the illegal outposts.

The deadlock in the international community's diplomatic exchanges with Iran, and the American quagmire in Iraq, are transforming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the easier nut to crack: While Iran and global Jihad do not appear willing to reconcile with the "infidels," most of the Palestinian people are (still) interested in a diplomatic solution. Bashar Assad's pronouncements calling for renewed peace talks place the burden of proof on Israel. Syria, like the rest of the Arab League, supported the Beirut Declaration of 2002, which offers normalization with Israel in return for a withdrawal to the 1967 lines.

However, Olmert is foiling any possible progress on this track: On his way home from Los Angeles, the prime minister "calmed" the reporters - and perhaps even himself - by saying there is no danger of U.S. President George W. Bush accepting the expected recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton panel, and attempting to move Syria out of the axis of evil and into a coalition to extricate America from Iraq. The prime minister hopes the Jewish lobby can rally a Democratic majority in the new Congress to counter any diversion from the status quo on the Palestinians.

Just like a field of dry shrub, the slightest spark in the Gaza Strip may light up the entire region. The largest powers in the world, including the U.S. and Britain, played with fire in the Middle East and got burned. Hopefully Olmert's Gewalt will encourage them to put out the flames.


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