The Necessity of Convergence

The fact that both attacks on Israel in recent months were launched from territory Israel relinquished control of is cat-nip to Prime Minister Olmert’s opponents on the right. They argue (convincingly, I hasten to add) that this is irrefutable proof that the policy of unilateral withdrawal (or “convergence” in current parlance) is fundamentally flawed. Meanwhile, Olmert’s plans for withdrawing from most of West Bank – the keystone of his election platform and, arguably, the raison d’etre of his nascent Kadima party – has been shelved indefinitely.

This plays right into the hands of Israel’s most implacable opponents – Hezbollah and Hamas – who are not fighting to end the occupation, but rather to perpetuate it. That is the fascinating conclusion articulated by Gadi Taub in a recent article for The New Republic. “It’s not that Arab extremists are disingenuous when they claim to fight against occupation. It’s just that their use of the word “occupation” has a particular meaning,” Taub explains.

“They’re not referring to the West Bank or Gaza–they mean the whole of Palestine. Ending what we call the occupation is essential to Israel’s long-term existence–the only way the Jewish state can survive in the face of new demographic realities and avoid unsustainable moral costs. Ending what they call the occupation means ending the state of Israel. Therefore, keeping Israel tied down in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon is strategically rational if your goal is Israel’s destruction. What Hamas and Hezbollah have actually been fighting against is partition and the stabilizing of Israel in acknowledged international borders. This is why Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah responded to the Oslo Accord, back in the mid-’90s, by calling for Yasir Arafat’s assassination. This is why Hamas has long demanded that the peace process be nipped in the bud. This is why both Hamas and Hezbollah responded to withdrawal with a surge of terrorism.”

All of which makes the headline that graced the cover of Haaretz‘s August 18 edition so disheartening: “The Prime Minister: Convergence is no Longer on the Agenda.” The Kadima platform – withdrawal from most of the West Bank while retaining the right of self-defense in evacuated areas – is even more necessary today than it was six weeks ago. Olmert should make his case.

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