Bye Bye Kadima?

In today’s Haaretz Moshe Arens takes aim at the Kadima party, enthusiastically predicting that “curtain time is approaching for Kadima.” Fair enough (and not terribly surprising coming from a Likud-loyalist). And Arens is not alone in his pessimistic assessment. The rapidly congealing conventional wisdom is that, with Kadima’s raison d’etre discredited (unilateral disengagement), its demise is a foregone conclusion. It is not a question of if, but when.

The case is not hard to make. Both the attacks that sparked this current round of fighting emanated from territory that Israel has certifiably withdrawn from – Gaza and Lebanon. In the face of deafening criticism, Olmert has shelved his withdrawal plan (which he calls “convergence” – “withdrawal” is a dirty word in Israel). During a recent visit to the rocket-addled community of Kiryat Shemona, Olmert insisted that the bulk of the government’s attention will be invested in “rehabilitating the north.”

The question is this: does the outbreak of violence in fact attest to the failure of disengagement? There is reason to think that the reverse may be true. This is to say, the fundamental logic behind unilateral disengagement remains impressive and persuasive. Jews are fast becoming a minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and Israel cannot be both Jewish and a democracy if it continues to rule the occupied territories. Long-term Israeli control over several million Palestinians is as morally and strategically disastrous as it was one year ago. And while unilateralism is not the answer to everything (it never was), it is the only feasible option that advances an elusive but achievable Israeli-Palestinian peace because it reinforces the logic of partition.

Olmert should make that case and galvanize the too-long dormant Israeli center.

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