THE GERMANS call it "die Flucht nach vorne" - escaping forwards. When the situation is desperate, attack! Instead of retreating, advance!
When there is no way out, storm ahead!
This method was successful in 1948. At the end of May, the Egyptian army was advancing on Tel Aviv. We - a very, very thin line of soldiers - were all that stood in its way. So we attacked. Again and again and again. We suffered heavy losses. But we stopped the Egyptian advance.
Now Ehud Olmert is applying the same method.
His situation is desperate. Most people in
And lo and behold, at the most critical moment, just before the most
damning details come out, a joint statement is issued simultaneously in
IN THIS, too, Olmert is the worthy pupil of his predecessor and mentor, Ariel Sharon.
That was a gigantic operation. In a minutely orchestrated melodramatic
performance, the Gush Katif settlements were
dismantled. Together with several army divisions, all police forces - the same
police that was supposed to investigate the
The separation, which was carried out without any dialogue with the
Palestinians, has turned the whole of the Gaza Strip into a ticking bomb, and
now Ehud Olmert has to negotiate a cease-fire. For
The lesson did not escape Olmert.
AESTHETES MAY exclaim: Phooey! We should not countenance such a dirty trick! We cannot agree to a peace conceived in sin!
Maybe my aesthetic sense is blunted. Because I am ready
to accept peace even from a totally corrupt leader, even from Satan himself.
If the corruption of a politician causes him to do something
that will save the lives of hundreds and thousands of human beings on both
sides - that
The Bible recounts that when the army of
Conventional wisdom has it that to make peace, one needs a strong leader. Now it appears that the opposite also works: that a weak leader, almost submerged in troubles, whose term in office could come to a sudden end at any moment and whose coalition stands on feets of clay, a leader who has nothing to lose - he too may risk all to make peace.
THE PLOT may move on from here in several possible directions.
The first possibility: it
It will be difficult for him to do so, because
Whatever comes of it, Olmert's agreement to conduct negotiations based on the return of all the Golan is an important step forward. Coming on top of the previous undertakings by Yitzhak Rabin, Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, it defines a line of no return.
The second possibility: Olmert really means it. For his own reasons, he will conduct negotiations "in good faith", as he undertook this week, and reach an agreement. In the country, a wild campaign of incitement will be launched against him. The Knesset will fall apart, new elections will be held, Olmert will again head the Kadima list and win as peacemaker.
Alternatively: he will lose those elections. But he will leave the scene in an honorable cause, not thrown out for his own corruption, but sacrificing himself on the altar of peace.
Alternatively: the Attorney General will indict him in spite of everything, he will resign but go home with head held high as a leader who has taken a historic step. The Attorney General will look like a saboteur of peace and perhaps even the cause of another war.
A PERTINENT question: if Olmert has indeed decided
to "escape forwards"
Here there are also two possibilities:
The first: like Paul, Olmert had a revelation,
and has really become a man of peace. The nationalist demagogue has matured and
now understands that the national interest demands peace. A cynic will laugh
out loud. But stranger things have happened on the road to
The second: Olmert believes that the Israeli
public prefers peace with
The third: Olmert knows that all the chiefs of
the Security Establishment (with the notable exception of the Mossad boss) support peace with
ALL THIS happens without the
Until lately, the
That is grist to the mill for John Mearsheimer
and Stephen Walt, the two American professors who are due to visit
During his visit to
But Bush is not finished yet. He has got eight more months to go, and he,
too, may come to the conclusion that he should "escape forwards". In
his case: by attacking
HOW IS all this going to affect the mother of all problems, the core of
the Israeli-Arab conflict: the question of
Menachem Begin made a separate
A separate peace harbors great dangers for the Palestinians. If the Israeli government reaches a peace agreement with
As against this danger, there is a positive prospect: that after the evacuation of the Golan, there will be increased pressure, from inside and outside, to reach peace with the Palestinians, too, at long last.
The Golan settlers are far more popular in
Being at peace with all Arab states, the Israeli public may feel more secure, and therefore more willing to take risks in making peace with the Palestinian people.
The international atmosphere will also change. If the "axis of evil" fantasy disappears together with George Bush, and a new American leadership makes a serious effort to achieve peace, optimism will again dare to raise its battered head. Some people dream about a partnership of Barack Obama and Tzipi Livni.
All this belongs to the future. In the meantime we have a weak Olmert, who needs a powerful initiative. In the Biblical legend, the hero Samson killed a young lion, and when he returned to it, "behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase." Samson put forth a riddle unto the Philistines: "Out of the strong came forth sweetness", and nobody was able to solve it (Judges, 14).
Now we can well ask: "Will the weak bring forth sweetness?"