Another Tack: My four Seder questions

Jimmy Carter’s peace-partner Khaled Mashaal wasn’t joking. Hamas’s Damascus-based kingpin may have been deliberately thumbing his nose at us – or try ing to rub our nose in it – but there was no hint of levity in his recent interview with Sky News. Reporter Tim Marshall asked Mashaal why Hamas fires rockets at Israeli kindergartens. To this Mashaal responded with deadpan ostensible earnestness: “We didn’t attack a kindergarten. We have primitive weapons. I ask the international community and the Americans to give us more advanced weapons so we can shoot more accurately.”

Assuming we manage to overcome the temptation to scream at the hutzpa, we must admit that it’s not inconceivable to picture our government as yielding to just such skewed logic. All Mashaal did is scornfully take Israel’s rationale for not inconveniencing its genocidal enemies just one absurd step further.

Yet how is his cheeky suggestion any different in principle from Israel continuing to supply these enemies with electricity (with which to run bomb-factories), water and assorted provisions to enable Gaza’s rogue rulers to divert all available resources to targeting not only kindergartens but the very Israeli power station, fuel depots, pumping facilities and crossing points on which they depend?

And how is arming Mashaal’s minions with superior weaponry any different from Israel equipping the rival gangs, under Mahmoud Abbas’s command, with Kalashnikovs and armored vehicles? Don’t our powers-that-be know that Abbas’s Fatah is responsible for most recent terrorist onslaughts along Israel’s ultra-vulnerable eastern flank? Don’t they know Judea and Samaria arsenals can (and most likely will) fall into Hamas hands as per the Gaza precedent? Don’t they recall what happened to the 60,000 guns handed over to Fatah post-Oslo, ever since Yitzhak Rabin was assured they’d be used to quash terror? Exactly as Rabin’s political critics forecast almost 15 years ago, these guns were turned on Israelis in the service of terror – not against it.

How is this folly any different from all previous follies?

Were I invited to Olmert’s Seder (fat chance) that would be the first of my four questions to him. It’s not, however, that I’d remotely expect anything like a forthright answer. Olmert’s 60-second gruff response at the last Knesset plenum gathering, before our legislators departed for their inordinately long Pessah vacation (we commoners wouldn’t mind six weeks off), was more than an incidental tip-off about the sort of Seder he’d conduct.

The law required the PM to attend the opposition-summoned sitting, and he disposed of his obligation to address the issues with a brusque: “I have never seen such an amorphous and pointless session.” Thereupon, satisfied with his insolence, he walked off.

NEVERTHELESS, UNREALISTIC as it is to imagine anything but impudent catchphrases from him, I’d still like to be the proverbial child at Olmert’s Pessah table and confront him with four cogent contemporary queries:

My above question about the difference between arming the “good” and “bad” terrorists.

• How is negotiating with Abbas any different from negotiating with Arafat?

Admittedly, Abbas’s deceased predecessor was all-powerful and didn’t lose half his realm to Hamas Jihadists. Yet, significantly, in his address to the recent Arab League summit in Damascus (attended only by the most extreme of Arab potentates), Abbas (who did see fit to put in an appearance) left little doubt that like Arafat he too hasn’t reconciled himself to the existence of a Jewish state, that he too denies any historical link between the Jewish nation and its homeland and that he too doesn’t renounce terror (his occasional wan, self-serving lip-service to foreign sponsors notwithstanding).

If the incomparably stronger Arafat couldn’t bring himself to forgo the demand to inundate Israel with millions of so-called refugees (more precisely their offspring), how can Abbas afford greater flexibility?

• How is Olmert’s peace process any different from all the haggling in which his predecessors evinced egregious largess but accomplished nothing (except undermining Israel’s starting-position at any future negotiations)?

Why does he think he can do better than Ehud Barak, who offered almost everything including Arab sovereignty over the Jewish Holy of Holies? Is Olmert out to outdo Barak and surrender even more? Is Olmert honestly convinced he can pull off in a few months what was impossible in six decades? Or is Olmert merely after some semblance of a deal? The spin he can derive thereof would suffice for a diversionary election campaign focus. Are the talks geared primarily to ensure Olmert’s political survival as “the candidate of peace?”

• How does Judea and Samaria differ from Gush Katif?

Most of the 9,000 pioneer patriots expelled from the latter are still homeless and jobless. How can Olmert even contemplate uprooting at least 100,000 more Israelis? Why should they trust that their lot would be any better? And where would the drive to render Judea judenrein end? Will Abbas/Mashaal be appeased by anything less than emptying out whole Jerusalem quarters of their Jewish inhabitants? Where will Olmert build refugee camps for hundreds of thousands of exiles and how would he finance the evictions (considering he hasn’t yet footed the bill for the 2005 fiasco)? How will he prevent a Hamastan in Judea and Samaria too? How will he deal with rockets from Kalkilya and Tulkarm?

I SUPPOSE that at that point I’d have outstayed my welcome and be shown the door. But questions asked are still better – even if unanswered – than those not asked at all. Olmert is in charge of our collective Seder. His brazen refusal to explain why he conducts our national affairs as he does is an admission of dereliction of duty and an unconscionable disregard for the citizenry – his expanded household.

By persistently posing pertinent questions we underscore Olmert’s callous cynicism. We at least make it more difficult for him to fool all of the people all of the time. There is intrinsic value in merely keeping questions alive, annoying and inconvenient. These questions must obsess every Israeli because our self-preservation hinges on staying as skeptical of our leaders as they prefer we don’t. On this Feast of Liberation, it’s vital we remember that where there’s no submission to manipulation, there are no suckers.

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