Sunday, July 16, 2006

War Gives Israeli Leader Political Capital

War Gives Israeli Leader Political Capital - New York Times: "Even worse for Mr. Olmert, the inability to protect Israeli towns and villages from crude rockets fired from Gaza and the victory of Hamas in Palestinian elections made last summer’s disengagement from Gaza look to some like a mistake, casting doubts on Mr. Olmert’s plan for another, larger withdrawal from the occupied West Bank. A key member of the government — Meir Shitreet, who left Likud for the new Kadima Party with Mr. Olmert and Ariel Sharon — actually came out against the plan, known as hitkansut, or realignment, which was at the heart of Kadima’s election campaign.

For Mr. Halevi, “Olmert’s great failure, which he shared with Sharon, was not making a serious stand against the Qassams hitting the Israeli south,” despite promises after the withdrawal that every rocket would be met with a harsh response. “Olmert continued to pursue his vision of unilateral withdrawal while ignoring the fact that he was losing the Israeli public by his inability to manage the pullout from Gaza. Had Hezbollah not attacked and given Israel the legitimate pretext to strike back, Olmert would have been practically finished.”

Mr. Baltiansky worries that Mr. Olmert is depending too much on a military response, with no exit strategy. “Where’s the diplomatic plan?” he asked. “Where is our channel for talks with the Palestinians and the Syrians, which we had for years and helped us calm down crises? Now those channels don’t exist. We thought unilateralism is fine, and that it would be O.K. without having to talk to them.”

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