New Palestinian government marks collapse of Israel’s Middle East positions

The Hamas-Fatah government taking office Sunday, March 18, is more than a policy failure by prime minister Ehud Olmert and foreign minister Tzipi Livni; it is another milestone on the road to the collapse of Israel’s Middle East positions at large, on a scale comparable to the setback to its deterrence from the mismanaged war against Hizballah last summer.
This fiasco is reflected in the horrified outcry across the board, from members of the Olmert government coalition and the opposition alike, as Israelis woke up Sunday, March 18, to face a hostile Palestinian government led by a terrorist organization, godfathered by Saudi Arabia, armed by Iran, and blessed by Western powers.
Exactly a week ago, on March 11, the Israeli prime minister said he was positively reviewing sections of the Saudi Arabian 2002 “peace plan.” He did not waver when Riyadh declared the hard-line text would not be modified when it is re-launched at the Arab summit in ten days’ time.
That afternoon, Olmert had his second interview with Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Authority and leader of Fatah. He stressed the importance of “staying in touch with positive Palestinian elements.” This was also Livni’s mantra during her recent travels to the US and European capitals.
They both fell into the Palestinian trap, effectively sanctioning the seal of moderation with which Abbas and Fatah stamped a Palestinian government dominated by the Hamas terrorists.
Even more dangerously, the two Israeli leaders failed to question the covert Yalta-type understanding reached by Riyadh and Tehran. They ought to have grasped that when the Saudis and Iranians stuck their deal to preserve the Siniora government in Lebanon, as debkafile revealed in late February, they must also have come to terms on the Palestinian issue.
And so they did. It was a package: Tehran called off the campaign led by its patsy Hizballah against the anti-Syrian Lebanese government, gaining stronger representation – at Syria’s expense, while the rival Palestinian factions were told in Mecca to share power – at Israel’s expense.
Olmert and Livni forgot a permanent Middle East axiom: Israel’s neighbors can always set aside their differences for common action against the Jewish state. Therefore, Sunni princes and Shiite clerics easily agreed on a Palestinian formula that would imperil Israel’s most vital interests.
They figured that, just as Syrian president Bashar Assad is too isolated to challenge his dependence on Tehran, so too Israel is too dependent on Washington to complain about Saudi under-the-table transactions with Iran for the sake of a deal on Iraq.
In the past year, Olmert-Livni policies have been so closely synchronized with Washington’s, that many of Israel’s vital interests have gone by the board.
It was their vain hope that Arab governments in fear of Iran’s ambitions would come to terms with Israel and move the Middle East closer to peace. This misreading was shared by opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu. What happened instead was that the so-called moderate Arab camp stood aside when Tehran focused its attention on building up the menace to Israel on the backs of the now-kosher Palestinian radicals.
Iran not only gave them arms, ordnance, cash and training, but also strategic depth. Its Revolutionary Guards have spread their wings into Gaza through Sinai up to the Suez and Mediterranean, and built up a war menace to Israel from the south, as well as the north. The realistic prospect is therefore closer to war rather than peace, the culmination of a process which the prime minister, his foreign minister and their advisers consistently missed or misread.
Addressing the Washington pro-Israel lobby AIPAC’s annual conference last week, Olmert and Livni both came out in support of the Bush administration’s military strategy in Iraq. Since that strategy hinges largely on covert Saudi-Iranian diplomacy in Washington’s name, Israeli government spokesmen implicitly gave America a blank check to pay for an Iraq accommodation at Israel’s expense.

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