The “Thousands” of US Mistakes in Iraq and the Next Israeli Government

During her two-day tour of northwest England, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice protested to the anti-US demonstrators dogging every footstep: “I know we’ve made tactical errors, thousands of them, I’m sure. But when you look back in history, what will be judged will be, did you make the right strategic decisions?” She added. “I’m sure we made no mistake in overthrowing Saddam Hussein.”
Rice visited the UK foreign secretary Jack Straw’s constituency March 31 to April 1to return the compliment of Straw’s visit to her home town of Birmingham, Alabama.
Earlier this month, the British premier Tony Blair told Iraq war critics in similar vein that history would judge his decision to go to war in Iraq.
When statesmen and politicians resort to history to judge their actions, this usually means they are prey to uncertainties, stumped for a way out of a critical impasse and resigned to dumping it in the laps of their successors.
Nine months ago, debkafile reported from its Washington sources:
Towards the end of President George W. Bush’s first term in late 2004, the mood in Washington was upbeat; a second term was seen as the chance to bring the administration’s military and diplomatic objectives to fruition. This has been replaced today by a sense in administration circles that the tough projects, like the campaign against al Qaeda, the Iraq war, the chances of thwarting the forward march of North Korea and Iran towards a nuclear bomb, the creation of an independent Palestinian state and an Israel-Palestinian peace treaty, cannot be resolved by 2008. There is a willingness to leave solutions in abeyance for the next occupant of the Oval Office. (June 13, 2005)
During her British tour, Rice twice repeated that she did not expect to run for the presidency. She did say she expected to correct many research papers on the Iraq war when she is back teaching at Stanford University.
Her remarks raise a number of questions in Israeli minds:
1. If the Bush administration admittedly made thousands of mistakes in Iraq, how many were made in dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?
2. Since Rice appears to be leaving the Iraq problem to the next heads of the state department, where does that leave Israel, which is a good deal closer to the troubles in Iraq than the United States of America?
3. Given the” thousands” of American mistakes, why on earth did Israel’s incoming prime minister Ehud Olmert pledge in his victory speech of March 28 to coordinate his Palestinian policies with President George W. Bush, like Ariel Sharon before him? He surely knows that the Bush administration cannot – and not longer even wants to – spend any more time unraveling the Middle East conflict.
It appears that Olmert, head of the Kadima party which came out of Israel’s general election last week with a grudging lead of 29 out of 120 Knesset seats, was not addressing Washington or history. His spoke with an eye to his more immediate concern, the urgency to fashion a coalition cabinet.
Tough negotiations starting next week are ahead. The first candidate-partner in line is Labor (20 seats). Former trade union leader Amir Peretz covets the high-profile treasury and a chance to get his teeth into the top items on his agenda – raising the minimum wage to $1,000, universal pensions for senior citizens and benefits for the disadvantaged. Olmert’s Kadima is expected to demand in return that Labor give up some of its doveish pretensions and agree to co-exist with a second partner, the nationalist (Russian) party Israel Beitenu headed by Avigdor Lieberman (13 seats). Olmert needs him as a right-wing counterweight to Labor. A third natural partner is the big surprise of the election, the Senior Citizens party which won 7 seats.
There are still many gyrations ahead before this line-up falls into place. The first candidates may drop out and others step up in their stead. All the party leaders face huge internal squabbles among many rivals for few ministerial posts.
But if all this can be sorted out, a Kadima-Labor-Israel Beitenu-Senior Citizens coalition offers Olmert a comfortable 69-strong majority in parliament and a steel core for managing a host of security threats, most urgently a Palestinian government led by Hamas. High on their lists are four retired intelligence chiefs: Two former Shin Beit directors, Avi Dichter of Kadima and Ami Ayalon of Labor, former deputy director of the same service, Israel Hasson of Israel Beiteni, and Rafi Eytan of the Senior Citizens, a Mossad veteran.
The true value of the acclaimed Hamas truce was clarified on March 30 by the fundamentalist movement’s political chief, Khaled Meshaal. He declared that Hamas will continue its armed struggle against Israel while in power. Addressing the fourth General Arab Conference to Back Resistance in Beirut, Meshaal said: “Hamas has made up its mind and will exercise resistance in all its aspects. We are exercising resistance as a movement and today will exercise it while in power.”
Meshaal has the power to hand down binding diktats to the Hamas government. In the light of this policy statement, the incoming Israeli prime minister will need to make haste and appoint a strong defense minister and advisory team on security to deal with the threats portended by the upgrading of Palestinian weaponry and murder of four Israelis by a Fatah suicide bomber on day two of Hamas rule.

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