Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > Olmert under fire from IDF and govrernment for saying a sucessful campaign in Lebanon would bring more uprooting of WB towns
Olmert under fire from IDF and govrernment for saying a sucessful campaign in Lebanon would bring more uprooting of WB towns
August 3, 2006
Ten right wing IDF reservists have announced that they will refuse to obey orders to enter Lebanon following comments made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert arguing that the war in Lebanon could create momentum for further West Bank pullouts, Army Radio reported.
The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement after a conversation Olmert held with MK Effi Eitam (NU-NRP), in which the prime minister apologized to the right wing MK.
Olmert said the war in Lebanon was a result of an attack Hizbullah initiated against Israel, and had no connection to future diplomatic processes on other fronts.
The show of unity put on by the Knesset since the start of the violence three weeks ago was shattered Wednesday.
"The backing Olmert has received [for the war] went to his head," said MK Zvi Hendel (NU-NRP). "He is splitting the nation with [this comment]."
Within hours of the comment the split in the Knesset was clear, with Israel Beitenu and Likud MKs joining NU-NRP in their criticism of Olmert.
"Instead of wasting billions on [the realignment], a dubious diplomatic adventure, it's better to invest the money in rehabilitating the North and the communities that suffered immense economic damages," said Israel Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman. "This plan should be put to rest."
Olmert's spokesman defended the comments, stating that when interviewers asked the prime minister about whether the operations in the North and South ended hope for a withdrawal in the West Bank, Olmert at first replied that he was not currently dealing with the realignment plan. Only when pressed further, said the spokesman, did Olmert state that if Israel succeeds in Lebanon it can create the kind of momentum that could allow Israel to draw its border, ideally with a Palestinian partner.
While some in Olmert's party, such as MK Menahem Ben-Sasson, praised the comments, many questioned its timing.
"Any intelligent person realizes that the war defeated realignment," said MK Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP). "Olmert suffers from a diplomatic blindness. It's a pity that even during the war, the prime minister chooses to split the nation instead of uniting it."
Even in Likud, where opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu has unflaggingly supported the government during the war, MKs launched harsh criticism of Olmert.
"The prime minister is disconnected from reality," said MK Gideon Sa'ar, the Likud faction chairman. "After the policy of unilateral withdrawal brought missiles to Haifa and Ashkelon, Olmert insists on continuing this reckless policy that will certainly bring missiles to every city in Israel."
Meanwhile, when news of Olmert's comments spread to where the IDF was fighting in the North, soldiers told Army Radio reporters that they didn't joint the army to expel people and that they wouldn't endanger their lives to advance Olmert's "dangerous plan."
There were also reports that one soldier left his unit, after announcing that he would not contribute to the realignment plan.
Moshe Feiglin, a Likud leadership candidate, called for soldiers to "come home."
"Dear soldiers, come home and save the state. It is apparent that this war is not just unnecessary, but dangerous," said Feiglin. "Israel purposefully started an unwinnable war. Anyone who cares about the state of the country shouldn't participate in this show."
Referring to Tisha Be'av, Olmert said, "During these days, when Israel is united in the remembrance of the destruction of the Temple, there is a need to preserve the full unity of the army and the home front in order to succeed in this difficult war."
Herb Keinon contributed to this report
Olmert Says War Will Advance Realignment, Refusals Result 11:23 Aug 03, '06 / 9 Av 5766 by Yechiel Spira and Ezra HaLevi
As a result of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's declaration that victory in the Lebanese war would advance his withdrawal plan, ten reserve soldiers have announced their refusal to fight.
For the past several months, Olmert has championed his "convergence" plan, which is in essence another unilateral withdrawal and the planned destruction of most of the remaining Jewish communities located throughout Judea and Samaria. Olmert has said he will "converge" them together into settlement blocs, but the international community has not agreed to this.
Speaking with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Prime Minister Olmert said, "I'll surprise you. I genuinely believe that the outcome of the present [conflict] and the emergence of a new order that will provide more stability and will defeat the forces of terror will help create the necessary environment that will allow me... to create a new momentum between us and the Palestinians."
"We want to separate from the Palestinians," he added. "I'm ready to do it. I'm ready to cope with these demands. It's not easy, it's very difficult, but we are elected to our positions to do things and not to sit idle."
Word of Olmert's statements quickly spread through the ranks of the IDF units fighting in Lebanon. Army Radio featured a father from Ofrah, one of the communities slated for destruction due to its proximity on the "other" side of the Partition Wall. "I text-messaged my two sons serving in Lebanon to tell them to come home," he said. "It is outrageous that the man sending them to war states that the victory they are risking their lives for will result in their family being expelled from their home, allowing it to become exactly what Gaza and southern Lebanon have become."
Shortly after, it was reported that at least ten reservists had refused to continue their emergency reserve duty if further withdrawals are truly the goal of the operation.
Olmert's public relations team later insisted that the war with Hizbullah has nothing to do with his plan, stating his planned ‘realignment' must move forward as he promised it would prior to being elected.
Among the critics of Olmert's plan is MK Dr. Yossi Beilin, who heads the left-wing Meretz-Yahad opposition party. Beilin stated there can be no additional unilateral Israeli policies, only withdrawals resulting from negotiations and agreements. His remarks were echoed by Arab MK Mohammad Barakeh.
Likud MK Gidon Sa'ar stated that the so-called realignment plan would bring the rockets to fall upon the entire country, and not the just the north and south as is the case today.
MK Dr. Ephraim Sneh (Labor), a former deputy defense minister, stated that it is obvious from the prime minister's remarks that he has learned nothing from the unilateral withdrawals from Gaza and southern Lebanon.
The prime minister currently enjoys widespread support for his ongoing effort to destroy Hizbullah. Some critics are accusing the prime minister of taking advantage of his popularity to advance his political agenda, explaining he has made an error since he is splitting the nation at this critical time.
MK Effie Eitam (National Union-NRP), a retired IDF brigadier-general and former commander of forces in southern Lebanon, has been advising the prime minister and Defense Minister Amir Peretz frequently since the war broke out over three weeks ago. Eitam was quick to comment on Olmert's AP interview, stating he made a tactical error, splitting the nation at this critical time.
Eitam told the media that following the prime minister's interview, he was contacted by many rabbis and deans of IDF preparatory yeshiva programs, all expressing concerns regarding the timing of the prime minister's remarks as the nation is in a state of war.
Realizing Eitam was the unofficial liaison to the Orthodox community that supports Olmert during the ongoing Hizbullah war, the Prime Minister's Office was quick to contact him, seeking to implement damage control. Aides to the prime minister quickly issued a clarification, stating the realignment was not intended to have been the main focus of the AP interview.
Asking Eitam to convey a message to the Torah-observant public, the prime minister announced that at present, he is only dealing with efforts to halt rocket attacks, nothing else.
The prime minister's interview broke the current momentum, with rabbis and other right-wing community leaders calling to reevaluate the war in the north, explaining it is unconscionable that soldiers living in Judea and Samaria fight for the country and then be evicted from their homes by the same army.
Eitam was called upon by Olmert to act as a go-between, seeking to allay fears and repair the damage resulting from his interview.
Eitam told the media that following a conversation with the prime minister, it is clear to him that the realignment/expulsion would not be dealt with at present. Eitam admits that the plan will be problematic at some time in the future, after the war, but for now, the nation must remain united behind the government while efforts continue to eliminate the Hizbullah threat.
Wednesday night, at a gathering of some 15,000 Jews who marched around Jerusalem's Old City at the fast of Tisha B'Av began, Women in Green co-founder Nadia Matar called upon all those present to bring their children home from the war front in order to defend their homes in Judea and Samaria, unless Olmert announces the cancellation of his plan.
Manhigut Yehudit, the Jewish Leadership faction within the Likud, was calling for refusal even prior to PM Olmert's explicit statements, saying it was obvious that the war's goal is to prove to the Israeli public that past withdrawals had been beneficial.
Already last week, Manhigut director Michael Fuah issued such a call. "We must remember what the IDF was busy with exactly a year ago," he wrote in an essay published on Arutz-7's Hebrew site Tuesday. "The IDF, in its present state, is not capable of beating Hizbullah. When one adds the supposed ethical code the IDF is charged with – where the Defense Minister praises a soldier for refraining from shooting at a terrorist holding a child on one hand and his gun in the other – there is no chance for victory."
Fuah adds that he realizes the stance is not a popular one, but while the Prime Minister continues to say he will continue with the destruction of Jewish communities and the expulsion of their residents, only such a refusal movement can demand: 1. Replacement of the IDF top brass who took part in the expulsion. 2. Rewriting of the IDF's ethical code to rule out endangering soldiers to protect the lives of terrorists and those around them. 3. A decision by the Knesset and the cabinet allowing all those expelled from Gaza, Samaria and the Sinai to return to their homes.
More than 10% of soldiers killed in combat in Lebanon hail from towns in Judea and Samaria - three times their proportion in the general population.