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      Fundamentally Freund
      by Michael Freund
      An alternative approach to Israeli political commentary.
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      Michael Freund is Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which reaches out and assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people. He writes a syndicated column and feature stories for the Jerusalem Post. Previously, he served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Israeli Prime Minister´s Office under former premier Benjamin Netanyahu. A native of New York, he holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He has lived in Israel for the past decade.
      Tevet 27, 5769, 1/23/2009

      Time for a Gaza Apology



      no one wanted to listen, no one wished to hear, even as politicians and protesters on the Right railed against the disengagement, accurately predicting the disaster that would ensue
      For all the coverage of events in southern Israel of late, both the media and Israel's leadership have meticulously avoided any mention of the August 2005 Gaza pullout, despite the fact that it gave rise to the current mess in which we find ourselves.
      This is hardly surprising, because it would require them to admit they were wrong in backing that ill-fated move.
      But as I argue in the column below, it is time for a Gaza apology and a national admission of guilt. All those who had a hand in the disengagement should apologize to the people of Israel, the residents of Sderot and the rest of the Negev and especially to those who lived in Gush Katif.
      Because through their folly, the supporters of withdrawal brought disaster upon this country.

      Time for a Gaza Apology

      By Michael Freund

      For all its extensive, wall-to-wall coverage of the situation in the South over the past month, there is one key issue that the country's leadership and media have studiously and carefully avoided mentioning of late.

      Despite finding time to examine a wide range of subjects, from the intricacies of intra-Hamas politics to the technical differences between Kassam and Grad rockets, pundits and politicians alike have proven incapable of acknowledging the underlying cause behind the present disarray.

      Indeed, if you listened carefully, and followed the news in recent weeks, you may have noticed that hardly anything was said about the colossal strategic blunder which enabled Hamas to strike terror in the streets of Ashkelon and Beersheba.

      Yes, you guessed correctly. To paraphrase Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, "It was the disengagement, stupid!"

      Of course, this hardly comes as a surprise. After all, it would require something of our politicians and their guard dogs in the press which they seem constitutionally incapable of doing: admitting they were wrong.

      Yet that is precisely what they were when they supported the Sharon government's misguided August 2005 retreat: dead wrong, and profoundly so.

      It was their blunder, their bluster and their blindness, which got us into this mess, and which brought the country an unprecedented wave of airborne Palestinian projectiles and terror. All those who backed the pullout then, and adamantly defended it to the public, clearly now owe the rest of us a whopper of an apology.

      Which is exactly why they are so manifestly silent on the subject.

      BUT THE facts are too compelling to ignore, and they readily speak for themselves. Let's do a quick rewind and you'll see why.

      Prior to the ignominious retreat more than three years ago, there were warnings aplenty that it would endanger the South and place hundreds of thousands of people within range of jihadist rockets in Gaza.

      Here is just one of many examples. On January 11, 2005, seven months before the pullout, Col. Uzi Buchbinder, head of civil defense in the IDF's Home Front Command, told the Knesset Interior Committee that the disengagement plan, if implemented, would expose 46 towns and cities in the Negev to Kassam rocket fire.

      At the same hearing, Col. (res.) Mordechai Yogev presented a report to our parliamentarians, cautioning that "the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria will bring numerous large population centers and communities within the range of Kassam rockets and mortar shells." (Ha'aretz, January 12, 2005)

      And that, of course, is precisely what occurred.

      But no one wanted to listen, no one wished to hear, even as politicians and protesters on the Right railed against the disengagement, accurately predicting the disaster that would ensue.

      Instead, the leaders of the country mocked the plan's opponents and hurled invective and abuse their way.

      After more than 100,000 people rallied outside the Knesset on January 29, 2005 against the government's plan, vice prime minister Shimon Peres ridiculed the gathering, labeling it a "rally of shlemazels." (Jerusalem Post, February 1, 2005)

      As it turns out, of course, the real shlemazels are not those who warned about the dangers of retreat, but those who stubbornly ignored them.

      IN THIS context it is worth recalling that one of those who led the charge in favor of the expulsion of Gaza's Jews was none other than our very own Ehud Olmert, who at the time served as Ariel Sharon's vice premier.

      On June 9, 2005, Olmert insisted in remarks to an American Jewish audience that the disengagement "will bring more security, greater safety, much more prosperity and a lot of joy for all the people that live in the Middle East." Continuing with his flight of fantasy, Olmert went on to say that "we are confident that this disengagement will be successful, and that it will then lead to the beginning of a new pattern of relations between us and the Palestinian Authority."

      Well, it certainly has lead to a "new pattern of relations," as the Palestinian leadership was forced to flee to Ramallah after Hamas quickly seized control over Gaza. But that, of course, is not quite what Olmert and his colleagues had in mind.

      On August 15, 2005, the day of the pullout itself, Sharon addressed the nation and assured us that "this plan is good for Israel in any future scenario." Needless to say, that has proven to be patently untrue. And while Sharon is no longer in any condition to be offering regrets, there are plenty of people out there in positions of power who darn well should.

      It is time for a Gaza apology and a national admission of guilt. All those who had a hand in the disengagement should apologize to the people of Israel, the residents of Sderot and the rest of the Negev and especially to those who lived in Gush Katif.

      Through their folly, the supporters of withdrawal brought disaster upon this country. They destroyed the lives of thousands of Gaza's Jews, and put nearly a million Israelis within the cross-hairs of Hamas.

      Unless Israel and its leaders have the courage to come to terms with their error, the danger of making additional such blunders will continue to accompany us well into the future.

      Mistakes, wrote the author James Joyce, are portals of discovery. They allow us to gain a better glimpse of reality and to move forward. But that can only happen if in fact one is capable of embracing his own failings.

      The disengagement, as its name implied, was supposed to disengage Israel from the Palestinians and their violence. But instead, as we have seen, it did just the opposite.

      It is about time that its proponents publicly acknowledged as much.

      --- from the January 21 Jerusalem Post



      Tevet 23, 5769, 1/19/2009

      Leaving Hamas in Place



      After knocking the Hamas jihadists to the ground, Israel is now letting them get back up, dust themselves off, and prepare to attack us once again, at a time of their choosing.
      With breathtaking speed, Israel is about to undo the limited military achievements of the past three weeks of fighting against Hamas.

      Senior Israeli officials told the Jerusalem Post today that the IDF will be out of Gaza in time for Barack Obama's inauguration tomorrow as President of the United States - in what appears to be a clear-cut attempt to appease the incoming administration even before it officially gets off the ground.

      What a cataclysmic error! What a colossal mistake!

      By declaring a unilateral cease-fire and leaving Hamas in place, Israel is granting the terrorist movement an opportunity to recoup its losses, rebuild its infrastructure and rearm itself. After knocking the Hamas jihadists to the ground, Israel is now letting them get back up, dust themselves off, and prepare to attack us once again, at a time of their choosing.

      What a disgrace!

      Israel had them with their backs against the wall, and could have delivered a decisive blow. But instead, thanks to the weakness of our leaders, Hamas will now have a chance to live to see another day.

      It may take a week, a month or a year, but you can rest assured that at some point soon, when Hamas feels ready, they will resume launching rockets at Israel's south. And when they do, our leadership will have no one to blame but themselves.



      Tevet 22, 5769, 1/18/2009

      We Cease, They Fire



      There is no recourse other than outright victory, and no room for stopping until the mission is complete
      Israel's government last night suddenly agreed to a unilateral cease-fire in what can best be described as a last minute attempt to transform victory into defeat.

      The foolhardiness of this move quickly became apparent, as Israel ceased, but Hamas continued to fire.

      The Jewish state's self-imposed cessation of hostilities went into effect at 2 a.m. local time. Not surprisingly, just a few hours later, Hamas began firing rockets again at southern Israel, targeting six at the town of Sderot this morning.

      Sure, international pressure is mounting for Israel to stop defending itself, and a new administration is about to be inaugurated in Washington which is far less likely to be sympathetic to Israel's cause.

      But neither of these developments can possibly justify leaving Hamas in place in Gaza, and subjecting 900,000 Israelis in the south of the country to continued rocket fire on their homes.

      There is no recourse other than outright victory, and no room for stopping until the mission is complete.

      The best way to bring about a true cease-fire is to eliminate Hamas once and for all. Then, you can be sure, the rocket attacks will certainly come to a halt.

       



      Tevet 15, 5769, 1/11/2009

      Time to Rebuild Gush Katif



      It is about time that Israel correct the moral injustice of the expulsion of Gaza's Jews.
      More than three years after being forcibly expelled from their homes, a group of former Gush Katif residents is demanding that the Israeli government allow them to return.

      At a news conference held today in Jerusalem, leaders of Gaza Jewry said they are ready to go back and recreate the communities that were destroyed by the Sharon government during the August 2005 Gaza retreat.

      "Let us return home. We are ready at a day's notice to set up tents in the area, until permanent construction," the group said.

      I couldn't agree more. It is about time that Israel correct the moral injustice of the expulsion of Gaza's Jews. The August 2005 pullout created the political and security vacuum which Hamas quickly filled, setting the stage for the current confrontation now taking place on our television screens.

      Indeed, many of the former Jewish communities of Gaza, such as Dugit, have been used by Hamas as terrorist training camps and rocket-launch pads - all the more reason to now transform them back into thriving and vibrant sites of Jewish settlement.

      With Israeli forces now back in Gaza, this is the time to right the wrong of expulsion. and thereby let Hamas and the world know that we will never again abandon any part of our homeland.

       



      Tevet 10, 5769, 1/6/2009

      2008 Weblog Awards - Vote Daily Through January 13


      This blog is a finalist in the 2008 Weblog awards in the in the category of "Best Middle East or Africa Blog".

      Please vote for me here by clicking the button next to "Fundamentally Freund" towards the bottom of the left-hand column.

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