An Open Letter to Avi Dichter

P. David Hornik

OpEds לבן ריק
לבן ריק
Arutz 7
Dear Minister Avi Dichter,

Congratulations on your recent appointment as minister of internal security, a position for which, one has to say with relief, you're well qualified. Not all the major security posts in the new government have been filled with someone who has any credentials for the job, politics seeming to have trumped mere concerns for the citizens' well-being at a time when Israel faces grave dangers.

One would also like to say that, in addition to your experience and skills, it is good to have someone with your realistic views serving in your position. Here, though, the record is less clear. There was a time when, as head of the Shin Bet, you seemed an opponent of Ariel Sharon's Disengagement Plan, stating to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on January 4, 2005, that "in a situation where Israel is not in control of the Philadelphi corridor, terrorists arriving from Lebanon are liable to infiltrate through it into the Gaza Strip and there is the distinct possibility that in a short while the Gaza Strip will turn into south Lebanon." You further warned that the then-"trickle" of arms smuggling into Gaza would turn into a "river".

Some even thought you weren't given a second term as head of the Shin Bet, Mr. Dichter, because of this opposition to Disengagement. Yet, since leaving that post last May, you've subsequently praised the withdrawal, even though your warnings appear to have materialized, and you went on to join the Kadima party, whose only coherent raison d'?tre is a promise of further withdrawals. Well, the Disengagement is a fait accompli in any case; but what of its successor, Ehud Olmert's Convergence Plan?

Here, again, you appear to be among the skeptics, or at least among those who have made grave warnings. In the New Republic last February 3, Yossi Klein Halevi called you the Kadima party's "most outspoken opponent of unilateral [military] withdrawal in the West Bank" and quoted you as saying: "You can?t compare the West Bank to Gaza.... Gaza is not close to major [Israeli] population centers; the opposite is true in the West Bank.... There's no chance we will allow the West Bank to become a kingdom of terror."

And on March 5, the Washington Post, while quoting you as telling Israel Radio that the Convergence Plan "will involve the consolidation of smaller settlements into settlement blocs," also claimed you "said a second unilateral withdrawal of settlers from territory that Palestinians see as part of their future state would leave Israel's military in place." And then again, quoting directly: "'It will only be a civilian disengagement, not a military disengagement,' Dichter told Israel Radio."

The problem with your promises, Mr. Dichter, that Convergence will "only" entail the destruction of dozens of thriving civilian communities is that they are very hard to square with the pronouncements of your boss, Ehud Olmert. After all, his basic, constantly repeated selling point for his plan is that it will end Israel's "occupation" of Judea and Samaria. It is clear, though, that no one would regard the "occupation" as over if Israeli security forces kept any substantial presence after the settlements had been removed. Indeed, even in Gaza, whence all our forces were removed, the world still seems to hold us responsible for the population's welfare.

That is why, Mr. Dichter, one is not sure whether you're upholding the power of your convictions in serving in this government. The message it projects, day after day, is that Israel does not need Judea and Samaria and is in a hurry to get out of them. Most people in Washington and Brussels, Mr. Dichter - and even, unfortunately, not a few in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem - do not worry about niceties of mountain ranges that dominate our population centers, infrastructure, major arteries and airports, nor about the havoc that the emplacement there of a "kingdom of terror" - in your phrase - would create.

The security concerns may be Dichter's, but the voice is Olmert's, and it is a voice that talks only of abstractions like demography and Zionism, while ignoring the military realities that we face.

True, Olmert's plan confronts serious difficulties. But if it progresses despite them, as tends to be the case whenever Israel dangles the irresistible temptation of land giveaways, it seems that you, Avi Dichter, will face a moral contradiction between your own awareness of the danger posed to the Israeli people and your government's ignoring or, at best, downplaying it. Indeed, because you campaigned for, boosted with your popularity, and serve in a government whose rhetoric and aspirations constantly erode realism about security, you face it now.