- The Washington Times - Monday, May 22, 2006

When Ehud Olmert, the new Israeli prime minister, comes calling at the White House today, his main objective will be to get President Bush’s support for an Israeli retreat from the West Bank — Judea and Samaria of the Bible, the historic birthplace of the Jewish people. Mr. Bush should voice his strongest opposition to this dangerous and reckless scheme.

Mr. Olmert wants to pull out without any reciprocal concession from the Palestinians or Arab states. The retreat, following the ongoing terror war against Israel, will be conducted without a partner or a permanent peace agreement. It will not bring either peace or security to either the Israelis or to Palestinian Arabs.

Internationally, the withdrawal plan is a dud: Arab countries and the members of the “quartet” — the U.N., the European Union and Russia, do not recognize the suggested withdrawal lines as future Israeli borders. This retreat will cause a tremendous upheaval inside Israel, triggering internecine violence.

Islamists will be convinced more than ever that terrorism achieves political goals, that Israel is weak, and that the U.S. retreat from the region — a goal publicly touted by Osama Bin Laden — may be not far behind. Importantly, it will massively destabilize Israel’s moderate neighbor, Jordan, a staunch U.S. ally in the region. Triumphant jihadis and a weakened Israel and Jordan are not in the U.S. national interests. The pullout would send exactly the wrong signal throughout the Middle East: Brutal terrorism and suicide bombings pay.

Mr. Olmert’s withdrawal is proposed in the surreal hope the region will be better off if territory is ceded to Hamas, which is supported by Iran and the international jihadi movement. In fact, the Hamas government is so implacable in its opposition to the mere existence of the Jewish state, its leaders proudly proclaim their will to destroy it at every opportunity. So do their Web sites.

Palestinian TV is continuing the practice started under Yasser Arafat, in which young children are brainwashed and prepared for the bloody sacrifice of jihad — the “holy war” against Israel, the Jews and the West. President Mahmoud Abbas, often hailed as a potential negotiating partner by the “peace process” crowd, presides over unprecedented corruption in the Palestinian Authority, his popularity flagging. He did nothing to intercept or disarm terrorist groups and still displays stunning impotence — waiting for everyone else to establish law and order and stop mass murderers for him.

Mr. Olmert’s suicidal retreat of today is “Take 2” of another Israeli “sacrifice for peace” — the ill-fated Oslo Accords. In fact, the notion that tiny Israel — not the Arabs — needs to “take risks” and make sacrifices for peace is a pillar of faith among the leftist and secular Israeli elite. It is acting as Mr. Olmert’s ideological guide, providing justification through an endless campaign in the media and academia for yet more “concessions.”

The left worldwide decries the “occupation,” ignoring the fact Fatah and Hamas have brought immense suffering and decline upon the Palestinians. It is the ideology of hate, intolerance and religious exclusion that brought upon the humanitarian disaster in Gaza. International aid money poured down that black hole will not reverse the trend. It is Fatah, Hamas and their wealthy backers who reduced the Palestinians to murderous factions. Mr. Olmert has engendered the greatest danger Israel and the Palestinians have faced since Israel’s founding: a Hamas terror state.

The idea of this withdrawal is even more ill-conceived than the reckless 1973 “concept,” when the Israeli government erroneously convinced itself that after the 1967 Six Day-War defeat Egypt and Syria would not dare to attack again. They did, and many young Israelis died defending the border.

Today, fate of Jordan is at stake. Hamas leaders have revealed in confidential conversations that if Israel retreats from the West Bank, Hamas will turn on Jordan, which is 75 percent Palestinian. In cooperation with the Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Hamas will strive to bring down the moderate Hashemite dynasty. Such a move will create an uninterrupted jihadi Lebensraum from the Sunni Triangle in Iraq to Qalquiliya near Tel-Aviv.

Hamas, dominating the mountain ranges of Samaria, will be able to strafe and shell the heavily populated Israeli central plain with Katyusha rockets and will shoot down civilian airplanes at the Ben Gurion International Airport. A faltering Jordan and weakened, bleeding Israel are not in the national interests of the United States. The Hamas mini-state in Gaza has already allowed elements of al Qaeda and Hezbollah to set up shop in Gaza and elsewhere in Hamastan.

But the repercussions of the retreat from the West Bank will affect not only Israel and Jordan alone. Buoyed by success, other Islamist forces, from the Islamist Justice and Development Party of Morocco, which is favored to win the 2007 parliamentary elections, to the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, to al Qaeda of Iraq, are likely to double their efforts. At stake is nothing less than the success of the Islamist project to remove secular and moderate governments throughout the region and replace them by a Shariah-based Caliphate, a militarized autocratic superstate aimed at waging war against the West. Some jihadi Web sites specifically call for reconquering Spain (“Andaluz”).

The proposed Israeli retreat promoted by Mr. Olmert also will open the battle for Jerusalem, the city which under the Islamist rule will be likely to be depopulated of Christians and Jews just as Bethlehem is becoming — to the great displeasure of 50 million American Evangelical Christians, the core constituency of the Republican Party, and scores of others around the world, who care about the future of the Holy Land and its capital city.

President Bush should send Prime Minister Olmert home, not with a pledge of American support for this reckless scheme, but with a clear understanding that the United States will have no part in this risky business.

Ariel Cohen is senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He visited Israel in May.

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