"Never before has there been such a convergence of goals between Israel and
the U.S.," Halevy said, adding that Israel must formulate its policies with
maximum consideration for American interests and needs.
Focus / Unity of vision at the top
By Aluf Benn
[Ha'aretz - December 4, 2002]:
One of the main sources of Ariel Sharon's strength as prime minister is his
excellent relationship with the heads of the defense establishment. Unlike
his predecessors Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu - who squabbled with the
Israel Defense Forces and the intelligence community and consequently
suffered from criticism and leaks - Sharon has succeeded in harnessing the
top ranks of the military and intelligence establishments to his positions.
His habit of listening attentively at meetings, asking questions and giving
participants the feeling that they are helping to shape policy has
contributed to this success.
The discussions held this week at the Herzliya Conference on National
Security, which was sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Center, highlighted
the ideological unanimity that now exists between the prime minister, the
defense minister and the highest professional levels of the defense and
intelligence establishments. All agree that Israel must continue the war with
the Palestinians until Yasser Arafat and his colleagues have been replaced by
a new Palestinian leadership with which it is possible to discuss a
diplomatic solution to the conflict. They also all expect an American attack
on Iraq to serve as an engine for far-reaching strategic changes that will
weaken the Arabs and strengthen Israel.
The speeches by IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon and National Security
Adviser Ephraim Halevy offered professional justifications for Sharon's
policies: refusing to negotiate under fire, and instead gritting his teeth
and continuing IDF operations in the territories in the expectation that the
enemy will break first.
Ya'alon said that Israel's war aim must be a decisive victory in which the
other side recognizes that it has no chance of achieving anything via terror.
Until this occurs, he said, Israel must keep up its military pressure on the
terrorist infrastructure, alongside "differential humanitarian" abatements to
make life easier for the Palestinian civilian population, in order to
encourage the process of second thoughts now taking place among the
Palestinians. Halevy also spoke of the growing opposition to the intifada and
suicide attacks by Palestinian leaders who fear that their national movement
will be destroyed if the terror continues.
Ya'alon said he opposed evacuating isolated settlements such as Netzarim in
Gaza "under pressure from terror," viewing this as an expression of weakness
that would strengthen the armed struggle against Israel. Ya'alon said his
reasons for this stance were military and security-related, "not political or
diplomatic." But it is hard to ignore the political impact of his opinion at
a time when Sharon's main opponent for the prime ministry, Labor Party
Chairman Amram Mitzna, has made a pledge to unilaterally evacuate the Gaza
settlements the centerpiece of his campaign.
Both Mitzna and Labor's elder statesman, Shimon Peres, see the conflict with
the Palestinians in local terms. They believe that in order to end the
terror, Israel must resume negotiations with Arafat and strive to end its
occupation of the territories. But Sharon, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz,
Ya'alon and Halevy have a different world view: They see the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict as merely one front in a global culture war
between the West and fundamentalist Islamic terror. "Never before has there
been such a convergence of goals between Israel and the U.S.," Halevy said,
adding that Israel must formulate its policies with maximum consideration for
American interests and needs.
With the Likud on the verge of choosing its Knesset slate, the defense
minister opted for caution, giving a statesmanlike speech rich in quotations
from David Ben-Gurion. But the speech did contain some tentative criticisms
of the prime minister's cautious approach, consistent with the positions
Mofaz advocated in his previous role as IDF chief of staff. "Sooner or later
we will have to ask ourselves whether it is right to continue with a policy
of standing firm over time, or whether we should perhaps switch to a process
of political-military decision," he said.
Like Ya'alon, Mofaz believes that victory will be achieved incrementally
rather than with a knock-out blow and that it will not be achieved solely by
military means. And the solutions and methods he proposed were also identical
to those offered by other speakers at the conference. Like them, Mofaz also
awaits "the disappearance of the current Palestinian leadership from the
stage of history" so that Israel can negotiate with its successors. And until
then, he believes that Israel must continue to fight terror "everywhere,"
work to delegitimize Arafat and other supporters of terrorism and try to
mobilize international aid for the civilian residents of the territories.