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For Sale at Any Price

How are Ehud Olmert’s various diplomatic gambits going? Yuval Diskin, the head of the Shin Bet — he was against the Hamas cease-fire in the first place — tells Haaretz that both arms smuggling and terrorist training in Gaza have increased since the cease-fire took effect. Meanwhile, Hezbollah added an 11th-hour condition to the prisoner swap that would have released Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev: Israel must release Palestinian prisoners along with its Hezbollah captives.

Groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, unlike the Olmert government, do not make voluntary compromises. For such groups, negotiations with Israel or any western power are intended to serve one of three purposes: to buy time; win favorable terms; or humiliate the enemy. Iran continues to “engage” with various western interlocutors because the regime knows that so long as a flicker of negotiations exists, diplomats, desperate to avoid the desuetude of their trade, will insist that diplomacy needs more time to “work,” right up until the hour of Iran’s first nuclear yield test.

Hamas agreed to the cease-fire for reason number two, and today enjoys almost all the pleasures of jihad without any of the pain: it gets to carry on with its weapons smuggling and terrorist training unencumbered by the IDF, and even without having to release Gilad Shalit. Sure, Hamas doesn’t get to fire rockets at Israel every day. But that program can be restarted when the moment is right, and by then many more rockets will have been stockpiled and rocket crews trained. What a sweet deal.

Hezbollah, for its part, has played a shrewd political and psychological game: Knowing that Israelis are desperate for word of their captive sons, Hezbollah has spent the last few weeks building up Israeli hopes of a prisoner swap, only to dash them at the last moment. Here there are many victories rolled into one: Nasrallah gets to show a faux concern for the Palestinians, which plays well across the Lebanese confessional divide — something Hezbollah is eager to do, especially after the violence of May; Hezbollah gains prestige, as mighty Israel is shown groveling before it for the release of its soldiers, which Israel could not accomplish through war; and Israeli political leaders are shown once again to be weak and easily manipulable, confirming one of Hezbollah’s basic propaganda messages about the enemy (although it must be said that this particular claim is looking less and less like propaganda). And finally, it is in Hezbollah’s interest to nurture points of conflict with Israel, not resolve them. Their goal is to leave as many accounts open as possible with the Jews, so that violence can always be justified.

Ehud Olmert’s liquidation sale of Israel’s strategic assets continues apace.



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