Sat 25 May 2024 7:41 am - Jerusalem Time

Olmert: What is happening in the Gaza Strip is nothing but “an appendix to a comprehensive war” that begins in the West Bank

Haaretz - Written by: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert -

The “Iron Swords” war in the Gaza Strip, in the north and center, and now in Rafah, is unfolding and destabilizing. Brave young soldiers continue the ground operation with determination in an attempt to destroy the remaining Hamas fighters, after it appeared that they were eliminated or removed, but they are back and continue to fight, and it is our soldiers who will pay the price for this with their lives. Many Palestinians, including civilians, found themselves in the eye of the storm on the battlefields. The aid convoys, which are trying to reach two million residents of the Gaza Strip, will continue to make their way on land and through the new port that the United States established to facilitate the provision of food and humanitarian aid to hundreds of thousands of people whom Yahya Sinwar has made a safety net to protect him and his soldiers.

Israel, trapped between barriers, cooperates in providing aid, not with joy and understanding, but rather against its will; Because this is the inevitable and justified price, which may give moral justification for continuing the war until “absolute victory,” which will almost certainly not come. But on the other hand, almost invisibly, a war is developing that will overshadow all the tragedies, blood, fire and clouds of smoke that cover Gaza and its environs, and it is the war in the West Bank, in the areas that we call with historical right “Judea and Samaria.” More than two million Palestinians have lived there for many years. They did not migrate there, to the areas that were considered “home” to them. They and their parents were born there, and their grandfathers and grandmothers were born there. Also, they have no other countries. We are doing everything in our power to expel them from there, expel them from their homes, from their natural scenes of life, in order to annex these areas to the State of Israel and complete the mission of life for the extremist, reactionary, and murderous Messianic public that is taking control of the government in the State of Israel.

I said and repeat: The war in the Gaza Strip is not the hope and ambition of Ben Gvir and Smotrich and their friends. Their determination to attack Rafah is not the real goal; it is only an accessory to the war in the West Bank. The mouth is in Rafah and the heart is in Judea and Samaria.

The war of the settlers and their supporters is a government-sponsored crime, deliberate turning a blind eye, and hidden naivety that cannot cover up its brutality. Its abomination and shocking consequences do not only affect its victims in the settlements, fields, companies, and centers of Palestinian life, but also affect us, throughout the entire country. Even before October 7, there were terrible settler violence against Palestinians. The Huwwara massacre received widespread coverage that went beyond internal discourse in Israel. Smotrich’s announcement that Huwara should be “wiped out,” not through volunteers from the regions’ residents, the “Hill Youth” and their supporters, but through the government of Israel. This announcement caused shock throughout the world and called for angry international responses, including from important leaders, most notably the American President. Biden. Everyone realized that the government of destruction led by Netanyahu is undermining the foundations of our existence, while seeking to destroy the foundations of the existence of the Palestinian people, who live on land with which the Jewish people have a deep historical connection. But also for him, it is the land of his life, no, he has no other.

Naturally, we care about the war in Gaza, about the sadness that befalls us, about the statements of the Israeli army spokesman that he “allowed the publication,” and about crying over our sons whose names are revealed while they are in coffins to be buried with respect, in light of everyone’s grief. It is important to hear the stories of the heroism of the brave warriors who put their lives at risk in amazing operations in order to find the bodies of the kidnapped people who were killed months ago, extract them from the temporary grave and bring them for burial in Israel. At the same time, attention cannot be diverted from the war currently taking place in “Judea and Samaria,” which is part of the existential war waged by the democratic and enlightened State of Israel. When organized groups of murderous vandals, who are messianic messengers, threaten to destroy it in order to embody the dream of absolute control over the parts of the country that they want to annex, and the expulsion of those who have lived there for generations.

If anyone imagined that he could hide and ignore these events in the West Bank, Ronen Bergman and Mark Mezzi from the New York Times (Bergman is also a correspondent for Yedioth Ahronoth) came and revealed the actions taking place there in all their ugliness. The report of these two correspondents is an example of courage, human conscience, and moral responsibility. Now the picture is clear, it is no longer hidden by the obliteration efforts undertaken by the Israel Police, the Territories Police, and the Ben Gvir Corps. This is a shocking picture.

Since October 7, about 7,000 Israeli residents of the Territories, most of whom previously served in the army, have been recruited and then given weapons; They were also appointed to protect settlers and settlements; He asked them to uncover their faces and not to erect barriers on the streets in the West Bank. In practice, many of them left the guard duty in the settlements, put masks on their faces, and went out for violent confrontations with the Palestinian residents of the areas, which in many cases ended in injuries, destruction of property, and even death.

Israeli law enforcement uses completely different standards of examination and investigation when it comes to Palestinian terror suspects versus Israeli terror suspects. The latter are using masks that appear to have been given to them to achieve the main goal of the Netanyahu government, which is the absolute and ruthless application of Jewish control over the lands of our historic homeland, at the expense of the Palestinians living there. Since the events of October 7, settlers, young and old, have carried out 848 attacks in the West Bank, causing severe injuries to people and property, according to foreign reports and people who carefully follow every day what is happening in the “areas” in which the State of Israel is responsible for protecting security, law and order. .

In addition, 18 Palestinian communities were completely expelled, and 7 communities were partially expelled from their places by violent settlers. None of them have succeeded in returning to their place, and their residents now live in harsh conditions, in areas and conditions that do not allow them to live. This is one of the stages of embodying the dream of a complete Land of Israel without the Palestinians.

During this period, since October 7, terrorist operations were carried out by Hamas men in Judea and Samaria, causing many victims among Jews, residents of the regions and others. It is clear that the Shin Bet, the police, and the army must find the killers, arrest them, and, if necessary, eliminate them without hesitation. The security authorities in Israel do this, and they deserve appreciation for their activity in eradicating terrorism. But events now in the regions are different and have more serious repercussions.

What is happening in the “Territories” now is an organized, violent and murderous operation by settlers who know that they have support and support from senior ministers in the government, and enjoy freedom of action that stems from intentional turning a blind eye by the police and the army. They all prefer to pretend that they have not seen, heard, noticed, or been arrested—all with the innuendo, which actually implies complicity in these criminal acts. Recently, everyone who watched Israeli television channels was able to see how dozens of young men wearing hats and carrying weapons, sticks and iron bars attacked dozens of trucks transporting food aimed at treating the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. These young men stopped the trucks, assaulted the drivers, forced them out of the trucks, got on the trucks, threw away the food and destroyed it. The police did nothing to prevent this, and the army was not there to deter them. They did so freely and with exposed faces where they could be identified. But they were not arrested, investigated or arrested. The time has come to name the boy after him: under the sponsorship, support and support of the Israeli government, whether actively or passively, a battle is taking place in the areas of Judea and Samaria that will ignite a war that will drag in millions of people who live there.

This is the crux of the matter. The accumulation of events in “Judea and Samaria” can only be understood as part of efforts aimed at ultimately igniting a fire that will spread like wildfire throughout “Judea and Samaria” and lead to an all-out war. This is the ultimate goal of Ben Gvir, Smotrich and their friends. As for the settlers and their supporters in the government, as long as the war continues in Gaza, and as long as the soldiers linger around unnecessarily in Rafah and other areas in the Strip, and as long as the limited war in the north continues, and tens of thousands of residents of the north do not live in their towns and homes, and basically as long as there is no longer The kidnapped people are returned to their homes, and the heads of the ruling gangs, especially Ben Gvir, are working to prevent a deal that will lead to the release of the kidnapped people... It is possible to continue the orgy in the West Bank and the abuse and killing of the Palestinian population, even those who are not involved in terrorism and violence.

It is time to stop these riots. The responsibility for this lies primarily with the government and its president. But it is clear that Netanyahu will continue to look the other way, and will certainly give Ben Gvir a boost because of his apparent determination to prevent terrorism and provide security for the residents of “Judea and Samaria.” Everyone agrees that Netanyahu is untrustworthy, and that he has no intention, desire, ability, or moral obligation to prevent the killing of Palestinians by Jews in the West Bank.

So it is inevitable to place this request before two other leaders, the two members of the war council who are now the last hope for many Israelis who do not want to live in an apartheid state: Gantz and Eisenkot. They are appropriate, logical, warriors and patriots in every sense of the word. When they joined the government of destruction, I thought they were wrong. I said publicly that when the day comes when Netanyahu is removed from the seat, as he deserves, they must be, along with Yair Lapid, an authoritarian asset trying to form a new government that rebuilds the State of Israel before it is too late. I predicted more than once that in the face of Netanyahu's deception, and in the absence of a political vision and horizon in the government of which they are members, they would conclude that they had no choice but to withdraw from the government.

I heard the justifications attributed to them, which say that a government without Gantz and Eisenkot will be completely subject to the hysteria of the “service evader,” as Eisenkot calls Ben Gvir, and that it is better to have a war council with Gantz and Eisenkot than a war council with Ben Gvir. Even here, what is happening in the “territories” is not the subject of a military operation, as is the operation to liquidate the Hamas brigades in Rafah. There can be different positions about processes like this; Felgantz and Eisenkot another position; I and many others, who in their public lives have made decisions regarding an attack, attack, operations or liquidations, have a different position. Their position on this matter is legitimate, even if, in my judgment, it is wrong. But their silence on what is happening in the areas of “Judea and Samaria” is incomprehensible, unjustified, and intolerable. When the talk is about riots and chaos carried out by the State of Israel through its citizens, settlers, police, and security forces, there is no place for tolerance, submission, and silence.

Gantz and Eisenkot, you are the ones who bear the responsibility. Either you withdraw from this bloody government now, or you become part of it with all the destruction it is carrying out.


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