Israel’s incoming Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has announced his intention to implement what he refers to as “the convergence plan,” which involves an Israeli pullout from some 90-95 percent of the West Bank and from several neighborhoods in Jerusalem by the end of 2007. Mr. Olmert is scheduled to visit Washington in May 2006 to present his plan to the Bush Administration and Congressional leaders in the hope of securing U.S. monetary and policy support for his plan.
Olmert’s convergence plan entails the expulsion of between 50,000-100,000 Israeli civilians from their homes in the West Bank and the destruction of between 50-100 Israeli towns and villages in the area. It further requires the withdrawal of Israeli military forces to garrisoned locations in proximity to Israel’s security barrier which will encompass the remaining 5-10 percent of the West Bank territory located along the 1949 armistice lines that constituted Israel’s national boundaries until 1967.
Olmert maintains that implementation of his plan will enhance Israeli security and regional stability by lessening the daily contact between Israelis and Palestinians and by safeguarding Israel’s demographic durability as a democratic Jewish state. He further maintains that an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank will enhance U.S. and Israeli interests by improving Israel’s political posture internationally.
Upon scrutiny, however, it is clear that Olmert’s plan will do none of the above. An Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank will effectively cause the area to be transferred to the control of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. As experience from Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in September 2005 has shown, the area will likely become a base for global terrorists allied with Iran and other terror-supporting states.
In fact, terrorists operating in the relinquished areas will be capable of conducting missile attacks against Israel’s major cities, its international airport and other strategic locations in Israel. They will constitute a destabilizing force that could lead to the fall of the Hashemite regime in Jordan. Mass expulsions of Israeli civilians will destabilize Israeli society and will manifest a serious blow to the morale and retention levels of the Israeli military’s combat officer corps. Also, an Israeli pullout from the West Bank will likely make it easier for terrorist forces to execute infiltrations of Israel for the purpose of conducting large-scale bombing attacks in Israeli population centers like Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa and mobilizing the Israeli Arab minority in the cause of jihad against the Jewish state.
Caroline B. Glick is the Center for Security Policy’s Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs.