Reform Judaism Movement: Leave Iraq — Olmert/Israeli Govt: Stay In Iraq
March 21, 2007

Olmert: Israel’s security helped
by success in Iraq

New York — The Union of Reform Judaism, headed by Rabbi Eric Yoffe, has passed a resolution reaffirming and toughening its 2005 call for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, demanding now that the Bush Administration “Set and announce a clear timetable for the phased and expeditious withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq” and opposing the commitment of 21,000 further troops to Iraq as part of new counter-insurgency strategy ( Union of Reform Judaism ).

The Union of Reform Judaism’s policy totally opposes the policy of the Israeli government of Ehud Olmert, even thought it has frequently stated that on security matters, it defers to the views of the Israeli government of the day. However, Prime Minister Olmert has called for the U.S. not to abandon its mission in Iraq. Speaking in a live video speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on March 13, Olmert spoke out strongly against a rapid American exit from Iraq, saying, ” Those who are concerned for Israel’s security, for the security of the Gulf States and for the stability of the entire Middle East should recognize the need for American success in Iraq and responsible exit … Any outcome that will not help America’s strength and would, in the eyes of the people in the region, undercut America’s ability to deal effectively with the threat posed by the Iranian regime will be very negative … All of you who are concerned about the security and the future of the state of Israel understand the importance of strong American leadership addressing the Iranian threat and I’m sure that you will not hamper or restrain that strong leadership unnecessarily” ( Reuters, March 16).

Olmert has also urged a visiting delegation of leaders of the Reform Movement to reconsider UPJ’s motion urging the U.S. government to set a firm timetable for an American withdrawal from Iraq (Haaretz, March 16).

The UPJ’s resolution also flies in the face of the advice given by Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) to those arguing for a speedy withdrawal. Senator Lieberman said:

A new commander, Gen. David Petraeus, has taken command, having been confirmed by the Senate, 81-0, just a few weeks ago. And a new strategy is being put into action, with thousands of additional American soldiers streaming into the Iraqi capital … Will we allow our actions to be driven by the changing conditions on the ground in Iraq — or by the unchanging political and ideological positions long ago staked out in Washington? What ultimately matters more to us: the real fight over there, or the political fight over here? If we stopped the legislative maneuvering and looked to Baghdad, we would see what the new security strategy actually entails and how dramatically it differs from previous efforts. For the first time in the Iraqi capital, the focus of the U.S. military is not just training indigenous forces or chasing down insurgents, but ensuring basic security—meaning an end, at last, to the large-scale sectarian slaughter and ethnic cleansing that has paralyzed Iraq for the past year. Tamping down this violence is more than a moral imperative. Al Qaeda’s stated strategy in Iraq has been to provoke a Sunni-Shiite civil war, precisely because they recognize that it is their best chance to radicalize the country’s politics, derail any hope of democracy in the Middle East, and drive the U.S. to despair and retreat. It also takes advantage of what has been the single greatest American weakness in Iraq: the absence of sufficient troops to protect ordinary Iraqis from violence and terrorism. The new strategy at last begins to tackle these problems. Where previously there weren’t enough soldiers to hold key neighborhoods after they had been cleared of extremists and militias, now more U.S. and Iraqi forces are either in place or on the way. Where previously American forces were based on the outskirts of Baghdad, unable to help secure the city, now they are living and working side-by-side with their Iraqi counterparts on small bases being set up throughout the capital …

But the fact is that we are in a different place in Iraq today from even just a month ago—with a new strategy, a new commander, and more troops on the ground. We are now in a stronger position to ensure basic security—and with that, we are in a stronger position to marginalize the extremists and strengthen the moderates; a stronger position to foster the economic activity that will drain the insurgency and militias of public support; and a stronger position to press the Iraqi government to make the tough decisions that everyone acknowledges are necessary for progress.

Unfortunately, for many congressional opponents of the war, none of this seems to matter. As the battle of Baghdad just gets underway, they have already made up their minds about America’s cause in Iraq, declaring their intention to put an end to the mission before we have had the time to see whether our new plan will work…

In fact, halting the current security operation at midpoint, as virtually all of the congressional proposals seek to do, would have devastating consequences. It would put thousands of American troops already deployed in the heart of Baghdad in even greater danger—forced to choose between trying to hold their position without the required reinforcements or, more likely, abandoning them outright. A precipitous pullout would leave a gaping security vacuum in its wake, which terrorists, insurgents, militias and Iran would rush to fill—probably resulting in a spiral of ethnic cleansing and slaughter on a scale as yet unseen in Iraq.” (Wall Street Journal, February 26).

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