Currently, the Israeli government is deliberating two issues: Whether or not to release Palestinian prisoners as a unilateral "gesture" to the PA's Abu Mazen, and how to allocate budgetary cuts in the military and social spending programs.
With regard to the first issue, the Israeli government claims to want to "strengthen" Abu Mazen in the face of Hamas' power. The tactic of unilateral gestures has proven to be a miserable failure. I have previously written about this extensively. Abu Mazen is a barely breathing corpse, and releasing terrorists will do nothing to change this.
Another reason for the release, often mentioned, is to show the Palestinians that "dialogue" will bring about Israeli concessions, rather than the tactic of terrorism and kidnappings. This is completely fallacious and illogical. The Palestinians, and Arab adversaries in general, have long a ago concluded that they can achieve their goals by force. We ourselves have tought them that with our behaviour in the past 10 years. Releasing 150 terrorists from prison isn't going to reverse that perception; if anything it will strengthen it, because everybody with eyes in their heads will know that Israel is doing it in reaction to Hamas' demands for ransom.
As to Israel's military budget, this requires some basic common sense which our current leaders seem to lack. In the current environment Israel has no choice but to maintain a high expenditure on the military. I think a crash program needs to be implemented to develop and deploy an anti-rocket system as quickly as possible. This, however, is a late and avoidable need, that resulted from the deterioration in our deterrence. However, technology is not sufficient; our purchase of the latest planes and tanks doesn't scare Hamas or Hizbullah.
As I see it, our weak leaders are trying to throw money at the problem, but money is not the issue. In reality they are covering up their own failed decision making. Barak should be investing his energy in improving Israel's deterrence rather than making petty arguments about the importance of not cutting his budget. He uses cheap vailed threats of impending "security challenges" which is an old tired argument for a bloated budget that emphasizes officer's salaries and hi-tech wizardry rather than time-proven basic military doctrine. Furthermore, with the globalized markets and fattened cash reserves of the oil-producing states, in any arms race between Israel and the Arabs, Israel will lose. The US is a weakened ally and cannot be counted on to counter the mass influx of arms in the Middle East. So betting on the horse of the military budget is just an additional way to avoid making the really important decisions, and is doomed to failure.
Olmert is continuing his furious attempts at arriving at a "shelf agreement" with Abu Mazen. But our offers for massive concessions are just being met with derision and contempt by our supposed partners for peace. This period reminds me of a similar period in the last months of Barak's stewardship as Prime Minister, during which he shuttled back and forth to Camp David and Sharm el Sheikh in order to get Arafat to sign on the dotted line, all the while when the Palestinians were unleashing a viscious terrorist war against us. We all know how that ended.
Israel continues to make every possible mistake in navigating the treacherous waters of the Middle East and fundamentalist Islam.
Let's hope our leaders and people wake up before its too late.