Joel Mowbray
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JERUSALEM—“Ariel Sharon would not have responded this strongly because he was so concerned with changing his image, and while Bibi would have done exactly the same thing as Olmert is, half of the country would have been protesting about what the ‘monster’ is doing,” explained former Israeli cabinet member and world-famous dissident Natan Sharansky.

Choosing his words as he stirred his breakfast shake, Sharanksy suggested that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with his center-left coalition, is perhaps the only leading figure capable of a muscular response to Hamas and Hezbollah that enjoys overwhelming public support. He seems almost relieved when he says, “This is a unique moment of unity.”

In this famously fractious political culture, achieving broad consensus is indeed rare. After the deeply divisive pullout from Gaza last year, it wasn’t clear if near-unanimity would ever be possible again. And as of a month ago, it was about to get worse. Until Hamas and Hezbollah declared war on the Jewish state, Olmert was preparing to plunge Israel into perhaps unparalleled political tumult with his proposed “convergence” plan, which called for a near-complete retreat from Judea and Samaria.

While the entire Israeli public besides the far left fringe appears supportive of Olmert’s military response, there seems to be increasing awareness that the seeds for the current mess were sown in the withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 and the Gaza “disengagement.” Even many leading members of Olmert’s Kadima party agree that “convergence” is dead, at least for now.

Despite the right’s steadfast solidarity with Olmert, figures such as Sharansky and Netanyahu are not bashful about drawing the connection between repeated Israeli retreats and the brazen acts of Hamas and Hezbollah.

It seems obvious that Hamas kidnapped 19-year-old soldier Gilad Shalit because the terrorist organization believed Israel’s response would consist of little more than a small incursion followed by the release of Palestinian thugs and terrorists. Even though Olmert staked out a seemingly inflexible position that the Jewish state would “never” negotiate with terrorists, Hezbollah clearly believed it was calling Israel’s bluff by killing three soldiers and kidnapping two others.

Only Olmert wasn’t bluffing. Or at least, he realized that when Hezbollah forced his hand, he couldn’t afford to be exposed as having bluffed.

Ha’aretz today reports that Olmert’s reaction caught both Hezbollah and its Iranian puppetmasters off-guard. Money quote:

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Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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