Monday, May 21, 2007
Israel faces its choices in Gaza
Car hit by Qassams in Sderot that killed one Israeli woman
Faced with an ongoing missile barrage from Gaza on its southern cities, the Israeli government has apparently decided to refrain from any major action in Gaza to end the assault and go back to a strategy that has had mixed results in the past...targeted strikes on terrorist leaders.
Not all terrorist leaders, mind you.The ones affiliated with Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah apparently are exempt. The IDF will be concentrating on Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
As I wrote yesterday, Israel is Between a rock and a hard place in Gaza, a direct result of the retreat two years ago. Either they come in with a full assault on Hamas's stronghold in Gaza, and use the IDF in a bloody campaign to consolidate the rule of that other terrorist, Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas, something that would invoke shrill outrage from the UN and the Palestinian groupies worldwide and which would ultimately not benefit Israel in the least or they provide a limited response and learn to put up with an on again-off again war of attrition that will gradually turn the south of Israel into a ghost town.
The Bush Administration has been pushing for choice number one.
Apparently,the Olmert government has chosen a revised mixture of both. They will attempt to consolidate Abbas' rule by taking out the Hamas political leadership, rather than going into Gaza full bore.
Yesterday, Israel launched a targeted strike on Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya's house in Gaza, where eight people were killed. That brings the toll from Israeli airstrikes up to 35 since Hamas began ramping up the missile barrage last week.
According to Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, Israel is going to continue to pursue a policy of targeted killings against the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leadership. "Everyone who deals with terror against us should take cover," Dichter told Channel 2 TV. Unless of course, they get a paycheck from Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas.
The direct result of the Israeli air strikes has been to pull the Palestinians together, for now, and end the ongoing gang war in Gaza.Hamas and Fatah issued a joint statement Sunday ordering their gunmen to observe the truce.
"We warn all those who commit a violation that they will be held accountable," it said.
Masked gunmen who had been controlling the streets and taking over apartment buildings and strategic rooftops and checkpoints last week scaled back their presence, and residents who had holed up at home finally ventured out to shop and stock up on supplies.
Meanwhile,both Abbas and Hamas called for international pressure on Israel to end the `criminal attacks.' And Hamas reiterated that they have no plans for any kind of peace with Israel. Today, Hamas official Nizhar Riyan declared again that "Israel must be wiped off the map" and replaced with the state of Palestine. Hamas would fight, he said, until the "last Jew was expelled" - not only from Sderot but from "all of Palestine."
Hamas, of course, continues to launch missiles against Israel. Just this morning, a Qassam hit a car in Sderot's commercial center and woman was killed and a man `moderately injured'. `Moderately injured' by the way is an Israeli press euphemism that can cover things like the loss of limbs, blinding, and severe cuts and lacerations calling for the removal of shrapnel and requiring major surgery. Remember this the next time you see the Qassams downgraded in the dinosaur media as `causing minor casualties' or `largely ineffectual'.
Hamas has also threatened to escalate the conflict by using its forces on the West Bank to attack Israel with homicide bombers, kidnappings and sniper attacks...something it is fully capable of doing, and something that would end up being a joint operation with Abbas' paid thugs in the Tanzim and the al-Aksa Martyr's Brigade.
Needless to say, the Olmert government's ineffectual approach is not popular, especially as it didn't work in the past. Olmert's already shaky coalition took another blow Sunday when Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened to pull his Yisrael Beitenu party out of the government unless the government eliminates the threat from Hamas once and for all.
"Either Hamas is going to be dismantled, or the government is going to be dismantled," Lieberman said in a statement. "This is not an ultimatum, but these are the options."
Well, with all respect to MK Lieberman, the problem is deeper than simply Hamas. It's important to remember that Hamas is the Palestinian government, and Fatah merely its junior partner. They are two sides of the same coin. And sending the IDF in force into Gaza simply to benefit Fatah while leaving Fatah in place, especially given the current Israeli leadership and the ongoing reorganization of the IDF since Lebanon is asking for trouble.
Instead, Israel needs to play the Palestinian's game, only better...and with no restraints. For a start, remember that Gaza is a fairly small area, and one the Israelis have the ability to control most of the ingress and egress to. The Israelis also have control over Gaza's ability to function, since they sell Gaza most of its water and electricity. If Israel pulled the plug, Hamasistan would have major problems in day to day functioning and would become a most unpleasant place to be very quickly.
The Israelis, rather than going in full bore right now could concentrate on using small undercover commando units and air strikes in Gaza to target and destroy the Palestinian infrastructure, weapons depots, supply and command centers while hunting down their fighters, commanders, and leaders 24/7. They could also demand that Abbas either use his security forces against Hamas or be deemed a part of the problem.
The Israeli could then apply that same strategy to the Palestinian areas in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) if terrorist attacks against Israel's civilians heat up there.
Once the Palestinians' ability to strike Israel and function on a day to day basis is eroded, then it might be time to send the IDF in full force.
In short, the Israelis have to realize the essential mistake they made at Oslo, understand that having a terrorist enclave on their borders is simply unacceptable, and that a second Arab Palestinian state is a recipe for continued war and turmoil in the region.
Either Israel would end up with an actual government that had shown its commitment to living next to Israel in peace, or they would have ended the threat to Israel once and for all, and simply dismantled the Palestinian Authority. At that point, real talks on where to resettle these people and where to draw final borders could be made with Egypt and Jordan.