Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Hard Truth About Gaza

Katushka missile being launched at Israel from within Gaza City

After simmering since Hamas took over Gaza, the situation on Israel's south has degenerated into open war - almost.

After absorbing over 7,000 rockets fired into its territory, 15 dead civilians and hundreds of injured, the Israelis apparently decided enough was enough when the Palestinians 'graduated' from the first crude missiles ( which were destructive enough) to advanced Katushkas, mortar rounds and Iranian-made Grad missiles and have substantially increased both their firepower and their range. They are now reaching Israeli civilian targets as far away as Ashkelon and Ofakim.

These were exactly the sort of weapons Egypt and the EU monitors were supposed to intercept as part of the agreement under which Israel retreated from Gaza.

In response to this, the Israelis have been carrying out airstrikes and limited ground incursions, which - surprise - have not solved the problem one iota.

Both Israeli Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter and leftish Vice Premier Haim Ramon said as much, and wondered out loud when Ehud Olmert would allow the IDf to deal with the threat conclusively.

The truth of the matter is that they're being held on tight leash. Olmert has restricted them to military responses in the Gaza Strip within an area just under 2 miles deep. The Palestinians, not being entirely stupid are firing their missiles and rockets from areas outside this zone, like within Gaza City. That's a relatively safe distance of 4 to 9 miles deep.

Israel has also not cut off food, water and electricity from Gaza,and has apparently gone out of its way to avoid civilian casualties. According to Israeli military intelligence, Israeli military intelligence 90 of the 108 Palestinians killed in Gaza in the last two days were combatants. I find that fairly believable,because if Israel weren't exercising this kind of restraint the death toll would probably be ten to fifteen times higher.

Not only is this kind of restraint not ending the attacks on Israel's population, Israel is not even getting the benefit of any good will for the effort.

Olmert's original stance was that Israel would deal with the attacks from Gaza while continuing peace talks and negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Abbas quickly slapped that hand extended to him,suspending peace negotiations and calling Israel's response to the Gaza missile attacks `worse than the Holocaust'...pretty funny in a way when you recall that Abbas' doctoral 'thesis' for Moscow U was on how the Holocaust was a myth.

The UN Security Council and the EU weighed in as well, of course and called Israel's response `disproportionate', and the Arab League and Iran went predictably berserk over the 'Zionist war crime'. Even Turkey's PM Erdogan ,generally thought of as less hardline towards Israel accused them of 'killing children.'

I've written about Israel's options to deal with the war being waged on them from Gaza before. None of them are painless, thanks to Israel's unilateral retreat and Hamas' military buildup. So it seems to me that the best solution for Gaza is one that solves the problem permanently. And yes, I'm looking at it from the Israeli perspective but also from the standpoint of peace in the region.

Hamas neither cares about civilian lives in Israel nor recognizes its right to exist in peace,so expecting them to co-exist with Israel is a non-starter. The choices lots of Israeli thinkers, military strategists and pundits seem to be weighing are hellish ones: to continue to deal in a limited fashion with the ongoing and increasingly destructive missile attacks, which is obviously unacceptable; or to invade and re-occupy Gaza, endure worldwide condemnation and violent confrontations with a hostile population.

There is a third choice, and the obvious one if we're talking about a long term resolution to the problem. Not only should Israel invade Gaza,they should annex it and make it part of Israel while removing all or most of its present population, or insisting that the UN do so and relocate the 'refugees' away from Israel's borders.

If this seems like a radical solution to the problem, it only seems so because it's so obvious and has been delayed for so long, thanks to the UN's connivance with the Arab bloc. In fact, it is exactly how previous conflicts and refugee issues have been resolved in the past, by exchanges of population.

After World War II, over 17 million Germans were removed from their homes in places like Poland and Czechoslovakia for exactly that reason - to remove any pretense for future conflict. In fact, the Arab states did exactly that to almost one million Jews in the Middle East after 1948,even though those Jewish communities were involved in no violence against their fellow Arab citizens,, unlike many of the Arabs in Palestine who were actively fighting and killing Jews. King Hussein did much the same thing to the Palestinians in Jordan after Yasir Arafat tried to take over the country. During 'Black September', Hussein's Arab Legion probably killed as many as 10,000 Palestinians and drove many others over the borders to Lebanon and Iraq, together with Arafat and the PLO.

Israel will need to ultimately do the same, if it wishes to survive and end the threat on its southern borders.The same thing is likely true of the Palestinian occupied areas of Judea and Samaria,but because the IDF is still there in force they've done a much better job of protecting Israeli civilians. So let's limit this to Gaza- at least for now.

Invading Gaza and transferring the current population will by no means be easy or painless, either militarily or politically, especially if the Israelis employ half measures or allow things to drag out. They can expect a certain amount of hand wringing and condemnation from the usual suspects, and perhaps even a spanking from the Bush Administration. Since almost any measures Israel takes to defend its citizens will likely get the same response, they're better off fixing the problem permanently and simply changing the facts on the ground, once and for all.If the dissolution of Hamastan and the transfer of the population is done quickly and efficiently, especially if the Israelis make a point of taking out Ishmail Haniyeh and the rest of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad command structure in the process, the media frenzy will likely die down in a few weeks.Even if it doesn't, the Israelis are still better off.

Domestically, the Israeli government will be faced with the embarrassment of admitting to many of its citizens that they were right all along about the `disengagement', that it was a serious error and that it will not be repeated, which is why it will be necessary to annex it to Israel and repopulate it with Israelis.

Once that happens, Gaza will be a garden instead of a dysfunctional terrorist enclave propped up by the EU and UN.

And in fact, Israel has no other choice that makes any sense.

Jabotinsky was right.

No comments: