Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How to deal with Gaza

P David Hornik

Israeli military commentator Alex Fishman writes that:

The Gaza Strip lull is breathing its last breaths. The two sides are approaching a large-scale armed confrontation with giant leaps – this is the conclusion of Israel's defense establishment as of Sunday night.

If anyone out there was fooling himself that there is still a possibility of a smooth shift from lull A to lull B, this slight hope dissipated Sunday. For the security establishment, the shift from the current situation to “other” situations – ranging from surgical strikes to the takeover of whole areas in Gaza – is a matter of hours to a few days.Fishman later allows that with the upcoming Israeli elections and the U.S. presidential changeover, it still may be a while before such an Israeli military operation begins. Indeed it seems hard to believe, still, that the current govt. would do it; and then the next govt. will be faced with the problem of instantly being perceived as warmongering and "extreme," with the Israeli left-wing media and political establishments all too eager to join the chorus and delegitimate Israeli self-defense in the name of delegitimating their domestic political opponents, who for them are the real and only enemy.

Nevertheless if at whatever point Israel does decide to stop leaving its southwestern citizens as sitting ducks and defend them--the most fundamental responsibility of governance--it should start by invading and totally reoccupying a couple of parts of Gaza, probably the Philadelphi Route (the Gaza-Sinai border where most of the smuggling occurs) and the northern part of Gaza. It should then announce a carrot-and-stick approach: make clear that Israel has now returned to Philadelphi and northern Gaza indefinitely, and will do the same to other parts of Gaza, including the whole Strip if necessary, if the rockets and terrorist aggression continue; whereas it will lay off the other parts of Gaza if the aggression stops. Make it a clear choice.

Admittedly, this takes a level of grit, Israeli unity, and resistance to world pressure that is hard to be optimistic about. However, it's rightly pointed out that, absent a tough, clear policy of this kind, the army will just go into Gaza and go out, the terrorists will recover, and the cycle will resume, with nothing achieved. Handing Gaza over to Fatah should not be considered for a moment as an option--transferring it from one terror organization to another one. NATO or other foreign forces should be considered even less. Fortunately the Israeli defense and even political establishment seems sufficiently aware of the debacle of UNIFIL in southern Lebanon not to consider this kind of further idiocy.

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