|Israel Resource Review
||11th January, 2009
"Angst and Resolution"
Arlene Kushner, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Near East Policy Research
From the start of this war, I was determined not to criticize the government, as long as it proceeded to do the right thing -- never mind that our actions in our self-defense were severely over-due (and made necessary by the grievous error of the "disengagement" that Kadima promoted) and that there might be political motivation for some of what was happening. If it's the right thing now, it's the right thing. Time for critique could come later, if and as necessary.
Several times now, as we've progressed, I've expressed unease about whether the government might cave prematurely and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. There is ample precedent for being uneasy about the resolve of Olmert and company to see through our attempts to achieve victory, however that would be defined. Each time, I've been pleasantly surprised: we're still fighting. Although again now I am uneasy (more about this following).
Of course, the question of what defines a state of victory is still outstanding. There has been criticism in this country regarding a vagueness within the government about defining precisely what our goals are. But I've cut them slack on this score as well. I have considered the fact that there might be legitimate reasons for playing our cards close to the chest, as it were.
Now, however, it is time, once again, to pause and take stock -- look at where we've gone and where we need to go.
The fighting of the IDF has been superb. Lessons have been learned from 2006, and we're a lean, mean fighting machine right now. As a result, we've dealt Hamas a really hard blow -- although not yet hard enough, as I've been writing for some days now. What has been made clear is that there is a third stage that has been planned by the IDF that would hit Hamas even harder.
The UN Security Council Resolution last Thursday had the potential to bring what we were doing to a halt. Our Security Cabinet opted not to accept the resolution -- presumably because Hamas refused to accept it and actually responded by launching 25 rockets into our south, and because the Egyptians turned out to be all talk and -- refusing foreign forces on their soil -- without solid plans for stopping the smuggling.
We announced that we were going ahead, and we dropped leaflets on the south of Gaza announcing that escalation could be expected. But we haven't moved additional reserve troops -- who have been trained and are ready -- into Gaza and we haven't begun a genuine intensification of our military actions. It's been more of the same -- which can continue just so long, even though we are still hitting the houses of Hamas leaders, taking out tunnels, etc. What is being done now is to put the soldiers in a static situation, which is not acceptable. Saying we'll probably move ahead, either in the south or into Gaza City, is not the same as actually doing it.
On Monday, Amos Gilad, head of the Ministry of Defense Diplomatic-Security Bureau, is going back to Cairo to discuss Egyptian plans for stopping the smuggling. For even as it's being said that we're probably going to keep going, so is it being said that if Egypt comes up with "satisfactory" plans (involving foreign forces) we'll stop. (There is some suggestion that if we do escalate our efforts, it will be to "convince" Egypt to cooperate on the matter of international forces.)
So there's a feeling of "uh oh." And what has to be asked is if satisfactory plans are even possible and, if so, what they would be. Olmert is moving as if there is the possibility of satisfactory plans. I, along with many others, remain exceedingly dubious. The model of UNIFIL stares us in the face. Which international forces would risk themselves, for Israel's sake, in confrontation with those who dig tunnels and transport weapons through them? None come readily to mind.
Coupled with this is the issue of Egypt resenting the implication that it cannot go it alone, so that the international forces on Egyptian soil might be loathe to point out how remiss Egypt is.
There is, when all is said and done, a huge possibility that this would be a charade.
And in addition there is this factor: The notion has been touted that the PA should resume its presence at the Philadelphi Corridor, which it maintained -- without real success at monitoring smuggling -- from the fall of 2005, when we pulled out, until June 2007, when Hamas took over.
I figure PA forces would last about a day there now, because Hamas has said they wouldn't be tolerated.
And Abbas knows this, too: he has now said that the PA would take control again at the crossing into the Sinai only after reconciliation with Hamas. There's no great chance of that happening any time soon, as Hamas sees the PA as complicit with Israel in the current war. Never mind that Egypt is trying to get Hamas to agree to this "plan."
Abbas, for his part, is pushing for an international force inside of Gaza. This won't fly with Hamas either, as it has said that any international troops inside of Gaza would be attacked as occupiers.
This over-view of the situation makes it clear what a total balagan (state of confusion) it is.
And there's even more to be considered:
Can we necessarily assume that if Olmert and Livni, who touted resolution 1701, say that a plan Egypt is proposing is a good plan, it truly is? I, for one, would not rely on this. Might our government seek a way out of further fighting by accepting a plan that has significant flaws? This is the question that nags at us, although we have no evidence of this now. Even with the best of intentions, are they all too ready to rely on international guarantees? Possibly. Although Olmert's position now is that we must rely on ourselves.
And if we want to stop fighting, what would the parameters be for doing so? Would we actually stop unilaterally, as has been proposed? The mere suggestion of this is highly offensive.
If we want Hamas to stop too, there are two ways to get it to do so. Either we beat it down sufficiently -- as General Kupervasser, whom I cited last week, suggests -- which necessarily means further fighting. Or we give Hamas something -- that something being permanent opening of crossings from Israel into Gaza, allowing Hamas the normalization it is seeking.
This would be counterproductive to all of our goals and would give Hamas the opportunity to say it has won. Would we, at a bare minimum, require return of Gilad Shalit first? It would be to our everlasting shame if we did not.
Hardly a simple situation.
And there is yet one other parameter to consider: Would it be a good thing for Israel if we were to totally and fully defeat Hamas? My answer to this has been, and remains, that it would not. The goal of the international community is to ensconce the PA in Gaza once again, and then to lean on us to make "peace" with the PA that would once again be in control of all "Palestinian territory."
In fact, it is not only the international community that is pushing this, but also our foreign minister, Tzipi Livni. And it is with regard to this that I have absolutely no compunction about criticizing, war or no war. She has suggested on several occasions, most recently in an interview that ran in the Washington Post last week, that we are fighting so that moderate forces can be restored in Gaza, forces with whom we can make peace. And I consider the notion that we would lose a single one of our boys for any reason other than to protect our own rights an obscenity. We are not fighting for Mahmoud Abbas, and a Palestinian state would serve us only ill.
This, by the way, is where I take issue with Charles Krauthammer's article on the issue, which has been sent to me by multiple persons.
So, where does this leave us? Is there no answer? I think perhaps there is. This is not original with me: I am merely drawing on what seems most reasonable.
First, we must hit Hamas with additional fighting power. General Kupervasser, who served with IDF Intelligence, says they can be pushed into a situation in which they will halt their aggression, whether permanently or temporarily is up for discussion.
And then, we need to re-take the Philadelphia Corridor, which we should never have left. There is no way that Hamas can claim a "win" if we are sitting there. And in this instance, instead of depending on Egypt and some obscure international force to ensure that there is no smuggling of arms, we protect ourselves -- which is precisely how it should be.
I have no information that the IDF is planning this. But I do know that it is being promoted in significant circles. As I've previously mentioned, Maj.-Gen.(res) Yom-Tov Samia -- who was head of the Southern Command of the IDF from 2001 until 2004, and is now advising the current head of the Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant -- has urged that we return to the Corridor and stay for 25 years. David Horovitz, editor of the Jerusalem Post, seems to support this idea, as does Dr. Aaron Lerner, head of IMRA.
Please see here for an analysis of this approach, with background and an extremely useful map. This is by IDF veteran and commentator on defense issues, David Eshel (with thanks to Joel Kangisser):
In brief, then, today's news:
Olmert, and I must give him this credit, is still saying the right things. At today's Cabinet meeting, he declared:
"No country in the world, including those that preach morals to us, would have shown restraint as we have. We knew this wouldn't be simple, and what is acceptable for every other country in the world is barely accepted when it comes to Israel.
"Israel is approaching the targets it has set for itself, but more patience, determination and courage are needed for us to achieve those goals in a way that will change the security reality in the south, and for our citizens to feel long-term security and stability.
"We must not miss out last minute on what was achieved in an unprecedented national effort to restore the spirit of unity to the people of Israel. The Israeli public, and mainly the residents of the south in the Home Front, have the patience and will for this – as does the government.
" . . . We have never allowed anyone to decide for us whether we are allowed to strike those that hurl bombs at our kindergartens and schools and we never will agree to that in the future.
"No resolution that was made or will be made in the future that will deprive us of our basic right to defend the residents of Israel."
The IDF is reporting that whole Hamas battalions have been wiped out. In addition, the Hamas fighters, who are vicious and devious, are also showing themselves to be cowardly. Not only are they in hiding, some are beginning to desert. Yesterday, we took out Amr Mansi, a rocket chief for the Gaza City area. We were able to target him because his subordinates refused his orders to come out of hiding to fire mortar shells at Israeli soldiers, so he did it himself, and was hit.
Overnight, we attacked the house of Hamas military commander Ahmad Jabari in Sajiya. We also struck some 60 additional terror targets including a mosque in Rafah that was used as a training camp and a storage facility for anti-aircraft missiles.
According to Carmela Menashe, military correspondent for Voice of Israel radio, the IDF wants to continue the war until the end of the month and is prepared to do so.
Note: This is the military intention, not necessarily what the political leaders will decide.
Note also: This would bring us past the January 20th inauguration date.
This is fairly astonishing, and a sign of the shift in the larger political situation in the Middle East:
Israel National News reports that, according to the Saudi Gazette, Saudi Arabia has promised that it will not use oil as a weapon against Israel because of its war against Hamas in Gaza. "You can't reverse a conflict by using oil," declared the Saudi Foreign Minister.
Says INN, the Gazette also stated, in a separate report, that the war in Gaza is a proxy battle between Western allies and Iran.
Hamas leaders are offering their usual bluster. Mashaal, Hamas politburo head in Damascus, has declared his fighting forces to be at full strength, even as he says we are committing a "holocaust" in Gaza.
He gave us a moment of unintended amusement when he announced that because of our acts we have ruined the opportunity to make peace with Hamas.
Head of Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, today reported to the Cabinet that the number of rockets launched from Gaza since the beginning of the war has been fewer than had been anticipated.
Hamas is still fighting, however, and rockets -- including Grad Katyushas -- are being launched at our south. There have been Grads launched today at Beersheva, where a car was hit, near a kindergarten (thankfully empty!) in Ashkelon, and in Ashdod, next to an apartment building, as well as in other locations: Kiryat Malachi, Netivot, Eshkol regions, etc.
The comment has been made that the miracles continue, for these rockets are lethal and yet our people in the main have escaped injury -- through the grace of G-d, and care that is taken to seek shelter. May this continue.
Hamas attacks, it should be noted, continued today during the three hour daily ceasefire we are honoring to allow relief to go into Gaza. Is anyone in the international community (and especially UNRWA) taking note of this?
There is a perpetual double standard at work, with Palestinians, whether Hamas or Fatah, cut slack. Does anyone care when Hamas is oblivious to civilian needs, or, since they are terrorists, is it simply assumed they will act as they do?
The Israeli Air Force reports that there have been attempts by Hamas to damage our aircraft, utilizing anti-aircraft missiles. Our pilots are aware of the situation and act in accordance with specified guidelines.
A spokeswoman for Barak Obama denies the report that Obama will deal quietly with Hamas that appeared in the Guardian on Friday.
In fact, Obama has just said that, "I think that a basic principle of any country is that they've got to protect their citizens."
He has indicated that he is preparing his team to be immediately engaged, after January 20, in a Middle East peace process.
Please, see this really excellent YouTube video with a different and powerful slant, and share it widely (thanks Ruthie L.):
Also please see the IDF YouTube site and bookmark it for future reference. This is not only informative, I've been advised that YouTube would just as soon take it down, using the fact that it's not being accessed as an excuse:
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