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December 21, 2007: Focus on Gaza

December 21, 2007

There has been, in the last few days, greatly increased IDF action in Gaza. Not that major incursion, but military maneuvers that take out terrorists and in some cases their launchers. Since last Sunday, 20 gunmen have been killed.

What is the result? The answer is complex. Actually, there are conflicting answers depending on whom you listen to and when.


That it is having some result is clear , because there have been overtures by Hamas for a hudna. The bid came from Ismail Haniyeh; some reports indicated this was via Egypt, while others say it came when an Israeli journalist was contacted.

The "deal" as reported would be a cessation of Kassam attacks if Israel stopped its attacks inside of Gaza. So, they’re hurting and Hamas people are running frightened that they’ll be next. Of this there is no question. But it is not enough.

Everyone who reads my material knows how strongly I always oppose a hudna — which is merely a temporary respite that allows them to regroup and strengthen. This certainly applies now.

There were some rumors that Olmert might be considering this, but his office denies it. In fact, spokesman Mark Regev says there was no official offer and Hamas is playing games. The official Israeli position is that Hamas must renounce violence.

What was interesting is that there was a role reversal this week, with the more "hawkish" member of Kadima, Shaul Mofaz, saying there was no harm in dealing with Hamas to stop the rocket fire, and leftist Haim Ramon saying that a temporary ceasefire would allow Hamas to strengthen itself, which is exactly right.


IDF officers — unnamed — are quoted today as saying that there was no need for a hudna anyway, because "Once the border isn’t threatened and the Kassam rockets stop, we won’t have any reason to act." I read this and wondered if military men really said this. For there is every reason to continue to act as long as that build-up of weapons persists, even if launching of rockets temporarily halts. In fact, the entire focus of a message from "a senior IDF officer" in this regard seemed terribly shortsighted:

"What we’re seeing in Gaza is not ordinary day-to-day security maintenance, it’s combat…every operation we carry out carries with it a message that ultimately will bring genuine results."

Depends on what he means by "genuine results." That the terrorists may, for a while, stop launching rockets? Perhaps. That smuggling of weapons from Egypt, and training of the Hamas army, and improving the range of capability of weapons will stop? Not a snow ball’s chance in hell.

This statement smacks of the political. "We have our orders and we operate by those guidelines," said an IDF source, "and those orders are to thwart terror attacks; to strike down anyone firing Kassams or mortars and keep the terror organizations away from the border fence. There aren’t any magic solutions, only grueling operations…"


As it is, the rockets haven’t stopped yet anyway . One landed near an army base and another near a school this week.

Chief IDF Intelligence Officer Brig.-Gen.Yuval Halamish speaking yesterday at a conference delivered a more honest military appraisal: that the IDF’s activity against camouflaged Kassam launchers is "difficult and nearly impossible."

Some of the successes have been merely luck , as it’s like "looking for a needle in a haystack." What is more, "nowadays rockets can be fired automatically by electronic systems.  By the time the rocket is making its way towards Israel, the terrorist is already sipping coffee someplace far away."


Egypt ‘s role in permitting the continued smuggling of weapons into Gaza has been a part of recent news focus. There are several facets to this situation. I’ve read that the Egyptians would rather have the weapons in Gaza than in their country, and that they feel that, if they cannot defeat the terrorists, it’s better to cooperate with them. There are undoubtedly other reasons as well as to why they’re not clamping down on the smuggling.

Recently the IDF made videotapes allegedly of Egyptian police helping Hamas smugglers. The tape was sent to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, but has only been shown to administration officials and not to Congress. Although it was reportedly the intention of Israeli security officials that appropriate members of Congress see it, as appropriations are done via Congress and some funds to Egypt might be blocked, Israeli diplomatic personnel have blocked this so as to not thoroughly enrage Egypt.

Are we the only ones to be enraged? If this report is true, it gives very serious pause. But what else is new?


As to doing that major operation into Gaza , here’s a new and different take: A "senior Israeli diplomatic official" now says that we can negotiate with Abbas but will make no progress because he cannot make concessions as long as Hamas controls Gaza.

That Hamas is setting the political agenda for the Palestinians is unquestionably true — the entire political climate has become more intransigent, more belligerent since Hamas has become involved.

But this was true before Hamas took Gaza. It has been true since Hamas entered the political fray almost two years ago, and was certainly true when the unity government was negotiated at Mecca earlier in the year and Abbas caved to Hamas demands. Any softening by Abbas is represented as siding with the enemy. Would this change if Hamas no longer controlled Gaza unilaterally? They still control the PA legislature and have a huge following among the people. They are still strong — and represent a real threat — in Judea and Samaria.

Nor is there reason to think that Fatah itself is in favor of significant concessions with Israel. There are major figures inside of this party who oppose negotiations with us.

What is more, I have reported earlier on the assessment of political analysts that the last thing Abbas can do is "ride into Gaza on an Israeli tank." He would be seen as a collaborator with the enemy and not well received. Abbas — in deference to this wide-spread attitude — has already said that Fatah would fight with Hamas in Gaza if we were to do a major military operation there. Besides which, there is the suspicion in Israeli circles that even if we took out Hamas in Gaza, Abbas would not have the strength to take over there anyway.

So, we’ve got a situation that is complex , confused, and convoluted. If we do go into Gaza, it cannot be for the sake of "peace" negotiations with Abbas, or to strengthen him, but rather to military defeat an enemy that threatens us.


More following Shabbat…




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