After I wrote Gaza Monopoly
, several people wrote to ask, "OK, what is your solution?"
I had no intention of providing a solution. I only intended to explain some of the reasons why the Israeli
government is not rushing to adopt either of the simplistic solutions suggested by pundits of right and left: "wipe 'em out" or "cut a deal." A deal would legitimize Hamas
rule and give it a new lease on life. If Israel is willing to abide Hamas rule, it would signal to Europeans and others that it is OK for them to deal with Hamas. A military operation is risky and costly.
Truthfully, I didn't see that anyone else whom we might consider knowledgeable and informed was ready with an unequivocally guaranteed solution, except for the usual fools who rush in where angels fear to tread, and the wags who want to blame everything on "politics."
After I wrote "Gaza Monopoly," Ha'aretz published a similar analysis by Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
, both astute analysts. They wrote:
The bottom line has remained the same: Absent a hit by a "strategic Qassam" that exacts many casualties in Israel and leads to massive escalation, no large-scale military offensive is expected in Gaza in the coming months (which in effect means, until the Knesset election). In the longer term, a direct clash with Hamas is definitely a possibility. But this, as noted, will take time.
The truth behind the inflammatory talk is that hardly anyone in the cabinet or the General Staff is eager for battle. After the failure in Lebanon two years ago, the ministers, like the generals, do not want to get caught up in another imbroglio in which they would end up with casualties being linked to their names. Gaza is not Lebanon: Hamas is less skilled than Hezbollah, even if it is working to close the gap. The IDF in 2008 is better trained, too, and its plans are more orderly and detailed than those of 2006. However, there are basic problems that have yet to be solved. The most important of these is the gap between the public's expectations and the operational ability in action.
According to the most optimistic IDF assessments, it would take many months of physical presence on the ground in parts of the Strip to bring about a significant decrease in the attacks on the Negev. The army is not certain whether the public or for that matter the government can muster such patience, when it is obvious that the prolongation of any fighting will cost the lives of many soldiers.
The difficulties faced by the communities in the Gaza envelope are profound and there is no immediate solution to them. In these circumstances, it is important for the political and security establishment to spread the message that much is being done and to reassure the public of civilians and voters. The uncomfortable truth is buried under mountains of verbiage: "We are very close to a crucial juncture," "The military strike in Gaza is more imminent than ever" (Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, respectively, a week ago); the kitchen cabinet meets "under a blackout"; the cabinet "is seriously discussing the possibilities." The media tends to accept the official line almost literally. Thus, when Olmert and Barak are creating the impression that a major IDF move is imminent, the press rarely voices the basic, instinctive suspicion that if Israel has already been hesitating for two years now, it apparently has good reasons not to make good on its threats.
My emphasis: The difficulties faced by the communities in the Gaza envelope are profound and there is no immediate solution to them. Everyone should understand that. Anyone who offers a surefire cure is selling you snake oil.
IDF in Gaza might look quite a bit like the US in Iraq or IDF in Lebanon. The rocket fire will not go away quickly. Not only would Israeli towns and villages be subject to quite a pounding from mortars, Qassams, Grad missiles and maybe worse, but, as I noted in Gaza Monopoly, CNN, the the Washington Post and of course the BBC and the Guardian and their ilk would all be highlighting Arab casualties. We can take it for granted that Hamas will put on a show like they did for the bogus electricity shortage. IDF in Gaza might also bring opportunities for a lot of kidnappings - many more Gilad Shalits.
In hindsight, it is easy to see what should have been done. Israel should have made it clear that our soldiers would return to Gaza immediately if the rocket fire continues, and IDF should have reoccupied Gaza in 2006 - before the Hamas victory, before Schalit was captured, before the Hamas coup. By tolerating continued rocket fire, Israel allowed the Hamas to establish a "fact on the ground" - an "acceptable level of violence" that was unacceptable. Israel should also have begun procurement of a defense for Qassam rockets. We still don't have one, and the one that was selected, Iron Dome, is likely to be costly and ineffective. It would be a lot easier to decide on a large scale military operation if the government could be sure that civilians would not be subject to large scale bombardment for many months.
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Replies: 1 Comment
"In hindsight, it is easy to see what should have been done. Israel should have made it clear that our soldiers would return to Gaza immediately if the rocket fire continues, and IDF should have reoccupied Gaza in 2006 - before the Hamas victory, before Schalit was captured, before the Hamas coup. By tolerating continued rocket fire, Israel allowed the Hamas to establish a "fact on the ground" - an "acceptable level of violence" that was unacceptable. Israel should also have begun procurement of a defense for Qassam rockets."
Leaving Gaza only made sense if it was clear to the enemy that we are willing and able to return if necessary. If they knew that they would have avoided doing things to bring us back. Otherwise it was wrong to leave Gaza.
But since we showed we are neither willing nor able to come back they dictated the terms of the fighting with us. Now every day that passes makes the cost of fighting greater and reduces our options.
The problem is this: we should not accept continued shelling on Sderot, but at the same time we should realize that there can not be complete victory here. Under these circumstances the options are either a bad ceasefire followed by fighting followed by a ceasefire and so on, or bad fighting followed by a ceasefire followed by fighting and so on. The alternative of continued shelling of Sderot is unacceptable. the choice between the two options must be made. One way or another sderot must get its security back.
I have a problem with the claim that the army needs months. If Israel is going to fight it shoud do it in less than 6 days, prefereably 2, even if it means mobilzing ALL the reserves. It should strike, attack as much as possible, show as many captured Hamas weapons and men as possible, capture some territory in philadelphy and the north mostly, and then allow the international community to force a ceasefire on it. The shortness of the fighting should reduce the harm of international condemnation and the suffering by Israeli and Palestinian civilians. The strength of Israeli show of force and the clear image of international intervention should reduce the image of Hamas victory even if they claim one. And even if they do, they will at least have more incentive to keep the ceasefire for longer. The capture of territory in gaza might help focus violence on soldiers if violence resumes, while giving us more options to fight back. It also gives us a territorial card that can be negotiated, as well as a tangible loss for the Hamas.
It is true that a guerila organization like the Hamas doesn't define victory or loss in the same terms we do. But a loss of already liberated territory, and the loss of face in combat are losses that mean something to them too. And these can be acheived by the Israeli army and by right use of propaganda.
I'm also going to disagree with you completely Ami o another thing. You want the Hamas delegitimized completely. But I think if Abbas forms a unity government with Hamas after their pride is diminished by the Israeli army, than this would be good for Israel. In the context of fucked up Palestinian politics it makes more sense to shakle the Hamas by favorable terms of 'national unity' than to isolate it but leave it free to act without regard to the damn national consensus. Look, they are not a democracy in which there are two opposing views. They always seek a pretend consensus. So the best we can acheive is that the consensus will be favorable to us, namely: "right now we are not fighting and allowing the president to negotiate for the sake of national unity." I don't think such unity will prevent the possibility of peace anymore than its absense will. even if there was a chance for peace a unity government can be the excuse the Hamas needs to tolerate the negotiations with the promise of a referendum and maintain a ceasefire.
All in all its a fuced up situation no matter what we do. But as bad as our options are, we cannot avoid making a choice, and some of the choices are relatively better. It is time we give up on extreme black and white solutions and learn to live with the partial and temporary.
Micha, Saturday, June 14th
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