Israel sends humanitarian aid to Gaza.Hamas resposnsible for the present killings

Let there be no mistake. Israel has every right to defend itself. In the fact of the total indifference of the UN to continued rocket fire on Israel, Israel certainly had to do something to stop the rocket fire, defend its citizens, and attempt to force the Hamas to release the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit.
Since the breakdown of the so-called truce, which was never very quiet in the best weeks, the United Nations, the European Union and the United States did nothing other than to bemoan the mythical humanitarian crisis in Gaza and call on Israel to send more supplies. The supplies were sent, both before and after the breakdown of the truce.

Israel has maneuvered itself into a unique legal situation, where it is forced by world opinion and twisted juridical rulings to supply its declared enemy with war material. Building materials were used to construct bunkers. Cash released by Israel was used to pay the salaries of rocket launching crews and to purchase weapons smuggled in through the tunnels beneath the Rafah crossing. No country could remain forever silent and non-reactive in the face of the continued provocation.

The real issue in Gaza has nothing to do with Shalit or with sieges or rocket fire. The stakes are much bigger. The Hamas has been steadily and successfully pursuing a rather single minded program: to establish itself as the Palestinian government and supplant the Fatah, thereby voiding the concessions made by Palestinians in the Oslo process, without reversing any of the Israeli concessions. Once installed in Gaza and the West Bank and recognized as a “legitimate government” and “peace partner,” Hamas will use these territories to establish an official or unofficial Islamic state, and use it to launch terror attacks against Israel, as well as to foment subversion in Jordan and Egypt. These goals are to be reached by continuously “pushing the envelope” – establishing increasingly intolerable conditions as the status quo, accepted and approved by the entire world, in which Israel must acquiesce. In Lebanon, Hezbollah has a similar strategy vis-a-vis what is left of the Lebanese government, and is well on its way to implementing it.

Hamas has already made considerable and quite admirable progress toward its goals:
Legitimacy – Hamas, having seized power illegally, is accepted as the de-facto Gaza government. Numerous voices, including some “peace advocates” inside Israel, call for direct talks with Hamas. Arab governments rush to promote “unity” between Hamas and the Fatah. This unity would be similar to the humiliating farce of the Doha agreements, which forced the Hezbollah on the Lebanese people. The Arabs are disappointed when the Hamas refuses to go along with the charade. The kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, which should have been met with stony silence, is instead the subject of humiliating negotiations in which Israel is fully expected to free over a thousand dangerous terrorists in order to get back one soldier. International diplomats are all eager to further this shameful process.

Violation of all accords as the status quo – The Hamas have systematically torn up every last vestige of the Oslo accords as well as all the understandings related to disengagement. Quantities of arms are imported into Gaza, and 15,000 soldiers, equivalent to a division, are maintained at the expense of the $3 billion funding that the EU and other donors supply to the Palestinian Authority.

Terror as the status quo – The right of the Hamas terrorists militants to rain rockets down on Israeli towns is accepted without question, and greeted with the most perfunctory protests. No international agency or government has done anything to stop them.

Upping the Ante The Hamas condition for renewing the truce is that it must be extended to the West Bank. The implication is clear. If Israel is unable to operate in the West Bank, pro-Hamas forces will quickly overwhelm the Palestinian Authority there, and install themselves as the government.

All the above are guaranteed to generate the righteous indignation of every friend of Israel. The Israeli action is justified and long overdue. But the real question is, “What can it accomplish?” In a brief attack, the Israel Air Force destroyed every “police” station in Gaza, killing about 200 persons, mostly Hamas, and evidently destroyed a lot of rocket launching silos and other installations. The current operation “Operation Cast Lead,” (Oferet Yetzukah – named for the Hanukkah Dreidl song of Bialik) had been planned six months ago, we are told. Meticulous intelligence work was accompanied by appropriate disinformation and it all went off without a hitch. The lessons of the Second Lebanon War, we are assured, were learned meticulously. Perhaps the military lessons were learned, though people forget that the Second Lebanon War opened with a brilliant military achievement – destruction of all the intermediate and long range missiles of the Hezbollah.
After about a month of restraint in the face of mounting Hamas attacks, the Israeli operation drew favorable media comment in Israel. Even Bradley Burston, who seemed to be advocating surrender to Hamas only last week, rallied to the defense of the cause. When the guns talk, the critics are silent.

But what does Israel do in the next act? The IDF plan should also have written in to their plan the predictable condemnations by the UN Secretary General EU, and world leaders, that have already been registered and that will soon lead to UN action as well. As in Lebanon, the media are already churning out fake photographs and fake atrocity stories that will build support for the terror group. As in Lebanon, the IDF is trying to destroy “terrorist infrastructure,” which is worthless in any case. Can it be that the government didn’t learn the main lesson of the Lebanon war, that you cannot beat a terrorist or guerrilla group with an air war? Or is this only the opening act of the drama? Will the UN allow Israel to continue its operations, and what will be the result? Ismail Haniyeh is already broadcasting defiant victory, Nasrallah style, from a Gaza bunker. Clearly, it will take a lot more than today’s action to make the Hamas change its ways, to gain a “victory.”

What would constitute a victory over the Hamas in Gaza? As in Lebanon, the only real victory over the Hamas must be dismantling of the Hamas government and disbanding of the Hamas, or alternatively, the unlikely outcome where Hamas abandons its Islamist principles, abandons violence, abandons Jihad, rewrites the anti-Semitic Hamas charter and commits to live in peace with Israel. Neither of these goals are realistic, because the Iranians and Syrians who control the Hamas are determined to fight Israel to the last Palestinian, no matter what.

Therefore, only eliminating the Hamas may bring real victory. Nothing else will stop them, and anything else would constitute a victory, unless it can be shown that it will eventually lead to the final goal. The best we can hope for from an operation like this is a return to the status quo ante in which an uneasy truce is maintained and Syria and Iran continue to call the shots – literally. The media show about the Gaza siege will go on. The arms buildup will go on, and the Hamas threat to overthrow Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will continue to loom in the background. That is the good alternative. The bad alternative is an outcome like that “achieved” in Lebanon. Hamas is established as the de facto organization in control of the Palestinian government, and builds up its military potential behind the screen of a worthless international force.

But the option of overthrowing Hamas does not really exist and would not solve the problem. Even if Israel were to take over Gaza, it is certain that as long as Syria and Iran continue to have the regimes that they have, they will use the reoccupation of Gaza to turn the place into a worse security liability for Israel than it is now. Remove the Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, and they will be replaced by another group. Perhaps it will be called the Itbah al yahoud Beit al Maqdes Jihad brigades or another group. It doesn’t matter what the name will be.

In view of the proximity of a national election and the constant clamor for action, the restraint urged continuously by Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak and adopted by the government was admirable. He knows quite well what the cost of the operation can be, what the risks are, and what the likely outcome is, but he had no choice. A government must defend its people. If the world is totally deaf and blind to the terrorization of the Western Negev, the Israeli government had to do something. The opposition, and the government, especially foreign minister Tzipi Livni blamed the failure to act on Barak, as did much of the media. An enterprising opposition MK wanted to try Barak as a traitor. One man cannot stand against a deluge. If the operation succeeds, which is not likely, everyone will rush to take credit. If it fails, it will no doubt be blamed on Ehud Barak and Chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

Ami Isseroff

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