Powered by WebAds

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Gaza dilemma

With the reality of an open border between Egypt and Gaza sinking in, all of the concerned parties - Israel, Egypt and the US - are seeking ways to deal with the new reality. The first issue is to define what the new reality is. The Egyptians seem to vacillate between trying to keep the 'Palestinians' out of Egypt and announcing to the world that they will keep the border open, claiming they are in full control of the border while their actions indicate otherwise. The Mubarak government - which is a dictatorship for all intents and purposes - is trying to tread a fine line between keeping Hamas from inciting the Muslim Brotherhood (which Hamas is attempting to do) and keeping the United States from getting angry enough at its inaction to start chipping away at its foreign assistance budget.

Israel has a different set of issues. The rocket fire on the Negev continues. With the open border with Egypt, one can bet that even if it closes in the next few days, the 'Palestinians' are bringing in weapons, ammunition, and raw materials (like fertilizer) that will be used for making explosives. Eventually, Israel is going to have to deal with that. If we had a normal government, it likely would have dealt with Gaza already.

For the US, the only way to keep the 'peace process' - such as it is - on track is to resolve Gaza. On the one hand, it says that it does not want Fatah to go back into the arms of Hamas, but it is quite clear that the only way Fatah will gain any measure of control over the Gaza Strip is with Hamas' agreement. I wonder if President Bush regrets getting involved with Annapolis in the first place.

There are some interesting stories up on the net that are trying to analyze and speculate. In the New York Sun, Benny Avni - who is actually Israel Radio's New York correspondent - makes an argument that many here have made: that supplies should go through Egypt and that Egypt should take responsibility for many of the services that Israel has supplied until now. This would complete the 'disengagement' from Gaza by leaving Israel with no responsibility for Gazans' well being.
The official — who was intimately involved in forging the agreements between Israel and its neighbors when Prime Minister Sharon decided on "disengagement" from Gaza — said the "paradigm change" after yesterday's event at Rafah may lead to a reexamination of some realities those agreements have created, such as Israel's responsibility for the flow of humanitarian goods into Gaza.

"If Egypt and international welfare organizations are so concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, why don't they just reroute the deliveries? They can send food and necessities to Egypt, and then deliver them to Gaza through the Rafah crossing," the Israeli official said.
This solution has a multitude of problems. First, Egypt absolutely refuses to do it. They don't want the contact with Hamas (or so they say), they don't want to create the infrastructure for Hamas to start working with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and they don't want to be between Hamas and the IDF if Hamas continues to shoot at the Negev and the IDF comes into Gaza to deal with it (finally!). Second, the infrastructure for things like electricity and water is all on the Israeli side of the border and not on the Egyptian side. Third, it's not clear that Egypt can do it alone. For example, DEBKA is reporting that Egypt has redeployed its troops in Sinai such that it has effectively ceded an 855 square kilometer area of northern Sinai to Hamas. That's a lot of space. Here's their proof for that claim:
President Hosni Mubarak redeployed his special border force from the Gazan border to points south of El Arish, Bir Lahfan and Abu Aweigila. This step effectively handed over to the control of Hamas-led Palestinian terrorist organizations and al Qaedal a northern Sinai enclave of roughly 855 sq, km., twice the area of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Early Thursday, Jan. 24, American forces and equipment withdrew from the Multi-force Organization base at Al Gura northeast of al Arish. This force monitors Sinai’s demilitarization under a key clause of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. Washington and Cairo are discussing evacuating the entire base and its 400 multinational personnel. The Egyptian high command was informed that Hamas had begun moving some of its elite units to its new stronghold. Egyptian forces are not capable of contending with this strength or the hundreds of thousands of Gazan Palestinians on the move between Gaza and Sinai since Hamas blew up the concrete border fence Tuesday.
Yuval Steinitz, the former chairman of the Knesset's foreign affairs and defense committee, says that Israel has to retake control of Gaza.
"If Hamas worked to break open the border with Egypt, this means it is not in Israel's interest. For one thing, our pressure tactic against the Gazan terrorists - that is, the siege that we imposed - is no longer effective, as they can just go to Egypt to buy whatever they need. In addition, if until now, small weapons were able to be smuggled through via the tunnels, now they will be able to bring larger weapons in through the openings in the border wall."


Shteinitz named yet another problematic aspect of the new situation: "You will see, very soon Egypt will say they want to reopen the [1979 Camp David] peace treaty agreement with Israel about how many forces they are allowed to have in the Sinai, and they'll say they need many more in order to monitor the crossing. Their goal is to have as many forces as they can close to Israel."

MK Shteinitz has been warning for years of Egypt's bellicose intentions towards Israel. He has accused Egypt of helping breed terrorists by enabling them to pass from Gaza to Lebanon and Iran for training and briefing, as well as receiving new terrorist technologies. "Egypt is not acting like Jordan, which liquidates the smuggling networks and prevents quantities of arms from reaching the border," he told Arutz-7 exactly a year ago - and again today (Thursday).

"In light of Egypt's President Mubarak's fight against extremist Islam in Egypt," Arutz-7 asked Shteinitz, "why would he be interested in keeping the border open with extremist Hamas?"

"Egypt has no intention of allowing the Arabs from Gaza into Egypt proper," Shteinitz said, "and not even past the El-Arish area [in north-west Sinai]. Egypt, just like Assad in Syria, likes to fight the Moslem extremists in his own country - but doesn't mind aiding them elsewhere."


"This is the big lie," Shteinitz said, "according to which Egypt is a moderate country that is allied with the West. They fight against extremist Islam only when it bothers them."

Asked what Israel should do in light of the new open Gazan-Egyptian border, he said, "As I have been saying for a while: Conquer Gaza. That's the only way to stop the Kassam rockets."

Asked if the country is willing to pay the price in soldiers' deaths that is likely to be incurred, Shteinitz said, "The best way to convince the nation is by doing it and succeeding."
I agree with Steinitz. Unfortunately, the Olmert-Barak-Livni government is scared to send soldiers to war after its half-hearted orders made the IDF accomplish nothing in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Olmert's hesitant leftist approach to war, which it will let our soldiers die - God forbid - rather than risking the death of a 'Palestinian' civilian human shield, means that even if the government does send the IDF into Gaza, it won't let them finish the job. And then what? Go back to the IDF patrolling the streets of Gaza City? While I believe that's probably the only way to do the job, that's not going to be very popular anywhere outside of the western Negev. Note that Steinitz says "conquer" which implies keeping the IDF in Gaza. But the move will be immensely unpopular with much of the electorate and there is no way that Olmert - who has no clue how to lead and is guided by poll numbers and his personal interest - is going to take that kind of unpopular action.

Meanwhile, Israel's Supreme Court is holding a hearing into the 'human rights' situation in Gaza on Sunday and the UN Security Council is looking for ways to condemn us for shutting off the power to the Strip. Decisive leadership is required. Too bad we're going to bring in the clowns instead.


At 8:25 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - I do think its easier to leave the mess in Egypt's hands for the time being. I don't think any one in Israel wants to go back to bossing around a million hostile Arabs. Eventually, Israel is going to have to deal with Hamas' jihadstan but only when the threat is so dire it has no other choice. And the feckless Ehud Olmert is not one to lead Israel into another war - he's just not cut out to be a Commander In Chief.

At 2:03 AM, Blogger M. Simon said...

Egypt was facilitating arms smuggling in any case.

Hamastan in Egypt and Israel?

I'd call that a promising development.

More rockets from Gaza? Artillery will send the Gazans to Egypt.

Let Egypt deliver fuel and food. Israel can handle electricity and water.


Post a Comment

<< Home