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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Retaking Philadelphi: Closing the barn door after the cow escaped?

The IDF is drawing up plans to retake the Philadelphi corridor,a 10-kilometer long narrow strip along the border between Gaza and Egypt (see map). As some of you may recall, in the fall of 2005 US Secretary of State Rice used 'gentle persuasion' to 'convince' Israel to leave the corridor in the tender loving care of European monitors and Egypt, both of which have proved willfully ineffective.

But assuming that the JPost account of the planned operation is correct, it will be nothing but slamming the barn door after the cow has escaped. The only way to effectively control the activities of terrorists in Gaza is to be on the ground destroying their weapons factories and killing and arresting their operatives - just like Israel is doing in Judea and Samaria. It is clear from reading this article that Israel's 'political echelon' doesn't have the stomach for that:
After retaking the corridor, the IDF would work to reseal the border wall destroyed two weeks ago by Hamas. Another goal of such an operation would be to draw out Hamas operatives and get a better sense of the terrorist group's fighting capabilities as well as the exact type of advanced weaponry it has succeeded in smuggling into Gaza.

Earlier this week, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin told the cabinet that Hamas had used the border breach to smuggle in large amounts of anti-tank rockets and anti-aircraft shoulder-to-air rockets as well as long-range and sophisticated missiles. Iran is believed to have been behind some of the weapons smuggling.

Also, some of the group's weapons storehouses are believed to be near Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip and retaking the corridor would give the IDF an opportunity to locate and destroy them.

It remains an open question what Israel's exit strategy from the corridor would be. One defense official said that once the border was resealed, Israel would expect the Egyptians to increase their efforts to stop the smuggling of both weapons and terrorists in and out of Gaza.
Here are my problems with this plan as highlighted above (although the last problem I will cite is the most significant one):

1. Resealing the border wall would - in a best case scenario - just force the terrorist smugglers back underground. We have already seen that they have been quite effective in using tunnels to smuggle in weapons and money, and with the de facto existence of a Hamas state in Gaza, we can now expect that from time to time, Egypt will let some of the steam out by opening the border and letting the 'Palestinians' out of their cage for a shopping spree that will replenish their arms as happened two weeks ago. And it would do nothing about the weapons they currently have.

2. While it would be nice to destroy whatever weapons storehouses the 'Palestinians' have in and around Rafah, that doesn't preclude weapons being elsewhere and it doesn't preclude the 'Palestinians' moving them elsewhere.. now... while there are no Israelis on the ground in Gaza. Retaking the Philadelphi corridor - especially temporarily - won't stop the terror although it might cause a brief lull in the terror. And what if the 'Palestinians' have hid weapons in people's homes as Hezbullah did in Lebanon? It doesn't sound like the IDF is planning any house-to-house combat.

3. Israel is assuming that there needs to be an 'exit strategy.' Even assuming the operation is successful, the minute Israel leaves Gaza the terrorists will take over again, just as happened in Judea and Samaria between 1993 and 2002. If we don't want a terror base on our border the only way to stop it is to be there fighting terror. Israel has not done that effectively since the Jews were expelled from Gaza in the summer of 2005 and the IDF followed them out.

4. Finally - and most seriously - expecting Egypt to step up and fight terror for us (yet another instance of the Olmert-Barak-Livni government looking to someone else to fight our battles) is totally unrealistic. Maybe Olmert needs to see the videos his foreign ministry prevented the IDF from showing to the US Congress. They show the Egyptians helping the 'Palestinians' to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

Retaking the Philadelphi corridor is a great idea, but only as part of an integrated strategy to send the army back into the entire Gaza Strip - permanently or at least for the foreseeable future - to fight terror. Otherwise, all we will be doing is closing the barn door after the cow of our security and safety has already escaped. And getting another hundred soldiers killed, God forbid.


At 5:10 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel would have to remain in Gaza permanently. That's not very popular in Israel but its only way to keep the territory from being turned into a Hamas jihadstan aimed at Israel.

Israel's current leadership won't do that for they'd have to admit the destruction of the Gush Katif was a colossal mistake that undermined Israel's long term security and the evicted revanants were after all, important to the country's national security.

So look for Israel to continue to engage in pin-prick attacks in Gaza because Israel's government is too afraid to admit the Disengagement didn't bring about the foreseen calm in southern Israel.


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