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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Reoccupy Gaza or talk to Hamas?

Writing in YNet, Nachum Barnea understands what the options are.
The government of Israel has been postponing the decision on how to handle the Hamas regime in Gaza for eight and a half bloody months. The time has come to decide.

What Hamas is offering is in fact an understanding that would see an end to rocket attacks in exchange for the IDF ending its targeted eliminations. The smuggling of arms and munitions would continue until Hamas builds up enough strength to attack again, this time to an even longer range, all the way to Ashdod, or Tel Aviv. This is a proposal that an Israeli government cannot accept.

Israel also cannot reconcile itself to the existing reality whereby a growing number of civilians in the south are exposed to daily fire. It is immoral and illogical. We can expect Israeli citizens to sustain a certain level of risk, but it is unfair to expect them to face danger over an extended period of time without seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

At the end of the day, the debate can be narrowed down to two options: Either the IDF goes ahead and reoccupies Gaza or large sections of it, or Israel decides to enter open, direct, and serious talks with Hamas. The third way, to kill and absorb, absorb and kill, is unfortunately not bringing about the desired result: It doesn’t end the rocket fire and doesn’t curb the arms smuggling.
Barnea doesn't make the decision for us. Although he generally leans left, Barnea has a special position here. His son Yonatan was murdered by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem 1996 and he is a plaintiff in a US court case against Iran arising from that bombing. But he does explain why no option is ideal:
Occupying the Strip could exact a difficult human toll from both sides. An even more difficult problem for Israel is the question of controlling the area the day after it is occupied. The meager coexistence between Israel and the PA in the West Bank cannot be copied as is to Gaza.

The second option, to reconcile ourselves to Hamas’ rule in Gaza and negotiate a long-term ceasefire with it, involves prices that are just as high. Among other things, it constitutes a death sentence for Mahmoud Abbas’ regime, which Israel hoped to reach a deal with. It also ends the international boycott on Hamas, and it marks the acceptance of the existence of an Iranian base near Israel’s heartland.

Choosing between the two options is like choosing between plague and cholera. Nonetheless, it appears there is no other choice.
As longtime readers know, I believe that leaving Gaza was a huge mistake in the first place, and that there is now no option but to re-occupy it. We have to recognize that the cost in terms of IDF soldiers killed will not be cheap. But there is no choice.


At 5:48 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl In Jerusalem - I concur. Its a situation of no choice because talking to Hamas would at best secure a temporary truce - a hudna - like in Treaty Of Hubadaiyya. Hamas could break it later when it felt it was strong enough to defeat Israel. That's obviously not an option. The only thing Israel can do is to reoccupy Gaza for good. It would probably end up destroying Fatah and terminating the peace process and I happen to think that's a very good outcome. The sooner Israel does what needs to be done, the better off the country will be. Surgery is painful but sometimes the patient's life is threatened to such extent its the only thing left. And the logic of events sooner than later will force the Israeli government to send the IDF back into Gaza for good.

At 7:15 PM, Blogger Hyder Ali said...

As a neutral concerned with resurgent Islam, I am relieved that Israel is defending itself. It was a mistake that Israel withdrew from its traditional lands of Judea & Samaria(West Bank) and Gaza. Islam advocates respect for strong infidels and to press on with the attacks on retreating infidels. However, as a neutral, I have no right to ask Israel to stand up to their enemies because Israel should calibrate its moves based on its capability and capacity to absorb casualties. In spite of possible casualties with this move into Gaza, I believe it is the right thing to do because the inaction would be fatal not only for Israel, but for other victims of Islamic Jihad too.


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