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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Gaza 'siege' is not an answer to terror

On Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced to the world that "Hamas is exhibiting signs of distress" and he attributed that distress to Israel's longstanding blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday said that Israel has identified signs of distress coming from Hamas. According to the defense minister, some 70 Hamas fighters have been killed during the last two months, and more than 300 have been killed during the past six months.

"Hamas is very stressed. The most effective action is the siege," Barak said, referring to the Israeli-imposed economic blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Israel imposed the blockade on Gaza after the Islamist group seized power over the impoverished coastal strip last June. Since then, Israel has allowed only basic staples to be transported through the border crossings it controls, into Gaza.
Tuesday morning, as Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert wings his way to Washington for what may be a farewell tour (God willing), the United States is critical of Israel's 'siege' on Gaza, claiming that it has helped Hamas.
The State Department is likely to convey its unhappiness regarding Israel's Gaza policy to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when he arrives in Washington before dawn on Tuesday. His three-day visit will include a meeting with US President George W. Bush and a keynote address to the annual AIPAC policy conference.

"What we're telling the Israelis is that the policy that was adopted after the summer [of June 2007] wasn't working, of really closing the borders," said a senior State Department official.

...

Part of that work is likely to be new look at Israel's continued closure of the Gaza borders to all but humanitarian aid and basic supplies. Hamas's violent take over of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 suspended all border agreements on movement and access.

Those agreements have been hard to implement in light of Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel and given that there has been no agreed-upon body to replace Fatah, which until last summer had controlled the border crossings.

Israel has held the opinion that a blockade of Gaza would also weaken Hamas's hold on the strip.

But a senior State Department official told the Post that policy has appeared to have backfired. Palestinian rocket attacks against southern Israel have continued and Hamas is gaining strength due to popular disaffection and Hamas can still get the resources it needs.

"Within Gaza, Hamas seems the least effected by the closure," he said.

A new approach must be found that "that wouldn't benefit Hamas... but to find that new approach is very difficult because Hamas is in control."

Among the ideas US officials will kick around with Israel is a new look at the possibility of monitors and the defunct agreement on movement and access.

"You could envision Rafah being open under an agreement on movement and access with EU monitors. But all of that requires in some ways Hamas's acquiescence," he said.

He also called the idea of having some sort of international force between Israel and Gaza a "creative idea."

...

The State Department official told the Post that on the issue of a cease-fire the US would like to see a new approach. He did not elaborate.

"We don't want Israel to do anything that would make Israel feel like it put itself at jeopardy or risk," the official said.
The problem with the Gaza 'siege,' like so many other things the Olmert-Barak-Livni-Yishai government has done, is that it has no clear goals. There is a sense that we should not be 'negotiating' with Hamas and that is correct. But we don't need the 'siege' to avoid negotiating with Hamas. Is the goal to reinstate 'moderate' Fatah control in the Strip? I don't believe that's a worthy goal, but at least it would be a goal. If that is what the government is trying to do, they never said so. But then again the government has not articulated any other goal for its Gaza policy either.

I'd like to do the government's work for them for a minute. What should the goals of the State of Israel and the IDF in the Gaza Strip be? The goals should be to ensure that the Gaza Strip is not a source of terror attacks in general, and rocket attacks in particular, on Israel's citizenry. A year after the takeover of the Strip by Hamas, and three years after Israel expelled all the Jewish residents from Gaza, how can that goal be accomplished? Militarily. There's no other way. The IDF has to go into Gaza and do what needs to be done to shut down the Hamas-sponsored terror there. If that means 'reoccupying' the Gaza Strip, then so be it. The most basic function a government serves is to provide security to its citizens. Israel's current government has failed miserably in fulfilling that function. Ask anyone who lives in Sderot or Ashkelon or any other community in the 'Gaza envelope.'

To those that would argue that there is no military solution to terror, I would suggest looking at former JPost editor Bret Stephens article in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal. Stephens argues that there is a military solution to terror, and he cites Iraq, Colombia and Sri Lanka as proof (Hat Tip: Hot Air). I would have added Israel's Operation Defensive Shield in Samaria in 2002 to his list. Stephens explains why military solutions to terror work and why they aren't always adopted soon enough.
When military strategies fail – as they did in Vietnam while the U.S. pursued the tactics of attrition, or in Iraq prior to the surge – the idea that there can be no military solution has a way of taking hold with civilians and generals eager to deflect blame. This is how we arrived at the notion that "political reconciliation" is a precondition of military success, not a result of it.

There's also a tendency to misjudge the aims and ambitions of the insurgents: To think they can be mollified via one political concession or another. Former Colombian president Andres Pastrana sought to appease the FARC by ceding to them a territory the size of Switzerland. The predictable result was to embolden the guerrillas, who were adept at sensing and exploiting weakness.

The deeper problem here is the belief that the best way to deal with insurgents is to address the "root causes" of the grievance that purportedly prompted them to take up arms. But what most of these insurgencies seek isn't social or moral redress: It's absolute power. Like other "liberation movements" (the PLO comes to mind), the Tigers are notorious for killing other Tamils seen as less than hard line in their views of the conflict. The failure to defeat these insurgencies thus becomes the primary obstacle to achieving a reasonable political settlement acceptable to both sides.
That sounds just like Israel's relationship with the 'Palestinians' of both Hamas and Fatah, doesn't it? Often, we don't recognize that military success is a precondition to reconciliation. Instead, we try to mollify the 'Palestinians' with predictable results: raised expectations and more terror. And we keep trying to address the 'root causes' of 'Palestinian' terror, as if this were a war about land and not a war about Israel's existence, and as if each of the various 'Palestinian' factions is seeking something other than absolute power and full control of the entire territory between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

If Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert were a strong political leader, he would walk into his meeting with Condoleezza Rice this week and say, "you're right. The siege of Gaza isn't bringing us any closer to our goal. Our goal is to bring safety and security to all Israelis, including those who live in the immediate vicinity of Gaza. We'd like US backing for a full-scale military operation to defeat terror in Gaza. Once the terrorists are driven out and the territory is disarmed, we will be willing to consider withdrawing our forces, but only under circumstances in which our security will remain inviolate. We're not going to subject the military operation to a timetable. Our security is too important to jeopardize by limiting the time for the military operation or the length of any subsequent 'occupation.' We're going to operate just the way the US has operated in Iraq and just the way the US encouraged the Colombian government to operate in the Guaviare province."

It would be difficult for Condi to refuse a request like that. But unfortunately, Olmert and his government are too weak and indecisive to make that request and to carry it out.

UPDATE WEDNESDAY 7:39 AM

This post has been nominated for Best Non-Council Post of the Week by the Watcher's Council.

2 Comments:

At 11:14 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The problem isn't that Israel's leaders are too submissive to U.S State Department dictates. The real problem is Israel leaders don't set a clear policy for dealing with terror and then follow it to its logical conclusion. As a result, Israel has disappointed her friend and emboldened her foes. That's why the Olmert-Barak-Livni government will have to go - so more capable people can finally solve the problem that it has allowed to fester.

 
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