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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

How Hamas wins by losing

I have argued several times over the course of the last two weeks that the only way that Israel will have quiet on its southern border is for the IDF to be stationed in Gaza. Here's more proof that my position - which is anathema to the cabal that currently runs this country and to many Israelis - is the correct one.

In this Time Magazine piece by Bobby Ghosh, he discusses a 2002 interview he had with then-Hamas political leader Abdul Aziz Rantisi, who was eventually dispatched by Israeli helicopters in 2004. Read what Rantisi said. Most Israelis don't want to hear this:
I put it to Rantissi that Palestinian militancy was failing, that groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad were only playing into Israel's hands. In any confrontation that involved guns and tanks, I said, Israel would win. Rantissi gave me a patronizing smile, and explained that military defeat was the best thing that could happen to Hamas.

In Rantissi's view, it didn't matter if a few dozen — or a few hundred — Hamas fighters were killed. Their "martyrdom" would only strengthen Palestinian hatred for Israel, and sympathy for Hamas. It didn't matter if Israeli jets bombed Hamas offices, because cinder-block structures could easily be replaced. And it didn't matter if Israel took out Hamas' leaders, either, because they were replaceable. "Any moment, a rocket could come through that window and kill me," Rantissi said, "But even before the smoke has cleared, there will be a replacement ready." What the Israelis didn't realize, he concluded, "that when they win, we don't lose — we win, too."

Almost exactly two years later, an Israeli missile did come through the window, killing Rantissi. Only three weeks before, a similar strike had killed Hamas' founder, the paraplegic, blind Ahmed Yassin. The assassinations of its two top men were meant to break the back of Hamas's leadership. But Rantissi was right: he and Yassin were replaced in short order, and Hamas actually grew stronger, more radical — and more popular.

Rantissi's analysis, which had seemed so perverse and bizarre in 2002, has now become conventional wisdom: most commentators agree that while Israel's incursion into Gaza may leave Hamas deeply wounded in the short term, the militants will ultimately benefit.

In every scenario short of a long, long Israeli occupation — which is unlikely — Hamas will have the opportunity to eventually regenerate. New fighters can be trained, new rockets acquired, new smuggling tunnels built. If Israel's chokehold on Gaza for the past year hasn't stopped Hamas from arming itself, then it's a good bet that the presence of international monitors won't either.

The argument that Israel's incursion will give it an upper hand in any future talks — and allow it to dictate the terms of a new ceasefire — doesn't really wash. Any new truce will be brokered by third parties; while U.S. President-elect Barack Obama chooses to remain silent, France's Nicholas Sarkozy is offering himself for the role. That alone means Israel won't have everything its way. The international outcry over the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Gaza means the broker will insist Israel loosen the economic shackles as well as withdraw troops. And when the money begins to flow in, it will flow through the Hamas networks that control every aspect of Gaza. The militants will distribute some of the money to Gazans, and look like generous benefactors; the rest, they will use to rebuild their military capability.
So the only way Israel can put a stop to the rockets is to sit in Gaza - just like it does in Judea and Samaria.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, former JPost editor Bret Stephens implies that he agrees that Israel will have to leave a permanent force in Gaza (Hat Tip: Hot Air).
A long-term policy aimed squarely at killing or capturing Hamas's leaders, destroying arms caches and rocket factories, and cutting off supply and escape routes will not by itself destroy the group. But it can drive it out of government and cripple its ability to function as a fighting force. And this, in turn, could mean the return of Fatah, the closest thing Gaza has to a "legitimate" government.

All this will be said to amount to another occupation, never mind that there are no settlers in this picture, and never mind, too, that Israel was widely denounced for carrying out an "effective occupation" of the Strip after it imposed an economic blockade on Hamas. (By this logic, the U.S. is currently "occupying" Cuba.) If Israel is going to achieve a strategic victory in this war, it will have to stand firm against this global wave of hypocrisy and cant.

Israel will also have to practice a more consistent policy of deterrence than it has so far done. One option: For every single rocket that falls randomly on Israeli soil, an Israeli missile will hit a carefully selected target in Gaza. Focusing the minds of Hamas on this type of "proportionality" is just the endgame that Israel needs.
Interestingly, Stephens says Israel should not carry out a frontal assault on Gaza's urban areas - precisely what Israel started to do today. But there is no choice in that regard either. The IDF has told us that thousands of homes in Gaza have smuggling tunnels and ammunition storage areas underneath them. There is no choice but to take out as many of these tunnels and weapons as possible, before leaving a force behind to mind the store.

Think about it Israelis. A 'long-term occupation' is likely our only way to consolidate the gains of the last two weeks for the long-term.

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At 1:28 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl, I've said repeatedly that is going to happen regardless of what Israel's leaders say. There is no way to pull back the army short of putting all of Israel in firing range of rockets again. So Israel is in Gaza for the long haul. Most Israelis would love to get out if they could but with the enemy they have, that's just not possible. Israel will not occupy Gaza City but it will keep permanent bases and a rapid reaction force a distance from it. That's not Israelis want but the bottom line is all the other solutions are far worse.

At 8:38 AM, Blogger Freedom Fighter said...

There is another alternative...Carthage.

And annexation of Gaza to Israel.

At 2:43 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Freedom Fighter, Israel is neither Rome... or Russia. Israel won't do to the Palestinians what any other country in the world would do to them.

And an annexation of Gaza is not in the cards. Israel may stay there as long as needed but no one in Israel wants to run the place. Those are two very different things.

At 5:08 AM, Blogger zaid1991 said...

ermm lemme put it simple and straight.Judaism is an amazing religion, then why are you people so greedy and evil? The Torah dint say illegaly take over another's land/ it dint say kill palestinean women and kids to defend youre freakin right to exist? Youre being all smart and saying hey we should do this to keep southern Israel safe and we should do that,but you ignore the bottom line, yor illegimately living in some one else's land. How hard is it to understand that hmmmm? Us and Israel constantly blab about Israels bloody right to exist but are shy and guilty to mention illegal occupation. You people create this bad example of yourselves and people think jews are evil and greedy. Your ruining the the name of your own bloody people. History doesnt call popular reveloutionaries as terrorists, then why hamas, the only tiny force palestine has is a terrorist organization? When you kiss USA ass and USA sends u billions in military help each year its all hunky dory, but when Iran helps the helpless palestineans or the lebanese( also victims of ure greed) with military equipment you condemn it. Blaming hamas rockets for the gaza massacre is a bloody joke!! if u dint lock 1.5 million ppl in a tiny strip with an economic blockade there wouldnt be rockets!. Fine you occupied arab land, but couldnt u take 50 % and give the other half to arabs? na that wouldnt do justice to ure evil minds. You have nuclear weapons but Iran cant have them...why? what the hell do u think of ureselves. ure just stinkin humans not deitys..


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