ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Closing in on Hamas?

Closing in on Hamas?

 

05 March 2008

By Yisrael Ne'eman

Last week’s two day IDF operation in the northern Gaza Strip was a temporary, local, limited success but obviously raised macro questions concerning the overall government objectives in its policies towards the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas. There are those who demand that Israel engage in discussions with Hamas to arrange a “tahadiya” (period of calm) or even a “hudna” (Islamic cease-fire). On the opposing side others demand a full offensive to destroy the Hamas political/terror infrastructure in Gaza. And as usual, until a well thought out, well designed policy is implemented, government decision makers will decide on limited engagements and diplomatic activity to weaken the Hamas as much as possible. This middle road has its ups and downs, but one thing is for sure, there is a continual escalation with each new round of fighting. After US Sec. of State Rice’s visit here there is talk of arranging an overall cease-fire just as Israel is said to be planning a major offensive operation into Gaza.

The latest round broke out when five newly trained Palestinian explosives and terror experts were killed when their vehicle was rocketed by the Israeli air force last week. They had received training in Syria, Lebanon and Iran, returning to Gaza to spread their newly acquired knowledge. The Hamas responded by massive rocket attacks against Sderot and the western Negev (as usual) and then added Grad rocket attacks against Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 residents. Israel’s two day operation left 120 Palestinians dead (some 80% actively involved in battling Israel) while two Israeli soldiers and one civilian died.

Hamas has continued with its vows of exterminating Israel (just read the Hamas covenant). In interviews with Hamas activists speaking from Gaza to the Voice of Israel radio station it was made clear that Hamas wants a “tahadiya” and/or “hudna”. Some spoke of five years while others mentioned ten, but all Hamas spokesmen agreed that when it was over Israel was obligated to agree to the Hamas terms or face another round of escalation. In those intervening years we all know the Iranian sponsored Hamas will rearm and retrain as is expected during a “hudna” or Islamic cease-fire. They themselves do not deny it. Many good hearted people in Israel and the West see Hamas only as a Palestinian issue to be solved through compromise and common sense since Hamas does “acknowledge” Israel’s existence. However, Hamas (which is one wing of the international Moslem Brotherhood) is not posturing when they say they will never accept a two-state solution, meaning they fully reject Israel’s right to exist. In World War II the Nazis certainly recognized the existence of Jews, but denied their right to exist. There is little difference. It makes no sense to negotiate the terms of one’s destruction.

The government is preparing for a full-scale invasion of Gaza, or so it seems. To capture the entire Strip will cause quite a few casualties, mostly on the Palestinian side. Furthermore, Israel can be expected to lose the media war (as usual). Hamas will use human shields more than ever. This past week the Israeli public was made aware of the TV broadcasts by Hamas during the weekend conflict when a call was put out for civilians to go to the homes of Hamas activists to act as potential civilian casualties (reported on Channel 1) in an effort to deter Israeli attacks (they know Israel monitors their broadcasts). Ludicrous as it may sound, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is consulting experts on international and military law in order to know exactly under what circumstances Israel will be allowed to take out the Hamas leadership, terrorists or rockets being firing from heavily packed civilian areas. Knocking out the source of enemy fire was easy in yesteryear, today it is a legal entanglement where the terrorists who hold their own civilians hostage hope to gain immunity from return fire, while the anti-terrorists are condemned for defending themselves. Orwell would be pleased as we have now gone one step behind “double-speak” and “double-think”.

The Hamas continuation of rocket fire into Israel makes its destruction as a terror organization an imperative. Were Hamas only a political party not interested in forcing Islam beyond its borders, Israel and Gaza could live in “an under the table” mutually recognized, non-belligerent, non-peace. This is far from the case. As Likud MK Yuval Steinetz points out, Hamas and Gaza have become a forward Iranian position for raining down rockets on Israel, even worse than Hezbollah. Kadima MK Otniel Schneller agrees but believes Israel must play the diplomatic game as determined by the US and European Union. This includes roping Egypt and the “moderate Arab states” into the equation. Steinetz believes Egypt and the “moderates” to be unreliable and that Israel must say no to Rice & Co.

Despite diplomatic initiatives, eventually Israel will need to fully crush Hamas. But is it possible? Several steps must be taken:

* Militarily Israel needs to physically divide up Gaza, holding the open areas between the major urban zones of Gaza City/Jabalya, Khan Yunis and Rafiah while surrounding other smaller population centers. This cuts north-south traffic of men and military supplies. Rockets will still be fired at Israel but spotters can help the air force and ground forces pinpoint the launchers for destruction. Leaflets and Arabic radio broadcasts must explain to the civilian population the dangers of being in the vicinity of anyone firing at Israel since return fire is assured. Every night there must be dozens of incursions, forays, arrests and the destruction of Hamas military installations. This same policy was used in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) to break Yasir Arafat’s terror offensive from 2001 – 04 and proved successful.

* As for the Philadelphi line on the border between Gazan and Egyptian Rafiah it becomes irrelevant since Israel’s military presence between Rafiah and Khan Yunis will halt Palestinian movement northwards from the southern Gaza Strip. Diplomatic pressure must be applied to Egypt by the US and European Union to halt terrorists and munitions from arriving in Egyptian Rafiah. This needs to be done west of Egyptian Rafiah inside of Sinai. Hamas with Iranian support is increasingly becoming a strategic threat to Egypt by stirring hopes in the opposition Islamist Moslem Brotherhood, so maybe now Cairo will actually do something.

* For the record Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), his government and the Palestinian Legislature must be presented with the legal responsibilities they have taken upon themselves as elected officials. They can then be expected to fail in any initiative they take. This leaves Israel free to continue military actions.

* Within six months Egypt is to replace the Israeli electricity supply to Gaza. Water must be the next stage along with an arrangement for crossings from Sinai to include civilian supplies only. It has been suggested that the European inspectors be stationed on the Egyptian side of the border.

* How long should Israel stay in a divided up Gaza Strip? Unfortunately it might be a while, but the army should not sit in stationary positions but rather engage in counter terror activities and remain on the move. Only road blocks in the open areas need to be somewhat stationary (they can be moved from place to place at will). The army can move out and then return, if necessary.

* Last but certainly not least, Israel must fight the media war with full explanations concerning the Hamas/Iranian/Hezbollah/Syrian alliance. Excerpts from speeches and writings by leaders of all four entities (Khomeini, Ahmedinajad, Nasrallah, Assad, Mashal, Haniya, etc.) must become well known and in particular the West must become familiar with the Hamas Covenant and its explicit demands for Israel’s destruction and its overt anti-Semitism.

 

All of the above should significantly cut back on Hamas rocket attacks and attempts at infiltration into Israel while solidifying an anti-Hamas diplomatic front. With much less arms and munitions arriving, Hamas will be greatly weakened even though one should not expect their imminent collapse. Any suggestion of a “hudna” is unacceptable.

Since Israel is at war with Iran and its proxies, government policy must respond in kind.