ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Strengthening the “Moderates”

Strengthening the “Moderates”

26 December 2006

By Yisrael Ne’eman

For about a month Israel has held to its “cease-fire” declared with the Palestinians. Since then over sixty Kassam rockets were fired into Sderot and the western Negev by different Palestinian factions but Israel did not respond. Other acts of good will towards the Palestinian Authority and its chairman or president, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) include PM Ehud Olmert’s decision to unfreeze $100 million (out of $500 million) in monies held by Israel in taxes collected for the PA and to remove 27 roadblocks in the West Bank after the two met on Saturday night. It is hoped the funds will be used for humanitarian purposes and not fall into terrorist hands while at the same time strengthening Abu Mazen’s position in his confrontation with Palestinian PM Ismail Haniyah and the Hamas. The idea is to strengthen Fatah and the supposed “moderates”.

But the pressure is on Olmert to end the cease-fire and enter Gaza in a major military operation. The most immediate problem is the Kassams, but according to Israel’s intelligence community the most dangerous medium and long term threat is posed by the continuing highway of arms and ammunition arriving from northeastern Sinai. The Hezbollahization of the Hamas and Gaza is continuing uninterrupted - meaning that Palestinian civilians will be increasingly used as human shields as rockets and launchers will be stored in private homes once again forcing Israel to destroy them and kill supposedly “innocent” bystanders when doing so.

Leaving cynicism aside, there must be a reason for Olmert’s restraint and “good will” gestures besides his rather useless attempts to help Abbas. The Americans want to show “progress” on the Palestinian front, something demanded by Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and hence Olmert is complying. By pursuing this policy Israel is gaining points with Europe and the Western media. The question is whether such credit is temporary or will it truly be remembered when an Israeli operation into Gaza becomes unavoidable.

But the heaviest consideration concerns the possibility of an outright Palestinian civil war exploding in Gaza (and perhaps the West Bank as well). Olmert and his advisors are not anxious to unify all Palestinian factions against Israel by taking military action, even if entirely focused on those terrorists firing Kassams at Israel. In other words, let the Palestinian internal conflict take its course, do not get involved and expect that their increased arsenals will lead to a level of violence where one side or the other will be victorious.

The whole question is an enormous gamble since no one knows what will happen first – a nursery school will take a direct hit by a Kassam or a Palestinian civil war will explode. Furthermore, as every day passes there are increasing amounts of advanced weapons flowing into the Gaza Strip which will certainly be used against Israel.

And just a few pointers for the future: Greater amounts of Kassams will be fired into Israel. Should the civil conflict turn into a civil war, the Hamas will be victorious. Israel will be forced into a wide ranging military operation in Gaza where Western media “good will” and most European support can be expected to evaporate when the first Palestinian human shields die as a result of stockpiling rockets in their living rooms.