Special Report: Gaza: Israeli Defeat? Or Strategic Victory?
Vol: 47 Issue: 22 Monday, August 22, 2005
The Palestinian Authority is planning a ‘Victory Carnival’ in Gaza to celebrate the Israeli withdrawal as soon as the last settlement has been evacuated.
The ‘Victory Carnival’ is the brainchild of Fatah Youth Organization leader Abd al-Hakim Awad, who envisions a celebration complete with folklore shows, fireworks and parades through the settlements of their hated former neighbors.
Palestinian authorities plan to operate a shuttle service that will bus hundreds of thousands of curious Palestinians into the settlements — to tour the “liberated Palestinian territory.”
Despite the fact the average citizen of Gaza lives on less than three dollars a day, the Palestinian Authority plans to spend $2 million (mostly US tax dollars) to pay for the party, including passing out 350,000 t-shirts with the words, “Victory and Liberation” emblazoned over an image of Yasser Arafat.
The Palestinian Authority is hoping Gaza terror groups will join in its efforts to make the “historic day,” as Fatah leader Awad calls it, a show of national unity, all under the motto: “One flag, one people, one country.”
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is already urging Israel to make further concessions. “Everyone has compassion for what the Israelis are going through right now, but it can’t stop with the Gaza Strip,” Rice said, commenting on the withdrawal of Jewish settlers.
Palestinians in the West Bank would certainly agree with Rice’s assessment. So would the terrorists among them.
Hamas has already pledged to resume terrorist attacks against Israel as soon as the Gaza withdrawal is complete. Together with Islamic Jihad, the two terror groups already outnumber official Palestinian security forces and are both better armed and better trained.
To demonstrate their power, they held a parade of uniformed recruits to their supposedly 40,000-strong “People’s Army,” armed with Kalashnikovs and grenade launchers, in the stadium of the Jabaliya refugee camp last week.
The high point of the military show was the simulated storming of a Jewish settlement.
The terrorists promise the next battlefield will be the West Bank, where 250,000 Jewish settlers remain. But they also are promising to resume their attacks against Israelis on Israeli soil.
For Hamas, the goal is not the takeover of the former Jordanian territory in the West Bank, but the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the Jordan River to the Meditterranean Sea.
We’ve already discussed the various agreements made and then abrogated by the Palestinians since 1993. And we’ve looked in detail at what the Road Map for Peace demands as Phase 1 of the plan — the dismantling of Palestinian terror groups.
It is clear that the PA not only won’t dismantle and disarm Hamas and Islamic Jihad, they couldn’t if they DID want to. If Mahmoud Abbas tried, it would spark a civil war that he is too weak to win.
It is equally clear that Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza won’t end the terror, and it is no less clear to Ariel Sharon than it is to me. So, why bother?
The Gaza withdrawal has deeply divided Israel, although a slim majority of Israelis support it, together with the majority of the Knesset who approved it.
If there is nothing to be gained, either politically or in terms of security, why put the country through the trauma?
Every Israeli is aware the PA has never amended its Charter to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Every Israeli is aware of Hamas’ open and oft-repeated existential goal of the destruction of Israel and its subsequent ethnic cleansing of Jews.
The Knesset is as aware of the combined military strength of the Islamic terror groups joined to Hamas, and know that Abbas can never hope to fulfill the PA’s obligations under Phase 1, yet they chose to withdraw, anyway.
Sharon and his cabinet knew that the withdrawal would provide a huge propaganda victory to the terrorists, not to mention a substantial territorial victory together with freshly ‘liberated Palestinian lands’ to stage their ‘victory carnival’. Yet the withdrawal went ahead as planned.
The United States has put considerable pressure on Israel to effect this withdrawal — too much pressure, from where I sit, yet the Israelis don’t seem to be putting up much of a counter-struggle with Washington. In conducting this withdrawal under these circumstances, Israel has been too meek by half.
But, putting it all together, there is a context that makes it all make some sense. To begin with, few Israelis, including the Israeli leadership, ever wanted Gaza in the first place.
Israel captured the territory from Egypt and kept it as part of a buffer zone between itself and Egypt, not because it wanted the territory itself.
Even many religious Jews don’t see Gaza as part of Eretz Yisrael. Although it was part of the Abrahamic land grant, it was not part of David’s Israel, it was the Land of the Phillistines. If the Phillistines want it, let the Phillistines have it.
Politically, Gaza is a low-priority territory that was never worth the cost. But the withdrawal provided an opportunity to do some strategic repositioning, plus providing Israel with some leverage with the international community.
The Israelis watched the Palestinian Authority’s administration of Gaza for the last eleven years. Gaza’s residents know how incompetent, corrupt and ineffective that administration has been.
Israel’s withdrawal means the PA will have to deal with Gaza’s 1.2 million citizens without being able to blame Israel for their plight. Israel is over there — on the other side of a fence.
Israel appears prepared to hunker down behind its security fence and let the Palestinians wear themselves out. A few more years of terrorism won’t force Israel to withdraw any further or surrender east Jerusalem. But it will paralyze Palestinian development, erode international support, and demoralize the Palestinians.
Abbas’ only political card is already on the table, in the form of the new slogan-of-the-month entry: “Today Gaza, tomorrow, Jerusalem and the West Bank.”
It will work for awhile, but eventually, Gazans are going to realize nobody is going to do anything to improve their lives in Gaza.
The claim that terrorism brought results–endorsed by Abbas and his group– legitimized both Hamas and its methods. Hamas will now govern large areas of the Gaza Strip.
Governing is not something terrorists do well.
Abbas also has challengers within his own ranks. Hardline Fatah leaders, who represent the majority of Fatah, are consolidating around Fatah leader Faruq Qaddumi. Qaddumi, who is very popular in the Fatah ranks, opposed the Oslo accords and openly calls for Israel’s destruction. There are rumors he is planning to set up his own army to oppose Abbas and expell the Palestinian Authority. An explosion in Gaza is inevitable, and it means years more war for Israel.
Now we return to the question of how this works into Israel’s strategic interests.
Israel knows that years of continued war will damage the Palestinians much more than it will the Israelis behind the security fence. There will be casualties, but Israel will be no worse off than it is now. The Palestinian Authority will either have to govern Gaza, or allow it to descend into anarchy.
Israel is betting that the world is not prepared to create a Palestinian state while it is either in the midst of an internal civil war or one with a power-sharing arrangement with terrorists openly plotting the destruction of Israel as part of a national strategy.
The Gaza withdrawal looks like a surrender to terror. In reality, it is a case of using terrorists as a weapon against themselves. Abbas won’t be able to consolidate an effective government in Gaza in the midst of either a civil war or a stepped-up war against Israel.
Without an effective government, there can be no further advance toward Palestinian statehood. No credible voice to demand the handover of east Jerusalem or further concessions on the West Bank. A stalemate, but one in which Israel regains some of the strategic high ground lost by years of fruitless negotiation.
It isn’t a good plan, but it is better than national suicide. It isn’t perfect, but it will work until someone comes along with a workable plan.
Daniel says that someone will be the leader of the revived Roman Empire, and his plan will signal the kickoff for the ‘time of Jacob’s Trouble.’
Maybe not tomorrow, or next month. But soon.