Archive for the ‘Gaza’ Category
Netanyahu, the reluctant warrior
Hamas deliberately places its tunnel entrances in hospitals, schools and mosques: Israel has no choice but to use ground forces to shut them down.
Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the primary goal of the current ground incursion into Gaza is to destroy the terror tunnels that endanger Israel’s security.
Just a few weeks ago I was in one of those tunnels a mile or so from the Gaza border. The tunnels begin in Gaza and snake under the Gaza-Israel border to unknown locations within Israel. The tunnel I was in ended very close to an Israeli kindergarten in a Kibbutz. The purpose of that tunnel was to allow Hamas terrorists to emerge from underground and kill and kidnap the 57 babies and children who attend the kindergarten every day. Fortunately a Bedouin tracker, who works for the Israeli Defense Forces, discovered the tunnel and alerted the army. Had the tunnel not been discovered, there would have been mass casualties and kidnappings. The tunnel itself contained railroad tracks capable of quickly carrying a small vehicle back into Gaza with the kidnapped victims or the bodies of the murdered Israelis.
No country should have to tolerate this breach of its sovereignty and this danger to the lives of its civilians. Israel knows where some of these tunnels begin but they can’t attack them from the air because Hamas has deliberately placed their entrances in hospitals, schools, mosques and other civilian buildings. It requires boots on the ground to get to these tunnels and to shut them down. Nor does Israel have the technical capacity to determine the route of the tunnels and their exit points since they are more than 60 feet underground and not subject to detection from the air.
The event that immediately provoked this ground incursion was the discovery by Israel of yet another tunnel whose exit was near a civilian Kibbutz. This discovery almost came too late to prevent a mass casualty disaster. The terrorists had already emerged from the tunnel, with grenade launchers, bazookas, machine guns and other weapons capable of mass murder. (There is a grainy video of this online.) Several of the terrorists were killed while others apparently escaped back through the tunnel before the Israelis could disable it. This attempted mass casualty attack was planned and implemented while Israel and Egypt were trying to arrange a cease fire. Israeli intelligence estimates that there are dozens of other terror tunnels that they still cannot find although they know where some of the entrance points in Gaza are located. It is these tunnels that are the primary object of Israel’s risky ground incursion.
There are other tunnels as well on the west side of Gaza, underneath its border with Egypt. These are the smuggling tunnels through which Hamas imports the rockets that it uses to terrorize Israeli civilians. It also uses these tunnels to enrich its leaders who take a percentage of the profits earned by the commerce that goes through these tunnels on a daily basis. These smuggling tunnels too pose a direct threat to Israel’s security and are a secondary object of Israel’s ground incursion.
The end result of Israel’s military operation should be two-fold: First, to stop the security threat currently posed by Hamas terrorism—rocket fire, kidnappings and terrorist incursions into Israel—by shutting down the tunnels and imposing a strict quarantine against the importation of rockets and against the exportation of terrorists through tunnels; and second, to restore the flow of innocent commerce into Gaza so that its citizens can live lives as normal as possible while they remain under the thumb of the violent theocracy and kleptocracy of Hamas.
The Israeli government did not want to send troops into Gaza. Its leaders well understand the risks to their own soldiers as well as to Palestinian civilians. But they also understand the risks to Israeli civilians of allowing these terrorist tunnels to continue to operate underneath its border. The decision to send in troops was a difficult one, made on the basis of a calculation of the risks of action versus the risks of inaction.
The day after I went into the tunnel underneath the Gaza-Israel border, I had a private dinner with Prime Minister Netanyahu. It was clear to me how reluctant Netanyahu was to send troops into Gaza. He had never before committed ground troops into an enemy war zone. As is well known, his own brother was killed defending Israel against terrorism. He knows the price of action as well as inaction. He is a reluctant warrior, but Hamas forced his hand by repeatedly turning down negotiated cease fires and continuing to fire rockets at Israeli cities and to send terrorists into Israeli Kibbutzim.
I know of no country in the world that would tolerate such danger to its civilians without doing everything in their power to prevent it. As President Obama said when he visited Sderot in 2008, “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same.” Israel is doing the same and the United States is supporting Israel in its self-defense actions.
**Alan Dershowitz’s latest book is Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law
Two painfully poignant articles came across my email box indicating the resentment Palestinians have towards President Abbas for participating in a peace conference in Israel amidst the war with Hamas in Gaza, and Hamas’s fury that Abbas has not done more to support them.
It is true that Abbas is stuck in between, and weakened by, violent extremism on both sides – from the kidnapping and murder of there Israeli teenagers, to the live burning of the Palestinian teenager in Shuafat – and that he can exert little influence on, or neutralize, either the extremists from Hamas or the extremist Israelis from Habait Hayehudi who fan the flames of hatred and seek to annex the West Bank.
But that is only part of the analysis. The true losers from all of this are ALL OF US. Every Israeli, Palestinian and international citizen is worse off, whether they realize it (as moderates do) or they don’t (as some extremists may think).
This is a wake up call to all of us.
These articles provide further proof – as if any was actually needed- to the Jews and Israelis and Westerners who have been brainwashed to think that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is an extremist (!) or a ‘terrorist’ (!) by hateful edicts from Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to Economic Minister Naftali Bennett, to even Netanyahu on some occasions – that President Abbas is the strongest partner for peace and non-violent means to achieve it, equal in those values and temperament to President Shimon Peres, as the departing statesman has said himself.
And unless moderates on all sides stand up to seize back the agenda for conflict resolution and buttress the heroic moderate leaders who show strength in their courage and principled determination to pursue a two state solution through non violent means and through acknowledgment of the other, as Abbas has, and as Olmert had, and as Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog have courageously and selflessly and steadfastly done also, all of us will share the blame for the Balkanization and Lebanonization of the Holy Land.
Time we wake up and mobilize.
This article from David Horovitz is worth reading to remind us of the essence of the problem with Hamas. Horovitz has written equally compelling articles highlighting why President Abbas is heroic and worthy of support by the International community, and that it is a travesty that Netanyahu has weakened Abbas and strengthened Hamas. This article – and Horovitz – does not condone the occupation. That must end and Palestinians deserve a State with freedom, equality and mutual respect and recognition with Israel. But none of that would quell Hamas’s thirst to destroy all of Israel.
OneVoice and the PeaceWorks Foundation have been working for several months now on a major new initiative to enable ordinary citizens as well as companies, groups and governments – Palestinian, Israeli, or international – to contribute towards building positive facts on the ground that will advance and cement a two state reality and create the environment necessary for political representatives to negotiate and achieve a permanent two state solution. Part of the methodology involves finding creative solutions where international actors can be catalysts towards improved relations with both sides. As an example, The Center for Middle East Peace had for years been working behind the scenes to support the Turkish construction of a hospital in Gaza, as a means towards rekindling relations between former allies Turkey and Israel, while doing something to advance the betterment of the Palestinian people and State. Some were skeptical this could amount to anything. Now some encouraging signs indicate progress on this path, as recently reported in the article below.
“Of all the points of disagreement between Israel and Hamas, maybe the most profound is this one: Israel cares more about sparing innocent lives – including those of Palestinians – than does Hamas. Hamas has instigated yet another war where the chief loser will certainly be its own people,” observes Richard Cohen. His opinion piece in the Washington Post illustrates Hamas’s violent and destructive role in the Middle East conflict that is oft misrepresented on the world stage.
Spotted by Daniel Lubetzky, by Julianna Storch
Clifford May wrote an article worth reading for all those who are determined to truly address the refugee issue and resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. In addition to the points made in the article, it is important to track the real numbers of refugees, EVEN if I you count their descendants. Some of the estimates regularly shared are inflated beyond belief. A way to confirm this is simply by tracking how many Palestinians were living in total prior to 1948, then tracking how many of them left and how many of them stayed at the time, and how many are there today, and compare to the estimated number who is considered a refugee today. Even if everyone who left, and everyone of their descendants were to considered a refugee, and even if their birthrate was far higher than the one in the West Bank and Gaza and within Israel, the discrepancies would still be quite apparent.
The attached Arabic website links to an Israeli Channel 10 video revealing back-channel negotiations where Khaled Maashal from Hamas apparently offered Olmert a peace deal in exchange for permitting Hamas to lead and rule in Gaza, and presumably eventually across Palestine. The offer never got off the ground. But just the plausibility that Hamas/Maashal offered such terms is causing enormous commotion within Palestine. Beyond weakening Hamas and Maashal and strengthening Abbas and Fatah, it legitimizes the path of negotiations and reconciliation. But more troubling, it may drive deeper divisions within Hamas and possibly isolate any moderating influences and prevent a reconciliation that would allow centrists in Hamas and Fatah to do a responsible coalition to negotiate a two state solution with Israel.