By Ted Belman
I rarely take issue with DEBKA but this time I will. It recommends First Knock out Terror Machine – Then Talk to Hamas
In this offensive, the IDF’s mission would entail liquidating the Hamas terrorist war infrastructure, clobbering the 12,000-strong armed Palestinians – many of whom may go to ground in the dense civilian population, demolishing their command centers, missile foundries and arms arsenals, and severing their smuggling routes from Egyptian Sinai to Gaza. This campaign would not be short or painless.
Israel’s chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi put his finger on a key question when he asked what happens the day after the war. In other words, to whom would the IDF hand the Gaza Strip?
I agree with Ashkenazi that the question is, then what?
He had no answers. Ashkenazi knows there is no point in handing Gaza back to Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, which lost the territory to a Hamas coup in June. Abbas and his associates are good at begging aid, but hopeless at securing or otherwise governing territory.
NATO is strapped for troops to serve in Afghanistan and will have none to spare for Gaza. A Saudi-Jordanian-Egyptian force has no precedent and would be an unknown quantity, assuming that the three governments agreed to form such a force.
Since the 15,000 UN peacekeeping force took over in south Lebanon after the 2006 war, not only Hizballah but the pro-Iranian-Syrian camp in Lebanon is laughing. They have prospered and gained strength, militarily and politically, under the protection of an international shield. This scenario would be replicated in the Gaza Strip.
DEBKA argues for no half measures
By now, Hamas rule is too entrenched to overthrow without the IDF capturing the entire Gaza Strip. It is important to stress that the siege-cum-sanctions strategy imposed by Israel and other nations has been ineffective in unseating Hamas in Gaza in the same way as this strategy failed to cow Iran.
Returning to the Gaza Strip is generally seen as a non-option for Israel. On the premise that, after conquering the enclave, Israel will have no one to pass it to, the only course remaining is to engage the defeated Hamas stripped of its military might in talks on stiff terms for handing it back.
This is wishful thinking to say the least. Hamas will not negotiate. If the negotiations require them to have a lobotomy in exchange for being put back in power or for a limited role, they will reject it. To believe in such negotiations is a pipe-dream no less than the one they refer to for the Westbank
On the West Bank, conditions on the ground are shaping up into the Gaza model but are still containable as long as the Palestinian Authority is not expected to fight terror. The promise that one day, the Palestinian Authority will have this capability is no better than a pipe dream. So far, with all the generous aid poured out by the most powerful Western forces, Abbas and his Fatah control only a part of one West Bank town, Ramallah.
DEBKA ends with some surprises.
Keeping the lid on the West Bank continues to be solely up to Israel’s military and security forces, which have performed excellently until now in keeping terror at bay. The tactics employed by the Americans in Iraq would be useful both on the West Bank and eventually in Gaza after its pacification: Ignoring the Palestinian Authority, Israel should engage local powerhouses for long-term ceasefire arrangements – if necessary, by forking out large sums of money to purchase calm.
Subduing the enemy and negotiating long-term ceasefire accords from a position of strength appear to this analyst as the only feasible option left to Israel at this time. It is not ideal and the cost will be high, but seven years of Israeli government mistakes carry a price.
I believe this should entail saying to them in both the Westbank and Gaza, peace for peace. You will be held accountable for terror and incitement. We will have zero tolerance for either. If you persist, we will make your life miserable.
I agree that Israel should find local strongmen and make a deal with them, providing they keep the peace. But there should be no deal with Hamas or PA which will perpetuate Oslo. We must deny national aspirations.