All We Are Saying Is Give Peace A Chance
The Associated Press is reporting air strikes against bridges in Gaza and armor preparing to deploy on the Israeli side of the border. The AP article describes the intent of the operation as "limited" and whose primary objective is apparently to localize and engage the forces responsible for the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Caroline Glick in a Jerusalem Post editorial entitled Israel's Rude Awakening comments that the incident is forcing Prime Minister Olmert to go into Gaza ironically after he had vowed to leave it.
Olmert and his colleagues are big proponents of replacing defensive strategies with slogans and one of their favorite ones is "We'll be here and they will be there." Israel will build a fence and we'll never have to deal with the Palestinians again.
Unfortunately recent attacks over the fence and the inevitable Israeli ripostes may make it necessary to change this slogan to "We'll be here and we'll be there", which was what the fence was intended to avert in the first place. Former Israeli General Meir Eindor put it more directly when he wondered whether it was ever possible to escape from confrontation. Oslo and the peace plan looked like a way out, but it proved a road which led only deeper. Then the fence promised to provide a physical disengagement when a political one could not be contrived. Is that too a broken reed? He says about Oslo:
The more we progressed towards this new middle east and plans for "peace" with "yesterday's" terrorists only caused our security position to worsen. There were 160 deaths by terrorism in the 12 years prior to the Olso Accords; since then, the number stands at 1,350 victims and counting.
The architects of Oslo have recently tried to whitewash the degree of the security catastrophe they caused us. A reminder: If before Olso they had a few dozen guns, now they've got tens of thousands.
Add on the money we've gotten for them, the basic and advanced military training (could it be that one of Sunday's attackers participated in such training?) – and you've got the equation that led to the dramatic rise in terror attacks. And we've said nothing of the propaganda and communications equipment we've given them, that have become anti-Israel incitement tools.
Then Eindor says about the Gaza disengagement:
The evacuated area has been filled with dozens of sub-groups of terror organizations, and hundreds of armed cells receive weapons, some from "official" sources, some (mostly anti-tank weapons) which move freely across the Philadelphi Route – an additional Israeli mistake which was given over to Palestinian and Egyptian supervision.
Hillel Halkin at the New York Sun pointed out that in a perverse way the capture of Gilad Shalit was not an act of terrorism. It was a military on military attack. Can Israel declare war now?
It was in fact anything but that. If terror consists of randomly killing and maiming non-combatant civilians for the purpose of sowing fear and insecurity, Sunday's raid, carried out by the military wing of Hamas, was the antithesis: A well-planned and well-executed attack on a strictly military target that was chosen long in advance and reached through the laborious digging of an underground tunnel half-a-mile long. ...
Indeed one might say, with one's tongue only partially in one's cheek, that attacks like Sunday's, if the alternative to them is suicide bombs, should be encouraged by Israel. Since its inception, the greatest blot on the generally unsavory record of the Palestinian "liberation movement" has been its clear preference for terror over military action. For every Palestinian attack on Israeli soldiers in the four decades since the 1967 war, there have been many dozens of attacks on Israeli civilians, even though in many cases it would have been just as easy to target soldiers. ...
Israel should therefore say to this government: "The charade is over. While we are willing to negotiate through neutral parties a prisoner exchange involving Gilad Shalit, we are also declaring war on you. From now on we will treat you as any country treats another country it is at war with. We will close all our borders with you, cease providing you with all services, and consider any branch of your government, any of its members, and anyone on your side contributing to your military effort, legitimate war targets. We will do our very best to avoid harming civilians, and we will expect you to do the same, but anyone else, from Prime Minister Ismail Heniya down, is from now until further notice a legitimate target. And when you're ready to sue for peace-and-quiet, let us know."
Who wants to bet this isn't going to happen?
Update. The bets are off. Kesher Talk says PM Olmert has limited the goals of the operation to rescuing Shalit and provides intriguing hints that the Palestinian Authority may have helped identify the captive's location in Khan Yunis.
"Our efforts are not intended to punish the Palestinian people, but to bring Shalit home. We don't want to harm innocent people, but we won't let the Palestinians harm us."
A senior IDF intelligence officer told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Shalit was being held in the southern Gaza Strip.
He said that the soldier was in the hands of the military wing of Hamas, that was receiving orders from Hamas leader in exile Khaled Mashaal.
The intelligence officer also said that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniya did not know of Shalit's exact location but that he was acquainted with the people who kidnapped him. He added that Haniyeh and PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud a-Zahar were acting to solve the situation and that the IDF was operating in order to prevent the soldier from being moved out of Gaza and into Sinai.
In further developments Israel Matzav is reporting that Egyptian border guards are securing the Philadelphi corridor to block any efforts by Shalit's kidnappers to take him out thataway.
It's fascinating to watch this process unfold, which is neither war, which Halkin understands, nor "peace" as pacifists would understand it. So perhaps the "fence" isn't the national border as we would like to imagine it as either, but a kind of village palisade. Maybe the best end state we can hope for is a kind of chronic, but fairly low level violence of the sort that tribes which sporadically raided each other once understood.