Saturday, July 15, 2006
Israel's last resort
An Article from the NY Daily News
After withdrawal, Hamas and Hezbollah
have waged endless, ruthless war
Eleven months ago, Israel withdrew from every last inch of the Gaza Strip. They dismantled all military bases, turned over functioning greenhouses that could employ 4,000 people, expelled all 7,500 Israeli settlers at a huge financial and political cost and declared the lines that divide Israel from Gaza to be an international frontier, making Gaza the first independent Palestinian territory ever.
Everyone's expectation was that the Palestinians, so treated, would show the world what they could achieve with freedom. Alas, they have shown all too well. Not one day of peace has followed.
The pattern was set on the very day of Israel's pullout, when Palestinian forces fired rockets into Israeli towns on the other side of the border. The final straw was the tunneling under the border with Israel, the attack on an Israeli tank and the point-blank murder of two Israeli soldiers and kidnapping of a third.
A few days later, inspired by the rhetorical threats of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah of Lebanon joined Hamas by attacking Israel from the north. They killed eight Israeli soldiers, kidnapped two others and began firing rockets into Israel.
The Palestinians have given the lie to virtually all the scenarios so hopefully envisaged by their friends. They did not construct schools, roads and hospitals; they made no effort to turn Gaza into a thriving state. They elected a radical Islamic Hamas government. They permitted the smuggling of huge quantities of weapons and terrorists while creating new bases for terror. Palestinian society has descended ever more into advanced anarchy.
At first, the Israelis tried nonlethal deterrence - diplomatic warnings, then sonic booms from jets. They failed. It was a sad demonstration of the truth in the metaphor that in the Middle East, the law of wild nature applies: An animal that is perceived as weak invites attack. The Israelis fell back on targeted assassinations against terrorist leadership, despite the unavoidable risk that nonterrorists might be killed since the terrorists - cynically and callously - hide among civilians.
Some suggest Israel should ignore the Hamas and Hezbollah rockets because they are puny and erratic. That's easy to say from an armchair, but every one of the rockets is intended to kill or maim as many Israeli civilians as possible. The Israeli town of Sderot lost 13 people from rocket fire. That city is now living under siege, and now the Palestinians have begun firing longer-range rockets that have reached larger cities.
The last thing Israel wanted to do was get involved again in Gaza, much less in Lebanon, but Hamas and Hezbollah gave them no choice. Who would doubt the U.S. response if rockets were raining from across the Mexican border into neighboring American cities or Canadian forces simultaneously killed and kidnapped Americans on U.S. soil? And who but Israel would be shipping basic foodstuffs, medicines and chlorine containers for purifying drinking water to avoid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza?
And what about Mahmoud Abbas, the hope of the West? Sadly, what we have witnessed is the failure of Abbas to pressure the Hamas government. He did not meet the commitment he gave to Israeli officials to muster the forces for a house-to-house search to locate the abducted soldier. And he agreed to a version of Hamas' so-called prisoners' document - which reopens the most vital questions about Israel's right to exist and endorses terrorism and violence that should have been eliminated by now.
The Oslo agreement called for an end to terror. The prisoners' document is a manifesto for terror. It calls for continuing violence and for "popular resistance" against the occupation "in all its forms, places and policies," and "by all means," language long recognized as code for legitimizing the murder of Israelis.
Most critically, it advocates the right of return for some 4 million Palestinian refugees, the descendants of the 700,000 Arabs who fled during the 1948 War, primarily at the behest of their own leaders. These refugees are now proposed to be returned to pre-1967 Israel, virtually putting the Jews into a minority in their own country - the very situation that the UN ruled out in deciding the original partition of Palestine.
It is clear again that the core of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute stems not from Israel's unwillingness to compromise but from the nature of its adversary. Most fair-minded observers share the Israeli conclusion that there is no Palestinian partner for peace. The Middle East equation could not be starker or more depressing. It reveals once again that Hamas and the Palestinians, now joined by Hezbollah, their partners in terrorism and murder, both armed and financed by Iran, wish to get rid of Israel.
This will be a "long war" in which victory will be the culmination of a series of unavoidable catastrophes.
Originally published on July 14, 2006