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Thread: Israel's Gaza Defense
12-29-08, 10:26 AM #1
Israel's Gaza Defense
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
DECEMBER 29, 2008
Israel's Gaza Defense
The more damage to Hamas, the better the chances for peace.
Israel's air assault on Gaza in response to Hamas rocket attacks is inspiring familiar international denunciations. But the best commentary we've heard might be this one: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing."
Barack Obama said those words in July while visiting Israel as a Presidential candidate.
Now as President-elect, Mr. Obama is maintaining an appropriate silence while deferring to the Bush Administration before his Inauguration. But his July remarks capture the essence of Israel's right to self-defense. Moreover, the more successful Israel is this week in damaging Hamas as a terrorist force, the better chance Mr. Obama will have to make progress in facilitating a genuine Mideast peace.
Naturally, the conventional diplomatic and journalistic wisdom is that the longer the fight goes on the more difficult the "peace process" becomes. The usual suspects at the United Nations are condemning Israel and blaming it for "excessive" force. Even Nicolas Sarkozy -- who holds the rotating European Union presidency and is considered Israel-friendly for a French president -- criticized Jerusalem's "disproportionate" response.
But as Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi explain, the Israeli public isn't about to make territorial concessions on the West Bank or the Golan Heights if Gaza is allowed to become a neighboring terrorist state that can launch attacks with impunity. Israel has already had a bad enough experience letting that happen with Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. Meanwhile, the stronger Hamas becomes, the more resistance Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will face to making any concessions to Israel.
The chronology of this latest violence is important to understand. Israel withdrew both its soldiers and all of its settlers from Gaza in August 2005. Hamas won its internal power struggle with Mr. Abbas's Fatah organization to control Gaza in 2007. Since 2005 Hamas has fired some 6,300 rockets at Israeli civilians from Gaza, killing 10 and wounding more than 780.
Hamas did agree to a six-month cease-fire earlier this year, during which the rocket attacks declined in number but never completely stopped. But Hamas refused to extend the truce past December 19, and the group has since resumed attacks, firing nearly 300 missiles, rockets and mortars. The 250,000 Israelis in the southern part of the country live under constant threat, often in bomb shelters, and the economy has suffered. Yet the world's media seem to pay attention only when Israel responds to that Hamas barrage.
Israel's air assault has resulted in more Palestinian casualties, but that is in part because Hamas deliberately locates its security forces in residential neighborhoods. This is intended both to deter Israel from attacking in the first place as well as to turn world opinion against the Jewish state when it does attack. By all accounts, however, the Israeli strikes have hit their targets precisely enough to do significant damage to Hamas forces -- both to its leadership and, on Sunday, to the tunnels from Gaza to Egypt that Hamas uses to smuggle in weapons and build its growing army.
Hamas claims the goal of its rocket attacks is merely to force Israel to ease its strict travel restrictions into and out of Gaza. But those restrictions are intended to prevent suicide bombers from blowing up Israeli citizens in cafes as they did during the intifadah earlier this decade. If Hamas wants its people to have freer movement, it can stop sponsoring terror killings.
Even as Arab leaders have formally condemned Israel's attacks, they have also noted Hamas's escalation. Mr. Abbas yesterday said "We talked to them [Hamas] and we told them 'please, we ask you, do not end the truce. Let the truce continue and not stop' so that we could have avoided what happened." Egypt's Foreign Minister, Ahmed Abul Gheit, assailed Israel's air strikes but also held Hamas responsible. They understand that Hamas, like Hezbollah, is increasingly allied with Iran and its goals for fomenting regional instability.
Israel itself faces a difficult decision of whether to escalate with a ground attack on Gaza. That would help further diminish Hamas, though at the cost of more casualties and greater international disapproval. The worst outcome would be a ground assault, a la the one in Lebanon in 2006, that stirred anti-Israel sentiment but stopped short of achieving its military goals.
The Bush Administration's support for Israel is welcome, though we should note the violence comes at the end of a four-year Bush effort to midwife a Palestinian peace. There's a lesson here for Mr. Obama, who is about to discover that the terrorists of the Middle East aren't about to change their radical ambitions merely because America has a new President.
12-29-08, 10:38 AM #2
Gaza as Microcosm
by Jed Babbin (more by this author)
Posted 12/29/2008 ET
The Palestinian residents of the tiny, crowded Gaza Strip -- one and a half million people crammed into an area about twice the size of Washington, D.C. -- elected the terrorist group Hamas to govern them in 2006. Hamas -- the Islamic Resistance Movement -- has as its announced goal the destruction of Israel.
Under a series of Clinton-era agreements, Israel ceded civilian government over the West Bank and Gaza Strip to Yassir Arafat’s Palestinian Authority. These agreements were supposed to be the foundation of long-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but Arafat’s sustained terror campaign against Israel -- the “second intifada” which began in 2000 -- along with Hizballah’s Lebanon-based terror, precluded any progress. Now Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah Party president of the Palestinian Authority, has no more authority over Hamas than Canute did over the ocean’s tide.
The leader of Hamas -- Khaled Meshaal -- does not live in the poverty of Gaza. He and so many other terrorists live in comfort in Damascus, Syria. Damascus, in turn, is what it has been for decades: a terrorist safe haven where Hamas and Iranian-sponsored Hizballah make their headquarters. There, they are free to organize, plan and marshal the money they receive from Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and many other prime sources.
Damascus, like Tehran, is a central sponsor of Islamic terrorism. They are the Petri dishes in which Islamic radicalism is cultured and grown. Which is why Israel’s military strikes against Hamas in Gaza which began last weekend will have only a short-term effect in suppressing terrorist acts against Israel.
Israel’s airstrikes, which may be the precursors of an Israeli incursion into Gaza, were precipitated by Hamas missile strikes into Israel. They began after Hamas chose to let an uneasy cease-fire expire. By late last week, Hamas was firing between sixty and eighty missiles a day from Gaza into Israeli cities and towns. The missiles achieved their intended goal: Israel struck hard on Saturday and Sunday, hitting a reported fifty targets in the first five minutes.
Hamas’ leadership wanted Israel to strike back. They care nothing for the welfare of the Palestinian people. And the Palestinians -- the only people in the world who consistently fail to act in their own self-interest -- will blame Israel for the violence, not their Hamas leaders.
Which is why Hamas -- like Hizballah did in the 2006 Lebanon war with Israel -- placed its military forces, weapons and all -- close to civilian schools, hospitals and other properties to ensure civilian casualties when they are hit. Terrorists always want Israel to face a Hobson’s Choice: either cause casualties among Palestinian civilians or tolerate the murder of its own people.
Israel had fenced off Gaza, successfully preventing almost all terrorist attacks emanating from there. But the Hamas terrorists (funded and armed by Syria and Iran) simply substituted missile attacks to reach over the fence. No matter how many Hamas members are killed, no matter how many Israelis are ordered into Gaza, any lessening of violence will only be temporary because the problem in Gaza can no more be solved within Gaza than the problems in Iraq can be solved in Iraq.
The Gaza Strip is just a microcosm of the threat posed by Islamic terrorism. Unless and until nations such as Iran and Syria are forced to end state sponsorship of terrorism, any victories we or the Israelis achieve will be short-lived. The longer we and the rest of the civilized world deny that fact, terrorism will succeed.
The violence in Gaza isn’t likely to spread, and the intensity of the war between the Israelis and their surrounding nations will grow hotter and colder periodically. And the West will do nothing to force Syria to end sponsorship of terrorism. We remain in denial of the stubborn fact -- the existential threat -- of state-sponsored terrorism.
A few thousand miles east of Gaza, a very similar conflict may soon erupt which the world will also try to ignore. We and our putative allies turn a blind eye to it, tip-toeing around the nature of the enemy. As Israeli tanks mass on the border of Gaza, Pakistani tanks are massing on the border with India.
Pakistan is Gaza writ large. As a senior White House official told me last summer, the most dangerous safe havens problem on the planet is northwestern Pakistan, the so-called “Federally-Administered Tribal Areas” in which some one million radical Islamic fighters organize and train. After the Mumbai attack in November, it quickly became clear that the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba terrorists -- the same ones that had attacked India’s parliament in December 2001 -- had again mounted an attack from Pakistan.
In a letter to the Washington Post on Saturday, Nadeem Kiani -- the press attaché at Pakistan’s Washington embassy -- wrote, “The fact is that as of now, we have not been provided credible evidence of any Pakistani individual (sic) or group’s involvement…Lashkar-e-Tayyiba has been banned in Pakistan and does not exist.”
This is not merely a lie, it is agitprop: the combination of agitation and propaganda the Soviet Union used to misinform, to calm or inflame. The Soviets employed it daily to divide the West, to encourage appeasers and to becloud the Soviets’ intentions. Terrorists and the nations that harbor them learned its use too well and are using it to the same purpose and effect. When nuclear-armed nations such as Pakistan use it, it cannot go unchallenged. But it will.
India, like Israel, has both the right and a duty to strike back at terrorists. Pakistan refuses to act against Lashkar e-Tayyiba and to turn its leaders over to India, just as the Taliban did in 2001 when we demanded that they hand over Usama bin Laden. When India strikes back, will we equate the aggressor to the defender, demanding both sides end the fighting? That is just what Barack Obama will do.
The greatest danger we face is the emotional, cowardly denial of the facts. But when we accept the facts, and choose to act upon them, we follow the only path that can maintain our freedom.
The longer we deny the threat of state-sponsored terrorism, the harder and more costly it will be to end it. If we wait too long, it may be beyond our power to do so.
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