The Palestinians took several months to dig that tunnel running from under the Gaza Strip into Israel. The intention to attack, then, has been present all that time. And in an authoritarian society of the kind, this could not have happened without approval from the top. There are of course competing tops, Mahmud Abbas and his Fatah, and Ismail Haniya and his Hamas. Things aren’t quite as clear-cut as that, because several powerful Fatah members challenge Abbas, and several powerful Hamas members challenge Haniya. About the only thing they can agree on is to attack Israel. Not so long ago, Israel warned Abbas of a Hamas plot to assassinate him. In return, he did not warn Israel of the tunnel and the impending kidnap of Gilad Shalit, or come to that, the abduction and murder of another teenager, Eliyahu Asheri, on the West Bank. Yet another Israeli, 62-year-old Mr. Noam Moskovitz, has just been taken hostage. The Palestinian leadership wants a trial of strength, and is having it.
The Palestinian argument, endlessly rehearsed, is that Israel is an occupying power, and must evacuate — the world has come to parrot it. But the question not asked is: Why is Israel an occupying power? Simply because it has been invaded by one or another Arab army, and ceaselessly attacked by Arab terrorists, from these very territories. No aggressions of the sort, no occupation, QED.
Next question: Why ever do the Palestinian leaders commit the same mistake over and over again, each time failing in their objective and leaving themselves worse off? Stupidity in Einstein’s definition is repeating something you’ve already done to no good effect in the expectation of getting a different result. That’s what the Palestinian leadership has been doing for almost a century, miring all their people in misery and ruin.
Palestinians aren’t stupid and I suspect that the man on the Gaza street knows that once again the leadership has gone too far, and all because at the top they are fighting to the death for power and money, and laying the blame for their defects on Israel. If the leadership could take the measure of reality they’d hand Gilad Shalit over forthwith. As things stand, 60 Hamas officials have been arrested by Israel, Gaza residents will be without electricity for several sweltering months, and some bridges have been bombed flat. The disappearance or death of Gilad Shalit — and now Mr. Moskovitz — will bring down on Palestinians not just more occupation but something close to war.