As Gaza flares up with tension, violence, and rumors of worse, National Review Online gathered a group of Mideast experts asking them: Can anything be done to prevent more violence? Is there anything constructive to be done — and by whom?
Less than a year after pulling out of Gaza, Israeli forces are back again, hunting down Palestinian terrorists and attempting to rescue one of their kidnapped comrades.
The only thing surprising about the return to Gaza is that it took this long to occur. Ever since the withdrawal, the Palestinians have been firing rockets on a near-daily basis into southern Israel, making life unbearable for tens of thousands of Israeli citizens.
Israel’s retreat created a vacuum, which al Qaeda and other Islamist terror groups quickly set out to fill, paving the way for Hamas to take control. The flow of weapons smuggled in from Egypt has soared, and Gaza has rapidly become the perfect launching pad for enemies of Israel and the West.
At this point, the best thing Israel can do is to stay put in Gaza, flushing out the terrorists while creating and patrolling permanent security zones adjoining the frontier, such as the Philadelphia Corridor along the Gaza-Egypt border.
Only by maintaining an enduring physical presence in the area can Israel ensure that Gaza does not become a hotbed of fundamentalist strife. And only by reasserting its control can Israel provide its citizens with the security they rightly deserve.
– Michael Freund served as deputy director of communications under former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He is currently a syndicated columnist for the Jerusalem Post.
When I used to spend a great deal of time with Ariel Sharon between 2000 and 2003, he would always say to me: “Never put yourself in a position that you only have two choices when you are under a threat: going to war or doing nothing.”
But that is precisely Israel’s situation today. Israel’s southern town of Sdeirot and the Western Negev have been struck with over 500 Qassam rockets — in a blatant escalation of unprovoked attacks since Israel withdrew lock-stock-and barrel from the Gaza Strip. Clearly this escalation did not come about because of some political “grievance” against Israel due to its Gaza presence, which had been removed, but rather from the sense of victory that Hamas and the forces of jihad sensed from Israel’s decision to pull out last August. In the meantime, the Gaza Strip has become a new center for global jihadi groups including Hezbollah and al Qaeda.
The situation cannot be alleviated then by diplomatic initiatives, and the illusory hope that internal Hamas led by Ismail Haniyya is a potential peace partner if he and his colleagues break away from Khaled Mashaal’s branch of Hamas in Damascus. Gaza Hamas, in fact, expressed its regrets for the loss of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and is cut from the same ideological cloth as Hamas overseas. Additionally, deterrence of terrorist groups hiding in densely populated areas does not work; the civilian casualties that can be caused are simply untenable. There is no stable deterrence balance when there is no responsible government on the other side.
But there is what strategists used to call deterrence by denial: cutting off the enemy’s capabilities. In this sense, stabilization will only be achieved by isolating Gaza, and preventing its further reinforcement from the supporters of global jihad, whether by suitcases full of cash or Katyusha rockets. Syria must be made to understand that it will pay a price if it continues to harbor the Hamas leadership and to reinforce the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. These are hard but necessary measures. Diplomacy should press Egypt to be more forceful in blocking the Sinai-Gaza border. Indeed, increased Egyptian responsibility in Gaza and Jordanian responsibility in the West Bank may be the only long-term effective option instead of the Palestinians’ own failed political system, particularly if the Hamas regime collapses. In the meantime, it is necessary to recognize the errors of the past that occurred with Gaza disengagement and not just repeat them again in the West Bank.
– Dore Gold was the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations in 1997-99. His book, Hatred’s Kingdom exposed Saudi Arabia’s financial ties to Hamas and international terrorist groups.
The flare-up in Gaza was to be expected, given that the Palestinian leadership lost yet another opportunity, after the Gaza disengagement, to halt its self-destructive course. Ultimately, there are two ways to read the current situation and interpret its causes. One claims that the 2000-01 attempt to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict failed because there is no genuine Palestinian partner for Israel and there are not going to be chances for peace in this generation. Given that conflict is inherent to the Palestinian-Israeli arena, disengagement was meant to create militarily, demographically, and politically more defensible lines for Israel and allow Israel to fight more effectively in a protracted conflict. If this interpretation is correct, the latest flare-up in Gaza confirms the need for Israel to redeploy and disengage from the Palestinians, given their hopeless devotion to Israel’s destruction. The second view claims that the violence erupted after the Camp David failed summit in the summer of 2000 is a hiccup in a historical process that will eventually lead to peace. In this light, Israel’s unilateral disengagement thwarts the chances of meaningful negotiations because it rewards Palestinian rejectionism and its violence. The latest flare-up, in this light, is evidence that Palestinian terrorism was emboldened by Israel’s withdrawal and seeks to provoke Israel to further undermine its deterrence. In this sense, the Gaza disengagement appears a failure, rather than a success.
Whatever the reading, Israel fell in a trap by going into Gaza with massive force. Upping the ante with targeted killings would prove more effective because it leaves the option open to invade later. Threatening to kill Hamas ministers if the kidnapped soldier is not returned would have been a better measure. The invasion allows the Palestinians yet again to play victims in the stage of world opinion.
– Emanuele Ottolenghi teaches Israel studies at Oxford University.
The Bush administration sees the United States at war with Islamic radicalism; has not the time come for it to see other theaters of this same war — Russia’s with the Chechen rebels, India’s with the Kashmiri insurgents, Israel’s with Hamas — as we see our own, and work for the defeat of the Islamists?
Instead, in the Israeli case at least, Washington urges understanding, restraint, compromise, management of the problem, and other half-hearted and doomed remedies. The result is an ever more exhilarated and aggressive Palestinian population that believes victory within reach.
Washington’s mistaken approach goes back to the Oslo accords of 1993, when Yasser Arafat seemingly closed the existential conflict in writing to Bill Clinton that “The PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But Arafat’s assurances were fraudulent and the Arab effort to eliminate Israel remains very much in place.
Israel, with U.S. support, must defeat this foul ambition. That implies inflicting a sense of defeat on the Palestinians, and winning their resignation to the permanent existence of a Jewish state in the Holy Land. Only then will the violence end.
In the last week, Hamas has kidnapped two Israelis, a soldier and a teenage settler, and threatens to kill both unless its demands are met. The al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, affiliated with “moderate” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, announced it could now manufacture chemical and biological weapons. Can anything be done to prevent the use of those weapons and brake accelerating Palestinian violence?
The answer isn’t as complicated as many suggest. Hamas and Fatah are terrorist organizations and they must be treated as terrorists, and crushed with all means necessary. They are no more entitled to violence than al Qaeda. Foreign Ministers from London, Washington, and Cairo have bleated that diplomacy must be given a chance, but President Bush has inveighed repeatedly against negotiating with terrorists.
And what of the Palestinian people? Let us remember, they elected Hamas. Perhaps next time they will choose more wisely. We can help them by immediately ending fruitless efforts to appeal to “moderates” like Abbas (who was useless in his long stewardship of the PA), wholeheartedly support Israeli actions to eliminate terrorists, and throw our political and financial support behind the idea of new Palestinian political leaders more interested in serving the needs of their people than they are in killing and kidnapping.
– Danielle Pletka is the vice president for foreign- and defense-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
Once upon a time, the Palestine Liberation Organization would send out terrorists under the operational name Black September, so as to maintain “plausible deniability” for actions that might not play well in the West. http://www.palestinefacts.org/pf_1967to1991_munich.php Today, however, the freely elected Islamists governing the Palestinian Authority feel no need even to use pseudonyms.
Hamas leaders announced that the recent assault on an IDF base in pre-1967 Israel, in which two Israelis were killed and one taken hostage, was the action of Hamas “militants,” of which they had no knowledge.
Yet, Hamas is publicly and officially dedicated to destroying Israel and killing Jews. Furthermore, in the ten months since Israel unilaterally withdrew its military and 8,000 civilians from the Gaza region, PA-based groups, including Hamas, have fired more than 1,000 rockets at Israeli cities and have carried out several other terrorist attacks.
Given this, future violence can only be prevented by eliminating the causes of current violence. And those causes are the Arab terrorist groups running the PA — Hamas and Fatah. After more than a decade of concessions and dialogue, Israel must now destroy in order to create — destroy the terrorists’ autonomy in order to create a chance for peace.
— Nissan Ratzlav-Katz is opinion editor of www.IsraelNationalNews.com.
Palestinian terrorism will stop when the international community decides to hold the Palestinian leadership fully accountable for its aggression and to vocally support Israel’s right to self defense.
The U.N. Security Council, which has frequently condemned Israeli defensive actions, has not condemned the firing of hundreds of missiles against Israeli civilians. A U.N. resolution unequivocally condemning Palestinian terrorism and affirming Israel’s rights under Article 51 of the U.N. charter, followed if necessary by the threat of sanctions, would induce the Palestinians to advance their interests by other means.
In addition, the U.S. and Israel should not just speak of the need for two states, Israel and Palestine, but of the true obstacle to implementing that vision: the continuing Arab refusal to accept a Jewish state in this land.
If the Arab states truly accepted the two-state solution, why did they recently fight tooth and nail against welcoming Israel and Palestine into the International Committee of the Red Cross? Why do they foment boycotts and rabid anti-Semitism? Why do the leaders of states that are ostensibly at peace with Israel refuse to visit here? And why does the international community accept such behavior without comment?
– Saul Singer is editorial-page editor of the Jerusalem Post and author of Confronting Jihad: Israel’s Struggle and the World After 9/11.