By Vic Rosenthal
The IDF, while apparently not intending to invade Gaza in force, is ramping up activities to stop the barrage of Qassam missiles hitting Sderot, Ashkelon and environs. In the past few days, more than 85 rockets have fallen in the area near the Gaza strip. Israeli and Palestinian observers suggest that Hamas wants to involve Israel to distract attention from the horrific fighting between it and Fatah, so the plan seems to be to strike hard at those directly involved in firing rockets and their commanders without being drawn into a large-scale invasion. We’ll see if they can walk this tightrope successfully.
Meanwhile, the world press has not been paying much attention to the rocket barrage. News in the US centers on Iraq, while in Europe the Palestinian civil war takes precedence. When a single car bombing in Iraq can kill sixty, the ten Qassam fatalities over the past few years aren’t big news; and neither are the hundreds of wounded and shock victims, although the fear that the rockets have generated is depopulating the city of Sderot. But the media are beginning to pay attention to Israeli military responses, as always, so we will see more coverage in the near future.
The fact is, as Sderot mayor Eli Moyal has complained, “no [other] country in the world” would allow an enemy to bombard a city for years with impunity. Imagine the disproportionate response from the United States if Mexicans were bombarding El Paso!
But as Ami Isseroff has pointed out (see my previous post), the real impact on Israel from Gaza will probably come from the fact that the Islamist Hamas forces are crushing the US-supported Fatah militia, despite the huge numerical and logistical superiority of the latter. Isseroff compares Fatah to the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam), and today’s Iraqi army. No more need be said, from a military point of view.
So at some point in the near future, Israel will be facing a Palestinian entity entirely controlled by the Islamic Hamas, which has refused to even pretend to accept the Quartet principles of recognizing Israel, renouncing violence, and accepting prior agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. Then, as Isseroff implies, the question will simply be how long it will take before most of the world supports Hamas as the ‘legitimate’ Palestinian government. Norway and Switzerland already do.
Once this happens, the chances for any kind of peaceful solution of the Israeli-Arab conflict that leaves Israel viable, either a unilateral Israeli one or a negotiated settlement that includes the Palestinians, approaches zero. Like Sderot, all Israel will face a future of unrelieved struggle.
In the next few weeks, perhaps sooner, we will see the outlines of the future emerge, both for Sderot and for the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.