Normally I don’t bother with Larry Derfner because he is almost a caricature of the extreme anti-Israel Israeli. But his latest piece, “Clueless in Gaza” illustrates a few things in addition to the fact that Israel’s commitment to freedom of speech is formidable (and that Derfner’s choice of titles is unoriginal).
Derfner argues that the ‘siege’ of Gaza is ineffective, immoral and provides a propaganda advantage to Hamas. He suggests that
…what we should do about Gaza is finally, genuinely, end the occupation. Let the people there come and go by sea and air like people do in a free country. Let the trucks go through Israel into Gaza with no more than normal inspection.
As for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other terrorist groups – we are beating the living hell out of them. Maybe they’re more afraid of us than we are of them. Maybe if we keep in mind the stark imbalance of power in our favor, we can go back to the cease-fire and avoid the “big operation” everyone’s predicting….
I repeat: The war Israel is fighting with Gaza is the most one-sided war on earth. If the point is to end it, or at least begin to end it, the ball is not in Hamas’s court – it’s in ours.
Let’s begin at the end. Is it a one-sided war? Derfner writes as though the conflict between Israel and Hamas is actually between Israel and Hamas. He ignores the very significant fact that Hamas — and Hezbollah, and Syria — are just the point of the spear which is wielded by Iran. The Palestinians are happy to play this role because they think that they can turn the clock back to 1947.
By presenting one aspect of the larger conflict out of context, Derfner — and most of the anti-Israel Left — can say that a powerful Israel is oppressing a powerless Arab population. But considering the forces arrayed against Israel, it is not one-sided at all.
Is the blockade immoral? Derfner claims along with Hamas that civilians are suffering greatly. But everything imaginable, including zoo animals and designer jeans, has been smuggled through the Sinai Subway. Derfner criticizes Israel for crying ‘Pallywood’, but do not pictures show candlelit Hamas meetings with bright daylight showing around drawn curtains? Other photos show fully-stocked Gaza markets. It is true that Hamas’ top priority for allocating resources is its army, but this is hardly Israel’s fault.
Is the blockade ineffective? On this point I have to agree with Derfner. They are getting weapons and supplies through the massive subway to Egypt (towns in the northern Sinai are having trouble getting fuel because it is all being smuggled into Gaza). ‘Humanitarian’ shipments of cement have been diverted by Hamas into building an “underground city” of bunkers and missile launchers. Army radio reported that aerial photography shows almost no evidence of above-ground construction taking place since cement imports resumed in July. The blockade is neither bringing down Hamas nor keeping them from arming, training and building fortifications.
But the answer is not to go back to the cease-fire, which is simply a way for Hamas to prepare for war without Israeli interference.
The one fundamental, irreducible, undeniable fact is that Hamas, with Iranian backing, is getting militarily stronger every day and fully intends to be part of a major assault against Israel — probably in concert with Hezbollah and Syria — when it is ready.
Unlike Israel’s Arab neighbors and Iran, there is no possibility of making peace with Hamas. Hamas’ very reason for being is to pursue the replacement of Israel with an Islamist Arab state by armed conflict. They do not deny this and the only option they offer for ‘peace’ is a temporary truce.
The question is not “will there be a war with Hamas?” but rather “will the war be at a time and in a manner of Israel’s choosing or that of Hamas?”
Israeli policy so far has been to put off the confrontation as long as possible. This is understandable, since it is expected to be be bloody and expensive for both sides. But it is an irrational policy because the balance of power is moving against Israel in many ways: Hamas is building up its offensive and defensive capabilities, Hamas and its supporters are making their case effectively in the media (which will translate into more foreign pressure on Israel), and the US is about to install an administration which will be even more likely than the present one to intervene to prevent Israel from obtaining a conclusive victory over Hamas.
Here are some possible solutions to the problem of Gaza:
- Derfner’s solution: Surrender, present Hamas with another victory. First they drove Israel out of Gaza by force of arms, and now they’ve “broken the siege”. The result will be the worldwide legitimization of Hamas, which will likely push Fatah aside as the representative of all Palestinians. Their military buildup will continue even more rapidly. At some point there will be a coordinated attack on Israel by Hamas and Hezbollah and possibly Syria, supported and commanded by Iran.
- Cut off Medusa’s heads: Kill as many of Hamas’ leaders as possible with targeted strikes. Keep doing this as they appoint new ones.
- Apply a real blockade: Invade the Philadelphi corridor (the area along the Gaza/Egypt border), destroy the tunnels, end all commerce and transit with Gaza, cut electricity and water. Starve them out (possibly with some targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders). Tell Ban Ki-Moon and the EU to go to hell — Israel is at war and Hamastan is the enemy. How is this different from the strategic bombing done by the Allies in WWII?
- Confront Hamas: Invade Gaza, crush Hamas completely. Kill as many fighters and leaders as possible. Tell Condoleezza Rice or President Obama’s Secretary of State to go to hell. Disadvantages of this are that there would be many casualties on both sides, a way would have to be found to keep Hezbollah (etc.) from joining in, and the US might not agree to go to hell. Possibly the moment for this has passed.
- Do nothing but hope for the best: Hamas will get stronger. The international community will continue to apply pressure to weaken the blockade until Hamas will declare victory. Little by little it will become legitimate in the eyes of the world. At some point there will be a coordinated attack on Israel by Hamas and Hezbollah and possibly Syria, supported and commanded by Iran.
There is no doubt in my mind that Israel, under Olmert — who is Prime Minister until February at least — has chosen strategy 5. It is guaranteed to fail as badly as 1; indeed, there is very little difference between them in practice.
What needs to happen is some variation or combination of 2-4, and it needs to happen before January 20 when the new US president takes office. Does anyone believe that it will?