On Sunday, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yom-Tov Samia, the former head of the Southern Command who continues to function as the current head’s deputy in the reserves, hinted at the possibility that the IDF will conquer the Philadelphi Corridor in the future.
In an interview with Army Radio, Samia said that in a future conflict, Israel would take over “specific territory” in Gaza that would help reduce Hamas’s “oxygen supply.” Contacted later in the day, Samia refused to specify which territory he had referred to.
“We are facing another round in Gaza,” said Samia, who during Cast Lead functioned as the deputy to OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant. “I am very skeptical about the chance that Hamas will suddenly surrender or change its way without first suffering a far more serious blow than it did during Cast Lead.”
The blow, he said, would be “more focused with long-range results including the conquering of territory that Hamas will understand it lost as a result of its provocations. We need to create a situation which reduces its oxygen supply.” [my emphasis]
Note that Maj.-Gen. Samia does not discuss the option of overthrowing Hamas and destroying its leadership. I presume that there are two main reasons for this: the expected number of IDF and Palestinian casualties (who will all be claimed to be civilians) from the required penetration into the center of Gaza City — which probably would mean bloody fighting in tunnels and bunkers — and the need for Israel to take responsibility for filling the resulting administrative vacuum.
But Hamas will not ‘surrender or change its way’ no matter how serious a blow it suffers, as long as that blow is nonfatal. So a ‘Cast-Lead plus’ would only provide temporary breathing space, and the repercussions in the information arena would be as severe or worse than they were last winter.
Would cutting the lifeline of the “Sinai Subway” alone be enough to take down Hamas? Maybe, but I doubt it. Maintaining the occupation zone along the border indefinitely would be dangerous and provide a focus for never-ending ‘humanitarian’ complaints.
The consideration of casualties is important, but casualties will mount quickly enough if there has to be a mini-war every year or so. That’s a much more costly alternative in every way than one campaign which ends in victory — as should have happened in Cast Lead.
So we need to ask, who would run Gaza if Hamas were gone? The UN? Worthless. It would serve as cover for Hamas to recreate itself, just as it has for Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Egyptians? Why would they? What would they gain from it except trouble?
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has said that it doesn’t want to return to Gaza on the backs of Israeli tanks, but given the huge amount of international funds that would flow in to rebuild it, perhaps a way could be found. Possibly the cooperative security model used in Judea and Samaria, which has so effectively reduced terrorism from there, could be made to work in a PA-controlled Gaza.
I don’t know enough of the details to know if it’s practical, but it seems like the only solution. Hamas-ruled Gaza is like an infection that is periodically lanced but never cured.