The Gaza Cycle
Observing the cycles of history from afar, one notices the striking similarities of scenarios repeated over and over again. From them, an astute leader may glean momentous lessons, and may be able to practically apply what has been learned and lead with greater vision, foresight and fortitude.
The situation with Israel and Gaza is one of those that seems to be becoming more and more predictable, especially since Israel’s unilateral removal of all Jewish settlements in the summer of 2005. This move is now regarded by many political and military observers and analysts as a monumental mistake that directly facilitated the Hamas takeover of Gaza shortly after.
The cycle usually begins when rockets and mortars are fired by Gaza terrorists on Israeli cities and towns surrounding the strip. It is then followed by an Israeli response to the provocations, necessary in order to defend its citizens; usually going after the perpetrators with targeted airstrikes.
The terror groups then respond with further rocket fire and Israel is forced to react more forcibly. There have been varying levels of escalation in the past. Most recently the tit for tat resulted in all out war in Gaza, labeled by the IDF as Operation Cast Lead.
The cycle often concludes with unparalleled criticism being leveled against Israel by various governments and international bodies for the use of excessive force, and the large proportion of Arab civilian deaths. Most recently this came in the form of the highly biased and one-sided Goldstone Report.
This week in Gaza we saw rumblings of yet another escalation as mortars and rockets were fired, one rocket reaching as far as north as Ashkelon. In response to the mortar fire, the IDF struck a Palestinian terrorist cell that was preparing to fire a rocket into Israel. Three Palestinian Arabs were killed and four were wounded.
Indeed, just over a year after IDF Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, former OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yom Tov Samia, on Sunday predicted that another war with Hamas was practically inevitable and would take place in the near future.
The IDF believes that since Cast Lead ended in mid-January 2009, Hamas has significantly boosted its military capabilities and has obtained long-range rockets, mostly from Iran. One of these rockets was recently tested by Hamas and has a range of more than 60 km, which means it could hit Tel Aviv.
The big question is how events can be steered differently knowing what we know now, having seen and experienced this before. What have we learned? How have we grown? Are we wiser and better prepared? And the biggest question of all is will we act differently when the rockets start to fly again? Or will the Gaza dilemma be left alive to half die another day as we are drawn into yet another conflict losing precious lives in the process?
An editorial published by Israeli daily, Haaretz, argued that if Israel softened its “blockade” on Gaza and opened the various crossings, the inevitability of another conflict could be avoided, arguing as follows:
“Instead of erring by invoking the default solution of more force, which does not create long-term security or ease the distress of the Palestinians in Gaza, the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip should be opened and indirect assistance rendered to rebuild its ruins. The same logic that dictates the government’s actions in the West Bank – creating an economic incentive to prevent terror – can and must work in the Gaza Strip as well.”
However the likelihood that this action will be of any benefit is minimal, as it is quite clear that Hamas was not established in order to “rebuild the ruins of Gaza” but rather has a bigger goal in mind namely, the obliteration of the entire state of Israel. As a result, opening the borders would further empower Hamas, proving to the Arabs in Gaza that no harm has been done by their brutal military takeover of the strip.
What could really make a difference though, is if during the next Gaza clash Israel made it an objective to regain control of as much territory as possible, specifically along the Philadelphi Corridor in the southern Gaza Strip, which is lined with hundreds of weapons smuggling tunnels.
The Jerusalem Post reported that plans to retake the Corridor have already been drawn up, and that army official hinted that this would indeed be a distinct possibility in the future. Taking control of further swathes of land including areas used as rocket launching sites would show Hamas that the results of their provocations are long term and serious.
The operation would be presented as rescuing the Gaza Arabs from the clutches of a terror organization, while securing the safety of Israeli civilians. On a diplomatic level, Israel would be moving towards solving the problem of the “three state solution,” that no one in the international arena seems willing to discuss never mind actually present a solution to.
Indeed it is disturbing that more war seems inevitable, surely it is a result of a job half done last time around, perhaps the powers that be will take to heed to the hard learned lessons of near history and ensure that any Gaza conflict in the future will be a war that ends all Gaza wars.