kassam cell great 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Ehud Barak perhaps picked an ironic day to make his first visit to Sderot since becoming Defense Minister.
After visiting the home of the Amar family, whose house last Thursday suffered a direct hit from a Kassam that punched through its unprotected roof, Barak promised he would work to find the estimated NIS 320 million still needed to reinforce the homes and public buildings in Sderot and other communities along the Gaza border, seven years after the rockets first began to strike them.
Surprisingly, nobody suggested he go find it in the most logical place - Paris. For exactly at the same time, a host of nations, including the US, the European Union member-states and the oil-rich Arab countries, were pledging far, far more than that amount to meet a request by the Palestinian Authority for an infusion of $5.6 billion in immediate financial assistance.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, in speaking to the donor representatives in Paris, did not forget to mention "the situation created by Hamas's takeover of Gaza, which brings daily terror to Israeli families."
She did not, though, suggest that even a relatively small portion of those billions of dollars be used to bring some kind of relief to the residents of Sderot, in the form of the funding which her government has thus far failed to provide, needed to safeguard their homes.
Maybe she should have - or maybe the donor nations should have volunteered it themselves, since the Olmert government could use as much propping up as the PA of President Mahmoud Abbas, both of whom are improbably expected to deliver peace, security, and a Palestinian state by the end of next year.
Livni did say "I hope also that, while ensuring humanitarian welfare, we can work to rid Gaza of terror, and restore it to the control [of Abbas]."
Missing was any practical suggestion of exactly how that was to be done, either on Israel's part, or by Abbas, who again reiterated that he sees Hamas's rule of Gaza to be entirely illegitimate.
One thing is for certain: All the money that will be pumped into the PA's hands over the next year won't stop the Kassams landing on Sderot. The hope that a functioning Palestinian entity and stable economy in the West Bank under Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayad's leadership will somehow lead to a collapse of Hamas rule in Gaza, simply doesn't reflect the reality on the ground.
Even if the new poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Social Research hadn't shown that the level of support (or lack of) for Hamas has not been affected by the worsening social conditions in Gaza over the past three months, the results aren't particularly significant.
Hamas didn't consult any polls when it took Gaza by force last summer, and it certainly won't concede its control there by anything other than force.
And no Israeli government is going to be able to fully relinquish security control over further Palestinian population areas as long as the Kassams are flying across the Gaza border. Even if Barak digs up the funds to build more safe rooms in Sderot and its environs over the next few months, the specter of an Israeli community living in daily terror of aerial attacks will put a damper on any plans to make any similar disengagement of Israeli forces from the West Bank.
All the sides in Paris know this, but conveniently prefer to dance around the subject for the time being, rather than confront the hard question of just who it is that's going to have to go into Gaza to knock out Hamas. The one exception was the outspoken host in Paris, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, perhaps because he's relatively new to the game and still has the political confidence to make bold statements. Sarkozy spoke of sending international peacekeeping forces into Gaza, an idea that Livni has also reportedly mooted in her meetings with European leaders.
With NATO troops bogged down in Afghanistan, and the US military struggling in Iraq, such a prospect is difficult to imagine. But at the end of the day, pumping all the funds in the world to the PA is not by itself going to bring either Israelis the security they need, or Palestinians the state they want. At best, it might feed a few hungry mouths in the West Bank and Gaza - but still not gain those nights of sounder sleep the Amar family and their neighbors in Sderot so desperately need.
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