Egypt halting arms flow? Forget it!

Former national security adviser sums up Operation Cast Lead.

By Q, A: GIORA EILAND
January 22, 2009 21:19
2 minute read.
eiland 298 aj

eiland 248.88 . (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )

 
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Overall, where do you consider that Israel succeeded, and where did it fail, in Operation Cast Lead? The most important success is that the operation will produce quiet for a long time in the South. Israel's deterrence has been reasserted. Hamas has suffered a blow to its legitimacy in Gaza. Outside help is required to provide economic assistance to the people there. Hamas has had to make commitments to Egypt, and any breach of those commitments will bring it trouble with Egypt and with others. The IDF was successful, the public has been reassured, the home front functioned well. What about the issue of arms smuggling into Gaza? That's much more more problematic. To be polite, the Egyptians are telling us stories and we are deluding ourselves. Egypt was not effective in the past. It doesn't care about weapons in Gaza. The smuggling tunnel apparatus also features drugs and televisions and mobile phones, and keeps whole tribes in business. So either Egypt has to truly confront this whole industry or pay off the smugglers. And I'm not sure it's going to do that. As for the dramatic signing of an agreement between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and the previous secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, intended to stop the smuggling, well, without being rude, it's not serious and it's not significant. The United States has had a profound interest in stopping arms smuggling between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and from Iran to Iraq. But it hasn't been able to. So preventing a flow of weapons from, say, Somalia to Sudan to Egypt and then to Gaza? No, it's not going to happen. The only truly effective way to prevent the smuggling would be for the Egyptians to build a buffer zone five kilometers from the border, fence it off, and control the only road through the sand. But they won't do that. Where does the cease-fire leave Gilad Schalit? There is now a better climate in which Israel should link his case, in the context of a prisoner exchange, to the other humanitarian concerns - over food and medicine going into Gaza. As a first step, Israel should be prepared to ease certain border restrictions if the Red Cross is allowed to visit Schalit - and should not ease that access if the Red Cross is not allowed to visit. How did Israel's diplomacy fare? The gathering of leaders in Jerusalem on Sunday signalled international support for our narrative. But we have paid a heavy price with Turkey, and not only in the context of the indirect talks with Syria it was brokering. We had a good relationship with Prime Minister Erdogan, and now he is as anti-Israeli as possible. It reminds me of France in 1967, when President De Gaulle went from being Israel's best friend before the war to most aggressive rival after it. How concerned are you that Hamas will now get stronger and pose a more dangerous threat? Israel does not fight in order to influence the Palestinian dynamic. Would it be better for Israel if one day, someone other than Hamas governs Gaza? Maybe. But we don't need to be disappointed that Mahmoud Abbas is weak. A weak Hamas, a strong Abbas - that's not our interest. Seeing Gaza and the West Bank reunited as a one unit - that's not an Israeli interest either. It's not our problem. We didn't create that split and it's not our interest to fix it. Our interest is long-term quiet and an end to the smuggling. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland is a former national security adviser and former head of the IDF's Planning and Operation branches.

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