Back in 2006 when then-PM Ehud Olmert sent units into battle without sufficient ammo or provisions and all around managed to mismanage the Second Lebanon War, he at one point gloated that victory up north would expedite what he dubbed “Realignment” on Israel’s winding long eastern flank.
That was to be his sequel to the unilateral Disengagement from Gaza a year earlier.
At the time, Olmert’s indiscreet blabbing set off a ground swell of protest among troops who didn’t take kindly to the notion that they would sacrifice life and limb to advance Olmert’s consensus-breaching political agenda. In the view of too many soldiers in harm’s way, the idea of shedding their blood to extend the by-then-obvious Gazan disaster to Israel’s most densely packed population centers wasn’t an appealing prospect.
But some subplots never die. A variation on the theme is being revived right now. All too many in the political arena – both nominal coalition members and opposition leaders – presume to exploit a consensual conflict to advance their non-consensual agenda. They portray Operation Protective Edge as the vehicle to propel their pet project of reinstating Ramallah figurehead Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu-Mazen) at Gaza’s helm.
Winning Gaza back for Abbas wasn’t what most fighters fought for.
This, though, doesn’t prevent Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua – pro-forma from the coalition ranks), and the opposition’s Isaac Herzog (Labor) and Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) from crowning octogenarian Abbas as the ultimate prince of Gaza. He, they tell us, is the one who’ll reliably keep Hamas from rearming, unfailingly foil its gunrunning through the Rafah crossing, conscientiously prevent its tunnel construction under our border, keep our peace and extend Disengagement’s blessings to Israel’s ultra-crowded central region.
Livni, Herzog and Gal-On all confidently cheer: Have no fear, Abbas is here.
This has become the resounding mantra of Israel’s curious plethora of progressive thinkers and creative solution-concocters – forever fond of sounding off before every available microphone. In their self-acclaimed opinion there can be no sounder advice than letting the cunning old cat watch over the cream – yet again!
Needless to stress, Abbas and his Fatah cohorts had already been trusted with the proverbial cream before. They never lived up to the hype – not even when Abbas was in his prime.
It all started in 1993, the year that inflicted the Oslo Accords upon unsuspecting Israelis and gave us Tinseltown’s comic fantasy, Groundhog Day. The film featured the unique travails of TV weatherman Phil who always wakes up to face the same day. He is repeatedly forced to cover Groundhog Day ceremonies in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, an assignment he intensely detests.
He gets through the awful day, only to wake up again the next morning to yet another February 2 (Groundhog Day) which he appears doomed to relive. He tries to tell his producer and anyone who’ll listen that he’s been there, done that, but no one understands.
Like the unfortunate Phil, we too seem to be stuck in a repetitive pattern of reenacting the same sickening scenario over and over and over… It began with Oslo and repulsively replicates itself ever since under various guises, appellations and degrees of severity, but it’s all the same basically. Compulsive and obsessed, we’re unable to extricate ourselves. Oslo obviously triggered our collective Groundhog Day.
We have been through it and through numerous adaptations. Nevertheless, we keep walking right into another rerun – open-eyed and fully aware of what awaits us. Yet each time we delude ourselves that perhaps this time around it would turn out differently, that maybe we’ve now discovered the magic ingredient to break the spell. Disdaining our own senses, we return to where we were.
Under Oslo’s terms we first turned Gaza over to Fatah hegemony in May 1994, as part of a phased transfer of authority. Much of the Strip (except for the settlement blocs and military areas) came under Fatah control. Israeli forces exited Gaza City and other urban areas, leaving Fatah to administer and police those areas. Hamas wasn’t even in the equation.
On July 1, Yasser Arafat, along with Abbas, entered triumphantly, greeted by euphoric celebrations. The goodwill was short-lived. On July 17 Fatah’s own police officers shot to death Israeli border patrolman Jacky Attias at the Erez Crossing – with weapons which Israel had naively given them to keep the peace. Dozens of buses were set alight in riots that presaged what was to come.
A mere two days later, Lt. Guy Ovadia was slain in Rafah and the Fatah cops prevented the IDF from pursuing the ambushers. Israel’s leadership, under Yitzhak Rabin and the prophet of the New Middle East, Shimon Peres, weren’t about to let a few murders get in the way of the grand Oslo misadventure. Under their stewardship, Israel continued withdrawing from the populated areas of Judea and Samaria too, exploding buses back home notwithstanding.
The pipedream that Fatah would keep us safe was too sweet to ditch, not even when gunshots morphed into rocket barrages.
And so in 2005, instead of undoing Oslo’s harm, we exacerbated it via the euphemistically named “Disengagement.” At this point we relinquished all military presence in the Gaza Strip, even in the strategically critical Philadelphi Corridor (thereby enabling Gaza to arm itself to the teeth), and we razed 21 thriving settlements.
That gave Fatah, now under Abbas, full control. The hope was that he’d fill Gazans with peace and love.
But we awoke to just another Groundhog Day in Gaza. Those among us, who foresaw the looming calamity, were dismissed scornfully as “enemies of peace.” It became bon ton not to learn from past mistakes. Ignorance can be bliss.
Just months after Disengagement (and before the Second Lebanon War), intrepid correspondent Marie Colvin (who was killed six years later in the Syrian mayhem) tossed the truth about our self-bamboozlement directly in our faces.
This perhaps was why that specific report generated near-zero resonance among us. Why focus on the unpleasant (even if it’s the straightforward bottom-line with profound implications for our possible future follow-up follies)? If there’s anything we dislike, it’s to be confronted with evidence of our own inexcusable imbecility.
Colvin unceremoniously gave us the facts as she saw them. At that point Hamas was already in partnership with Abbas. It was left up to us to draw conclusions, which our establishment and Left-dominated media scoffed at. Therefore, Colvin’s singularly unpalatable feature never made our headlines back in the day.
That in itself poses something of a riddle. One would expect our non-too-impartial press to lap up her material because Colvin was never remotely renowned for being a Lover-of-Zion.
Having gone where few men dared and promoted herself as dedicated to chronicling war’s worst, she covered conflicts in Kosovo, East Timor, Chechnya and Sri Lanka (where she lost an eye). In March 2006 she boldly ventured a tad beyond the restored Green-Line to see what became of Morag, one of the spirited settlements razed by Ariel Sharon, Olmert and Livni.
“Four green flags of the extremist Palestinian party Hamas were flying last week at the gate of a military training camp built on the ruins of Morag,” she opened. “Inside the camp recruits from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, ran mock attacks over dunes covered in dry grass. One of them stopped to launch a rocket-propelled grenade.”
Colvin stressed that “the base is no makeshift encampment. A telecommunication tower rises from a dune; loudspeakers broadcast from masts… the stones from the old homes have been painted white and used to make guardhouses. Even the settlement’s gate has been cannibalized; now it swings to Toyota pick-up trucks bringing more armed men in uniform.”
She obviously didn’t misinterpret the mood in what became of Morag. After what Colvin observed and heard, she reckoned that “Israelis contemplating the evacuation of West Bank settlements will shiver at the discovery that al-Qassam fighters now live and train on the ruins of a place that was home to 37 Jewish families.”
That, however, is where she got it all wrong. Reasonable folks would indeed be shaken to the core and rebuff those who uprooted the most dedicated of their compatriots in order to facilitate genocidal preparations against the entire national aggregate.
But Colvin misjudged us. It’s not that our nonchalance is born of extraordinary courage in the face of adversity. Instead it’s the product of denial of adversity.
It took Hamas’s takeover of Gaza, countless rocket barrages of ever-increasing ranges (all the way to Zichron Ya’acov), ambushes, abductions and mega-scale weapons arsenals to impress average Israelis with the truth.
Yet some political Phils still want to drag us back to their Punxsutawney in the sand, and force us to wake to another Groundhog Day with Abbas once more in charge of Gaza, quite regardless of his proven perfidy, quite regardless of what has already happened under his watch in Gaza, quite regardless of the fundamental fact that he couldn’t hold on to Gaza in the first place, that he was the incompetent who lost it Hamas.
What Livni, Herzog, Gal-On and their hangers-on prefer we forget is that this isn’t a classroom exercise in conjuring outlandish screenplay outlines. It’s doubtful that they believe their own folly-mongering. There’s something beyond the cynical in trying to cause others to blunder through the identical ghastly experience time and time and time again.
It’s nothing less than unconscionable to deceptively inspire false optimism in others and urge them to stake their lives serially on what has miserably failed for 20 years, assuring all and sundry that it would this time end up really well.
Weatherman Phil was a fictional fellow. Yes, he became desperate, even suicidal, but his exploits were side-splitting and destined for a Hollywood happy-end. Our interminable ordeal, however, is anything but a funny flick. Our infatuation with the homegrown version of Groundhog Day firmly belongs in the horror genre.
Our nightmarish ordeals are for real and we can’t awaken to another reality. We, alas, aren’t in pastoral Punxstawney. There’s nothing humorous about Hamas and nothing amusing about its enabler, Abbas.
Debunking the Bull, Sarah Honig’s book, was recently published by Gefen.