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Provoked by the Palestinians' escalating missile campaign, on Sunday evening the Ashkelon Parents Association voted not to send their children to school on Monday.
Ever since the outgoing Kadima government ended Operation Cast Lead in Gaza on January 20, the Palestinians have steadily stepped-up their missile war against Israel. Over the weekend the IDF acknowledged that six weeks later, daily Palestinian missile barrages against Israel have returned to pre-Operation Cast Lead levels. Moreover, the IDF warned that over the past six weeks, Hamas and its sister terror groups have rebuilt their missile arsenals both through imports of Iranian arms from Egypt and through local production lines. They have also brought in fairly advanced anti-aircraft missiles capable of shooting down IAF helicopters.
The proximate cause for the decision to close down schools was the weekend missile strike against a high school in Ashkelon. The direct hit caused massive damage both to the school and to surrounding apartments. IDF inspectors assessed that the Grad missile the Palestinians used in the attack had been locally upgraded. Its warhead was two and a half times bigger than usual.
As Ashkelon's children settled into their living rooms instead of their classrooms on Monday morning, a few hundred kilometers to the south representatives from 80 countries and international organizations convened in Sharm el-Sheikh to pledge billions of dollars in aid to Hamas-controlled Gaza. The US, represented by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, pledged $900 million in assistance.
Also on Monday, The Jerusalem Post reported that the US is curtailing its military aid to Israel. Under new Pentagon guidelines, the Ministry of Defense must give a detailed accounting of how it uses every item it purchases with US aid money. As a consequence, the Defense Ministry issued new instructions to the IDF that from now Israel's purchases from the US will be limited to defensive armaments and systems aimed at preserving its "qualitative edge" against its enemies.
TO UNDERSTAND HOW it came to pass that six weeks after Operation Cast Lead, the US has joined the nations of the world in funding Hamas and is curtailing its military assistance to Israel, it is necessary to understand Israel's domestic politics. Specifically, since as Israel's leaders during Operation Cast Lead Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni are responsible for Israel's current predicament, it is necessary to understand their Kadima party's operating rationale.
The main rule of politics that has guided Kadima since its founding in November 2005 is never be perceived as failing. For the past three years, with the active collusion of the local media, Kadima has managed to control the flow of information to the public and so successfully covered up the abject failures of its strategic policies. Its success in last month's elections is testament to its extraordinary capacity to spin and obfuscate information.
THIS KADIMA PRACTICE was first implemented in the lead-up to the 2006 elections. At the time, the media worked with Kadima to suppress information about the strategic significance of Hamas's electoral victory in the January 2006 Palestinian Authority elections. They also blocked reportage and public discussion of the massive build-up of Iranian-supplied arms in Gaza following Israel's withdrawal from the area in September 2005, and the transformation of Gaza's disparate terror cells into Hizbullah-trained and styled paramilitary brigades.
The need for the cover-up was obvious: An open discussion of post-withdrawal developments in Gaza would have demonstrated to the public that Kadima's signature policy of unconditionally surrendering land to the Palestinians was, to put it mildly, insane.
Both the Palestinian cross-border operation in June 2006 that led to the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Schalit to Gaza, and Hizbullah's similar raid in July 2006 that fomented the summer war in Lebanon demonstrated the dire consequences of Israeli land giveaways. Neither the onslaught from Gaza nor the war from Lebanon would have happened if Israel hadn't left Gaza in 2005 and Lebanon in 2000.
For Kadima it was clear that to survive the events of the summer of 2006, it needed to develop a story line to hide the truth. In Lebanon, hiding the truth meant choosing defeat over victory.
For anyone with even a vague notion about strategy, it was clear at the time that the only way to protect northern Israel from Hizbullah was to deny Hizbullah the use of southern Lebanon as a base of operations. To do that, Israel needed to conquer and maintain control over southern Lebanon. Nothing else could end the Iranian proxy's ability to rain its missiles down on Israel. And given the jihadist nature and foreign command of Hizbullah, Israel has no capacity to deter the paramilitary force.
For Kadima's leaders however, a reconquest of south Lebanon would involve recognizing that their land surrender strategy was wrong. Their governing rationale would be discredited.
So instead they opted for defeat. Rather than fight Hizbullah to victory, they attacked their domestic political opponents by claiming that only warmongers would support a reconquest of south Lebanon. In so doing, they discredited the only viable strategy for victory while sending IDF forces to Lebanon to fight battles whose sole purpose was to run down the clock until the US stepped in and negotiated a truce with the terror army.
The US-mediated ceasefire, which legitimized Hizbullah as a political force and paved the way for its rearmament and takeover of the Lebanese government, was a disaster for Israel. But for Kadima it was a great success. Livni spun the ceasefire as a massive diplomatic accomplishment for herself and Kadima. The willing media went along with the fiction.
Although all the spinning in the world couldn't convince the public to support Kadima's planned unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, Kadima was able to salvage the gist of its defeatist strategy. By pretending that Israel hadn't failed in Lebanon, and defending the view that victory isn't an option, Kadima deftly replaced its unilateral surrender strategy with as strategy of surrendering land in the framework of a "peace process" with the pro-terror, corrupt, unpopular, and anti-Israel Fatah-led PA in Ramallah. That "peace process" in turn kept the land surrender policy on the table by asserting that the main obstacle to peace is Israel's unwillingness to give its land to the Palestinians.
A SIMILAR PATTERN unfolded with Kadima's handling of Operation Cast Lead. Here too it was clear to any semi-sentient observer that the only way to defend southern Israel is to reconquer Gaza. For as long as Hamas controls territory it will use it to fight Israel. And given Hamas's subservience to Iran, its jihadist ideology and its Syrian-based leadership's distance from the front, it is obvious that Israel has no capacity to deter Hamas.
But for Kadima, which owes its existence to its leaders' execution of Israel's 2005 pullout from Gaza, acknowledging that Israel has no option other than reasserting control over Gaza was not an option. Then too, a reconquest of Gaza would discredit Kadima's new-old signature issue of giving away Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
And so, rather than fight to win, Kadima again fought for US intervention. Livni and Olmert claimed again that only warmongering extremists supported reconquering Gaza, and announced that Israel's goal was to deter Hamas. For its part, the media blocked all discussion of whether or not it is possible for Israel to deter Hamas and cooperated in demonizing anyone with the temerity to note that the only way to secure southern Israel is to control Gaza.
Then, as elections approached, Kadima declared that deterrence had been achieved and pulled IDF forces from Gaza. They told us that the continued Palestinian missile offensive against the south was nothing more than the last gasps of a defeated foe. And the media went along with them.
In the lead-up to the elections, the international diplomatic backlash against Israel was underplayed and the strategic meaning of Hamas's continued missile war was widely ignored by both Kadima and the media.
NOW, AS THE LIKUD-LED rightist bloc is forming the next government, information about Israel's actual situation is finally being reported. Not only did Israel not deter Hamas, the inconclusive end of the campaign has paved the way for a massive diplomatic onslaught against Israel and a diplomatic campaign to legitimize Hamas.
Today Israel is being blamed for Hamas's war against it.
Kadima's favorite Palestinian "peace" partners in Fatah are leading an international campaign to indict IDF commanders as war criminals.
While last weekend's bombing of yet another Israeli school was met with international indifference, international leaders lined up to have their photographs taken outside the UNRWA school in Gaza that the IDF attacked in January after Hamas combatants used the building as a missile launching pad against Israeli civilians.
Then there is the US-backed international campaign to force Israel surrender control over its borders with Gaza to Hamas. Last week Clinton joined her European counterparts in demanding that Israel permit cement, aluminum tubes and other missile components to enter Gaza in order to alleviate the "humanitarian suffering" of the poor Gazans. Furthermore, like Europe, the Obama administration supports the establishment of a Hamas-Fatah government.
IN THE MEANTIME, Kadima pretends that there is nothing to worry about. As The Jerusalem Post reported on Friday, both Livni and Olmert refuse to actively oppose the international campaign to criminalize IDF commanders because doing so would involve criticizing Fatah leaders with whom they claim to have such wonderful ties. Similarly, the Obama administration cannot be criticized because that would mean that Kadima has failed to maintain US support for Israel.
And that's the point. With its policy of never acknowledging failure, Kadima's strategy for dealing with the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead has been on the one hand to ignore what has happened, and on the other hand, to blame Likud for what is transpiring.
Rather than attack Hamas and Fatah in international forums and so defend Ashkelon's schoolchildren at least diplomatically, Livni devotes herself to attacking Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu for refusing to back Palestinian statehood.
Netanyahu's view is clear. Surrendering control over Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem to the Palestinians will endanger Israel. For as long as that remains the case, it is impossible to support Palestinian statehood.
Likud's position is indisputable. But it is also a denunciation of Kadima's governing strategy. So Livni denies the truth to advance her party's interests and condemns Likud for recognizing reality.
In so doing, she has paved the way for an international boycott of the Likud-led government. The Palestinians and their allies throughout the world are already arguing that there is no difference between Likud and Hamas since both of them reject the so-called "two-state solution." Clinton is expected to demand that Netanyahu publically endorse Palestinian statehood during her visit here.
As we absorb the spectacle of world leaders lining up to give their money to Gaza while Israeli schoolchildren are forced to stay home from school, we must understand how we got here. We are here because Kadima has placed its political success above Israel's security.
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