damage from rocket in Ashdod 370.
(photo credit: Yaakov Lappin)
The intermittent contests between Palestinian missile launchings and Israeli air
strikes (or vice versa) are generating big business in which Libyans, Egyptians,
Sinai Beduin and Iranians are involved.
Money is also being made by the
Palestinian importers. And if one figures in the cost of the Iron Dome
anti-missile system that has been deployed in southern Israel to intercept and
destroy the incoming projectiles, the Israeli manufacturer, Rafael Advanced
Defense Systems Ltd., has made plenty of money too.
Libyans who have
access to the large weapons inventory left behind by their late strongman,
Muammar Gaddafi, sell the leftover projectiles for shipment overland to Gaza by
way of Egypt and its Sinai Peninsula.
No one dares interfere with this
surreptitious trade route, not even the Israelis.
evidently look the other way, presumably for a price, Beduin tribesmen smuggle
the cargo across the desert and Palestinians who dig and operate secret tunnels
to and from the Gaza Strip are the importers. Iranian Revolutionary Guards who
specialize in rocketry train and sometimes direct the launch crews.
undoubtedly have to be paid too.
Sources who recently drove through Gaza
and Sinai tell of expensive limousines, some of them owned and operated by
former camel drivers plying the areas’ highways.
In any case, that is how
it is in the Arab world. No matter how grim or discouraging a situation may be
there always are those who know how to profit from it.
All this may be
intriguing (as they say in Aramaic, “tartei mashma
,” because the word,
intriguing, has a double meaning in this case), but much more important, it is
very dangerous for both sides. Not for nil has it been dubbed by foreign and
local correspondents as an international form of Russian roulette.
that sense, Israel has been winning, but at tremendous risk. Most of the
Palestinian projectiles have been near-misses or have hit in empty areas.
Conversely, the Israeli air strikes invariably hit their targets and often cause
casualties. Most of the Palestinians who have been killed or wounded were
leaders or members of the Strip’s various extremist outfits such as the
Resistance Committees or Islamic Jihad.
On at least two occasions,
Palestinian missiles have hit Israeli schools, but, fortunately they were empty
both times. Had it been otherwise, the tragic consequences might have prompted
an all-out ground operation designed to retake and retain the Gaza
Several basic questions must be asked: How could it have been
possible for the Palestinian activists in the Gaza Strip to accumulate such a
large inventory of surface- to-surface missiles? Was the Strip evacuated and
abandoned, as it indeed it was foolishly and irresponsibly in 2005, without any
control mechanism being established to prevent an endless arms buildup? As the
Palestinian missiles’ range steadily increases (it now extends to Beersheba,
Ashdod, Gedera and Gan Yavne), is it really just a matter of time until Tel
Aviv, Herzliya and Petah Tikva are targeted as well? And if Ramat Hasharon. Lod
(Ben-Gurion Airport), Ramle and Holon are included in the missiles’ operational
range, will the Israeli response simply be more or bigger air strikes? True, the
deployment of Iron Dome antimissile batteries near the region’s main targets has
been an outstanding success. But its interceptions do not assure that the
projectiles that get through may not hit a sensitive target.
circumstances, which evidently do not apply to the Middle East, no sovereign
state can allow its citizens to be subjected to hostile fire of any kind,
especially from across a border. What would the United States do if Mexican drug
smugglers launched missiles at the US from Mexican territory? What if Quebec’s
long quiescent separatists were to mount quasi-military or terrorist operations
against New England? Such incidents would spur immediate reprisal the purpose of
which would be to prevent a recurrence.
There is strong suspicion that
much of the funding that keeps the Palestinian extremists active comes from
Iran. The vehemently anti-Israel Hamas regime in Gaza itself evidently is a
beneficiary of Iran’s financial largesse as is Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
actual fact, the latest go-around was started by an Israeli air strike that
killed the head of the Palestinian Resistance Committees and one of his
followers. They reportedly were riding on a motorcycle at the time. Questions
were raised in Israel shortly after the smoke cleared as to whether this
operation was worth creating a situation in which schools throughout the
southern part of the country were closed and an estimated million citizens were
unable to go to work.
The economic damage was put at more than NIS 500
One major problem is that the information gathered by the Shin
Bet secret service and the Mossad in advance of such operations is not and
cannot be subjected to public scrutiny or analysis. It is submitted directly to
the prime minister who has the ultimate authority over these
He is the one who decides whether military action is
This potentially perilous process will persist as long as the
Gaza Strip is allowed to be a staging ground for attacks against Israel as well
as a weapons depot of unimaginable proportions. That surely was not what the
architects of the unilateral and unconditional withdrawal in 2005, including
then-prime minister Ariel Sharon, had in mind. The Hamas cadres in Gaza
immediately misinterpreted the pullout as a historic victory for their side and
an unprecedented opportunity to wreak endless havoc on Israel.
conforms to Hamas’s ideology to the effect that all of Palestine, i.e. the Land
of Israel, is an “Islamic fief,” (as its late founder, Sheikh Ahmed explained to
me in a one-on-one interview). He said there is no place in it for a Jewish
state. The time may be nearing for his followers to be disabused of this
notion.The writer is a veteran foreign correspondent.