(photo credit: IDF)
Some in our security services are warning that, for the first time in decades, Syria is seriously weighing an attack on Israel; that Hizbullah is not being disarmed in southern Lebanon - let alone in the whole country as the UN demanded; that stone-throwing Hizbullah-backed mobs have already returned to the border fence; that weapons smuggling into Gaza is increasing dramatically; and that our response to continuing Kassam missile attacks is insufficient.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert points to the glass half-full: that the Lebanese army has deployed on the border; that Hizbullah would now think a thousand times before attacking Israel; that the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution, 1701, which was much more favorable to Israel than could have been dreamed of before the war; that Israel is relentlessly fighting terror in Gaza; and so on. Yet there is a danger that the lessons learned and the opportunities gained at great sacrifice during the war are being forgotten and lost.
Olmert suggests that, in comparison to the pre-war situation in which the border with Lebanon was bristling with armed Hizbullah forces, a crowd waving flags and throwing stones is not a serious problem. But that is exactly how Hizbullah started in 2000 after Israel withdrew from the security zone. Each provocation was too small to produce an Israeli reaction until, six years later, Israel had to fight a war to destroy what should not have been allowed to have been built in the first place.
Worse, these mobs are appearing after the Lebanese army and a more "robust" UNIFIL has been deployed, after the UN has committed itself even more forcefully to Hizbullah's disarmament, and before the IDF has fully withdrawn from the area. If this is what is happening only a month after the war, where will be six months or a year from now?
Similarly, Yuval Diskin, the head of the Shin Bet, has been warning about a dramatic increase in the smuggling of weaponry into Gaza from Egypt. In the little more than a year since Israel left the border, close to 20 tons of high-grade explosives have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip, of which four tons were smuggled in the last two months alone, Diskin reportedly told the cabinet on Wednesday.
Hundreds of rifles and enormous quantities of bullets plus other ammunition and sensitive arms have also been smuggled in, he said.
The "sensitive" arms reportedly include anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons of the sort that made Hizbullah so dangerous.
Olmert has said that he will raise this issue with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she visits in the near future. In addition, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman has sent a letter to the UN Security Council stressing that, in light of the 19 Kassam rockets that have fallen in Israel in the last nine days, Israel will soon have to take defensive action.
According to Diskin, Egypt knows who the smugglers are, both from their own and Israeli intelligence, but "what they are doing is not even a drop in the ocean."
Olmert is counselling a quiet approach. "There is great appreciation for what they do. They are active." Olmert said at the same cabinet meeting: "It's true they could do more, but I suggest that we not come out with declarations that can only make it difficult for what we will be able to do with the Egyptians in the future."
The trouble is that the US can hardly be expected to pressure Egypt effectively if Cairo can quote the relative satisfaction of Olmert himself with its.
Egypt will only take truly effective action if its status as a peace mediator and its relationship, financial and diplomatic, with the US are brought into the balance. For that to happen, Israel must sound the alarm, firmly and clearly.
Whether deliberately or through inaction, the arming of Hizbullah and Hamas leads to the same destination: the next war. On both fronts, the flow of arms must be halted.
In the north, Lebanese army and UNIFIL inaction would ultimately lead only to a repeat of the summer's conflict, which the international community would surely want to avoid. Israel must press for more resolute action. In the south, Cairo must be told that its inability or disinclination to halt the smuggling is bringing a result for Hamas similar to the rogue Damascus regime's deliberate arming of Hizbullah. Rhetoric is all well and good, but on its border with Gaza, Cairo must act like an ally of the free world and an enemy of terrorism.
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