tanks near gaza 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Somewhere in a cave along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, a gaunt man who hasn't seen much sun for seven long years has been watching Al-Jazeera's coverage of Operation Cast Lead. Perhaps he's telling himself that the 20 days Hamas commanders have been hunkered down in the sub-basement of Gaza's Shifa hospital is nothing compared to the ordeal he's been through.
Still, Osama bin Laden wants to do the "Islamist thing." So he's called - again - for a holy war against the Jews. Such a Sunni jihad offers the added delight of irking the detested Shi'ite "heretics" in Iran. Didn't Ayatollah Ali Khamenei invite young Persian men to volunteer for suicide missions in Gaza - only to snatch back the offer after 70,000 actually signed up?
Time may be running out for a holy war to save Hamas. Its leaders from both Damascus and Gaza - who cross overland at Rafah - have been dialoguing with each other, and with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman in Cairo, on a cease-fire. Hamas "inside" is said to be pushing hard to bring the fighting to an end; Hamas "outside" appears, belatedly, to be coming around.
The toing and froing is not limited to Hamas's functionaries. Our own Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, travels to Cairo today. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spent Wednesday there and is heading to Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Kuwait.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton began her Senate confirmation hearings by declaring that she will make the Arab-Israel conflict a priority. On Sunday, the Arab League is scheduled to meet in Kuwait to discuss the Gaza crisis. And the UN General Assembly wants to hold a session to condemn Israel - something it hasn't done in two months.
Here in Israel, Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni have resumed their sniping. Supposedly, Barak has recommended a one-week humanitarian cease-fire; Olmert wants to push on; and Livni wants to act unilaterally once the IDF has done its (undefined) work.
All this plays out as the world waits for Barack Obama to assume the US presidency on Tuesday.
WITH ALL this going on, it is essential that Israel not lose sight of the minimum it should be getting before Operation Cast Lead ends.
â€¢ The smuggling must stop. Hamas's access to armaments must be choked off. Any deal between Israel and Egypt on the tunnels beneath the Philadelphi Corridor must not encumber the IDF's freedom to operate when necessary. Once Egypt fulfills its commitments, IDF activity can be wound down.
â€¢ There must be an end to shooting at Israel, and to infiltration attempts. The cease-fire must have no time-limit. And it must be honored not just by Hamas's Izzadin Kassam, but also by Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees, the PFLP, the DFLP and Fatah's Aksa Martyrs Brigades. All violations will meet with immediate and "disproportionate" retaliation.
â€¢ Hamas must become more reasonable on the Gilad Schalit issue; until it does, Hamas "military" figures will enjoy no repose.
â€¢ Regardless of who runs Gaza, Egypt must keep tight control of its side of the Rafah border. When it comes to entry and egress, the buck stops with Cairo.
â€¢ There can be absolutely no Turkish or other foreign troops on the Palestinian side of the border. Such a presence would hamper any necessary IDF activity. The foreigners can operate on the Egyptian side, if Cairo desires.
If Israel's fundamental needs are met, how the Palestinians choose to govern themselves in Gaza is their own affair.
Israel, for its part, will open crossing points to everything excepting materiel that can be used for military purposes. The embargo, for all intents and purposes, would be over.
ON DAY 1 of this war, Ehud Barak declared that its mission was to put an end to Hamas aggression. Nothing short of achieving this goal should bring Israel's efforts to a permanent halt.
No deal is better than a bad deal. If Hamas insists on fighting on, Israeli decision-makers will need to weigh when and how to mobilize our society for the prolonged, all-out assault needed to uproot the Islamist menace.
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