A shared strategy

The solution Gaza needs will only arrive when Hamas rule ends there.

Haniyeh shouting, mikes 311 (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Haniyeh shouting, mikes 311
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
The cumulative evidence – the Mavi Marmara’s own closed circuit TV coverage and video photos from the actual naval operation – all strengthen the conclusion that the Gaza flotilla was a well-planned provocation.
What angers me as an Israeli is that the government walked right into this trap.
We could have dealt with the flotilla more intelligently. The obsessive international preoccupation with the death of nine militants ignores the fundamental question that has to be asked. The angry reaction to the losses among followers of the Turkish jihadist organization IHH is an obvious example of the world’s hypocrisy. I did not witness this sort of anger when dozens of Muslims were torn to pieces by suicide bombers inside mosques in Iraq and Pakistan. I saw no such outrage when Afghan civilians became “collateral damage” in NATO attacks against the Taliban.
The central question is, why does everyone acquiesce in the existence of the Hamas regime in Gaza? We recall that Hamas took power in Gaza in June 2007 in a brutal and bloody coup, and has survived since then with the massive military and financial support of Iran. Hamas in Gaza is stockpiling thousands of missiles and rockets, some 3,000 of which have already been launched against Israel.
Hamas rules Gaza with a heavy hand, brutally suppressing its political rivals and gradually imposing harsh Islamic religious law. If anyone believes that Palestinians in Gaza, whose welfare everyone is concerned about, love the Hamas regime, they should be reminded that not a single opinion poll has been taken in Gaza in the past two years that did not award Fatah of Mahmoud Abbas a significant majority of support over Hamas.
For the two countries bordering Gaza, Hamas rule there is unacceptable.
For Egypt, this is a dangerous precedent of takeover by force on the part of an organization affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, nemesis of the Cairo regime. Every day that passes in Gaza under Hamas rule offers proof that the Brethren are capable of maintaining power for an extended period. This is a precedent that Egypt cannot easily accept.
For Israel, Gaza is an Iranian missile base situated three kilometers from the nearest Israeli town and 60 km. from Tel Aviv– a base where more and more missiles are being stockpiled for eventual launch against Israel.
BUT ISRAEL and Gaza cannot be separated. Five functional sectors link them: commerce, energy, water, environment and health. In each of these sectors, mutual dependence prevents separation.
Hence Israel cannot declare that what happens in Gaza no longer interests it, just as there is no possibility of managing the affairs of Gaza efficiently over time without close cooperation with Israel. This organization that rejects Israel’s existence cannot govern in Gaza over the long run, even with outside support.
Hamas rule in Gaza is unbearable for the Palestinian Authority under Abbas as well. Some 40 percent of the PA’s citizens are living under the rule of a movement that seeks to eliminate it and turn all of Palestine into an Islamic emirate, promising eternal confrontation with Israel. This movement aspires to turn the Palestinian dream of a modern and sovereign state into a nightmare along the lines of Mogadishu under the “Shabab.”
Actually, there is no siege of Gaza. All the political actors whose basic interests are violated by the existence of Hamastan in Gaza nevertheless allow Hamas to rule there. Egypt in effect permits the delivery of nearly anything through the tunnels. The Ramallah- based PA government pays the 77,000 monthly salaries of PA employees in Gaza. Israel delivers, in addition to electricity and water, some 150 trucks loaded with equipment – not just humanitarian goods – every day.
There are almost no exports from Gaza and there is little production there. As long as a terrorist organization rules there, neither Israel nor Egypt will permit entry of shipments that the Hamas military arm is responsible for from a security standpoint. Here we recall that, prior to the Hamas coup in Gaza, 750 trucks entered Israel from Gaza daily when Abbas’s Presidential Guard was responsible for security at the crossings.
The solution Gaza needs will only arrive when Hamas rule ends.
That can only happen by means of a joint strategy coordinated among Egypt, Israel and the PA. Possible interim objectives could include transfer of the border crossings to PA rule and establishment of an apolitical Palestinian civil administration that would manage the affairs of the Gaza Strip pending elections. But even these interim objectives are hard to achieve without first neutralizing Hamas’s military force in Gaza.
This shared strategy is an urgent and appropriate topic for the talks being managed by US envoy George Mitchell. Gaza must return to legitimate Palestinian rule and cease serving Iran’s strategic interests.
The writer, a retired IDF general, served in several governments as minister of health, minister of transportation and deputy minister of defense. He is currently chairman of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue at the Netanya Academic College. This article was first published on www.bitterlemons.org and is reprinted with permission.