The Gaza truce

Yet another capitulation to terror.

I hope I will not be accused of pandering to hysteria when I assert that this latest "cease-fire" with the Palestinians not only represents a capitulation to terror but has also greatly heightened the peril confronting the House of Israel. History rarely repeats itself. Nevertheless, we Israelis seem to have become helpless by-standers to a replay of the 1939 Munich agreement, when a weak British prime minister desperately tried to persuade himself and the British people that by appeasing Hitler he could achieve "peace in our time." Whereas Yasser Arafat and his successors spoke with forked tongues and lied about their peaceful intentions to the gullible international media, the leaders of our neighboring rogue regime - before and after the "cease-fire" - repeatedly assert that any truce with Israel is a temporary expedient and in no way detracts from their end goal: a determination to wipe out the Jewish state. Needless to say, every sane Israeli would welcome an end to the "cycle of violence" - the term used by much of the world to define our efforts to defend ourselves in order to survive. But what sort of a "truce" is an agreement which provides respite to hard-pressed terrorists but fails to inhibit them from continuing to flood Gaza with missiles, anti-aircraft batteries, anti-tank missiles and high-grade explosives via the Egyptian border? What sort of a truce stops the IDF preventing the manufacture of Kassam rockets, explosive suicide belts and other locally produced weapons intended for future attacks on Israeli civilians? This "truce" is not merely a denial of reality. It also paves the way for the creation of a powerful Hamas military infrastructure in Gaza similar to Hizbullah's. HAMAS SPOKESMEN actually publicly boast that once they succeed in creating a similar infrastructure to Hizbullah they will resume the confrontation when they deem it opportune. "We needed a period of calm to recuperate" but "Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel will resume at a time of our choosing," Abu Luah, a senior Palestinian spokesman was quoted as saying. It is also virtually certain that with Hassan Nasrallah now openly destabilizing the Saniora government in Lebanon, despite the presence of United Nations forces on our northern borders, when hostilities erupt in Gaza the Iranian-trained and armed Hizbullah troops will also join the fray, creating a two-front war. There will also be negative diplomatic fallout. The day before the truce, Khaled Mashaal, the Damascus-based Hamas leader, threatened to launch a new intifada unless Israel conceded to his demands. Yet we transformed this murderous terrorist leader into a hero and a liberator. Mashaal now boasts that he succeeded in forcing Israel to accept a truce without Hamas in any way compromising its prime objective of destroying the Jewish state. Thanks to us, in due course Mashaal will take credit for the release of numerous terrorists, possibly including Marwan Barghouti and others with blood on their hands, in exchange for Gilad Shalit. He will also proclaim that, due to him, the boycott of Hamas by the international community was breached. Even our supporters cannot be expected to isolate Hamas if Israel is willing to deal with them indirectly when permanent status negotiations are resumed. FINALLY, Mahmoud Abbas will become even more marginalized. This disastrous scenario is not a by-product of a weak IDF. We still possess one of the best armies in the world. But the message from senior military officers is that they were not adequately consulted; they oppose this truce on the grounds that we are merely postponing the confrontation, enabling our foes to ultimately inflict on us a much costlier price in blood than before. The government initiative stems from the ongoing inability of our leaders to either formulate a strategic game plan, or even display the necessary backbone to exercise military options that bolsters real deterrence. All we do is utter the same hollow threats for which Arab regimes were formerly renowned. Even now, immediately following the proclamation of the cease-fire, Defense Minister Amir Peretz announced that "any rocket fired at Israel will be considered a violation of the cease-fire and be dealt with severely." But when missile attacks continued, there was no response. Our prime minister continues to spin stories and still defines failures as victories. In the wake of the truce he announced: "The State of Israel is so strong that it can allow itself to hold back, to give a real chance to the cease-fire." His zigzags are clearly motivated by desperation to retain power. His defense minister, with a 2% rating in the polls, is generally considered a clown. Olmert's latest coalition ally, Minister for Strategic Planning Avigdor Lieberman, has discovered that his views utterly conflict with current government policy and that all he achieved was to throw Olmert a political life line. THE ABSENCE of any apparent strategy in relation to the existential threat emanating from Iran is even more disconcerting. In any democracy undergoing such a crisis the government would not survive. The cabinet would revolt, or parliamentarians would carry a motion of no-confidence and demand elections. Yet many Knesset members, despite privately conceding that the country faces a disaster if it does not change course, still refuse to act. Realizing that in an election many of them would lose their jobs, they seem more concerned about protecting their seats than about acting in the national interest. It is at least comforting to know that this appalling state of affairs in no way reflects upon the electorate, which has repeatedly displayed courage and a willingness to make major sacrifices. The government's capitulation to Hamas may provide us with a temporary reduction in missile attacks, and it is therefore not surprising that many Israelis support Olmert on this issue. However, for those who appreciate the long-term implications, the writing is on the wall. Yet it is still not too late to change course. Now could be their last chance to tell their leaders: Enough is enough! We need a revolt in the cabinet - or at the very least, the creation of a blue-chip national task force, on the lines of the Baker Commission appointed by the Bush administration, to formulate long-term strategies. If we fail to act now, we - or more likely our children - will pay a very bitter price for the sins of their fathers. The writer chairs the Diaspora-Israel relations committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and is a veteran international Jewish leader.