The latest media storm over Gaza and the Qassam rockets fired from there assumed far-reaching dimensions upon the opening of the school year. Politicians and security experts are proposing recycled and banal ideas and solutions that have been voiced and debated in the past.
One person thinks that word-games will provide the solution and proposes that rather than going into Gaza we should “give it to Gaza.” A second one believes that only undermining the daily lives of Gaza residents – cutting off the electricity of fuel supply – will bring about the desired change. A third person views operation Defensive Shield as a model for imitation and claims that what was done in Jenin can be repeated in the Gaza Strip, as if Gaza is Jenin and 2007 is the same as 2002.
Yet all of these ideas play into the hands of radicals in Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
These notions are a result of the complete dominance of the security establishment’s school of thought when it comes to decision-making in Israel. This is the same school of thought that made Mahmoud Abbas politically powerless, destroyed him and the means at his disposal, and boosted the most radical groups in the PA.
This is the same school of thought that led to the targeted assassination of top Fatah fugitive Raed Karmi during a period of relative calm (in January 2002) only to later admit it was a mistake. The same school of thought that only during crisis times such as Hamas’ elections victory internalizes the fact that we must be aware of the Palestinian public sentiment.
This is also the same school of thought that has yet to grasp that the revenge motive has been guiding Palestinian groups during the years of the current intifada more than any other motive.
The disintegration process of Palestinian society was greatly accelerated following the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. More than the boost in the strength of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, what’s noticeable is the disappointment, despair, lack of trust in the various leaderships, great desire by youngsters to emigrate from the PA, and introversion.
It appears the most significant result of the disengagement was the acceleration of the process of pushing Palestinian nationalism to the bottom of the priority order in favor of personal, clannish, and tribal loyalties. In other words, the Palestinians, and mostly Gaza Strip residents, have nothing to lose anymore: Another blackout, another targeting killing, another closure, and another blow won’t do a thing. They’re already used to it.
The only result of such moves is the recharging of the desire for revenge, which leads to “creative” ways to harass Israel. Because “what can Israel do to us – push us all into the sea?”
Therefore, we should turn to Sderot residents candidly and say that at this time there is no complete solution to the Qassam problem. Going into Gaza and taking it over again endangers vital security interests. Israel is currently in the midst of formulating a joint front with Arab states vis-à-vis the Iranian threat and the terror of radical and fundamentalist non-state organizations. This is no small matter. Many elements on the international arena are partners to this move, and if it bears fruit it would deliver a grave blow to Islamic and global terrorism.
The IDF can and should infiltrate, kill, thwart, and take over Qassam launch sites, while also blocking supply routes. Yet it should not be taking over the Gaza Strip again. This won’t prevent continued Qassam fire or other terror attacks.
Terror will be defeated through the solidarity we shall all display towards the town of Sderot. The number of times we visit there, the extent of shopping we do there, and the scope of government activity that will be transferred to Sderot. A “firm stand” is not a Palestinian term only. It is required by any public and community dealing with these kinds of situations.
The writer is a research fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and at the International Counter-Terrorism Policy Institute in Herzliya. He is a lieutenant-colonel (res.) and the former Arab affairs advisor for the Civil Administration in the Gaza Strip