Security establishment officials did not even attempt to hide their sigh of relief when it turned out those killed during the recent Qassam rocket attack on Gaza settlements were two Palestinians workers and one Chinese foreign worker.
It may sound cynical, but sentimentality has no place in national decisions made under vague circumstances.
So, it was sheer luck that no Israelis were killed in the attack and that the security establishment did not have to resort to the response everyone is trying to avoid.
The uncertainty within the security establishment has a number of aspects to it: the uncertainty regarding Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s post-pullout plans, the chaos within the Palestinian Authority, and, of course, the disengagement itself.
Only a few security establishment officials are true proponents of the planned pullout from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. The majority agree with the estimation that what awaits Israel after the move is yet another escalation in violence, even if they do not adhere to this notion publicly.
But this time, the security establishment desperately hopes the entire blame for the escalation would fall on the Palestinians.
The IDF has been operating under ambiguous conditions since September 2000. As it has not received a clear set of orders, the IDF opts do as little as possible at this stage.
Just like Arafat
Regarding last week’s escalation, the IDF believes it is directly linked to Hamas’ distress. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is incapable of dealing with the terror groups forcefully, is taking advantage of the situation to obstruct several of the terror group’s recent accomplishments.
He has annulled the election results in a few Palestinian towns and has postponed the elections for the PA’s Legislative Council, thus diminishing from Hamas’ enhanced political strength.
According to the IDF, Hamas responded to Abbas’ moves by attempting to destabilize his rule by way of instigating Israel. Initially Hamas fired at Gaza settlements and IDF positions, and when that didn’t work they proceeded to fire at Sderot.
A senior IDF official said the problem is that everyone is very lenient toward Abbas when it comes to his unwillingness to act against terror organizations.
IDF officials said the similarities between Abbas and former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat are portrayed in the following story: When Fatah won the Al-Quds University elections, Abbas said during his address to the students that more victories are on the way, including a victory during the battle over Jerusalem.
Not enough salt
The crowd chanted back what was the late Arafat’s favorite catchphrase: Millions of Shahids will march to Jerusalem.
The only difference is that the late Arafat would initiate the chanting himself, an IDF official said.
Hamas is also looking forward to the disengagement. The majority of Palestinians (75 percent, according to a recent poll) believe the pullout is indicative of the armed resistance’s triumph, and the organization does not want to endanger the move or provoke a major Israeli military operation against the will of the Palestinian people.
IDF officials said the recent attack on Israeli targets was part of Hamas’ need to show it does not abide by the PA’s agenda.
“One day they claim they open fire because of the Temple Mount, and the next day they open fire due to the Rafah election results,” a senior IDF official said. “There will come a day when they will shoot because there is not enough salt in the soup.”
But such statements only express the hopeless mood within the IDF, which attributes the other side irrational qualities.
This is the true mood within the IDF ahead of the disengagement: The IDF is ready to carry out the pullout plan, but it is far from being enthusiastic regarding the move. There are no expectations from Abbas, and some military intelligence officials estimate he will simply give up and resign, a move that would consequently spur the inevitable military confrontation.
In the meantime, all we can do is wait and hope Lady Luck will remain on our side.