The failure of disengagement, Hamas’ Gaza takeover, and the ongoing Qassam rocket attacks require us to adopt “out-of-the-box” thinking regarding the way to regain Israeli’s deterrence capabilities, which have been lost.
The Israeli obsession with making do with a search for a passive, defensive solution merely encourages the belligerent Palestinian approach and boosts Hamas. Israel must change the rules of the game and actively exact a Hamas territorial price for Palestinian belligerence. Israel’s diplomatic thinking must be brought up to date in the face of the regional interpretation of our compromise policy, which labels any withdrawal as a sign of weakness.
What’s been going on in Gaza in the wake of Israel’s withdrawal proves once again that Palestinian society’s supreme value is not human life or economic welfare, but rather, land. Therefore, we should take the “land for peace” formula and link it to yet another formula, “land for war,” and present this choice to our neighbors.
The ongoing Qassam fire justifies and requires us to take over the Gaza Strip’s “northern edge” where most missiles are fired from. To begin with, the withdrawal from this area was a security and diplomatic folly that was not accompanied by genuine public debate. Everything was swallowed up in the euphoria of disengagement. Even Ehud Barak’s objection to a pullout from this area failed to resonate – after all, they promised us a Hong Kong beyond the fence.
The Palestinian exploitation of Israel’s unilateral pullout requires us to reassess the “withdrawal to the last centimeter” approach. The ongoing harm to human rights in Israeli Gaza-region communities justifies a renewed takeover of unpopulated territory, while making it clear to the Palestinians and to the international community that instead of killing civilians, destroying infrastructure, or cutting off the water and electricity supply to a helpless population, Israel chose the most humane move – taking over dominating positions and preventing rocket attacks on civilians.
‘Land is gained through peace, lost in war’The loss of territory is the most painful stick that can be waived in the face of the Hamas ethos. This is the genuine price tag in Gaza. Not human life, and certainly not economic welfare and all the services that depend on electricity supply, unlike what we would expect in Western civilizations. A future withdrawal from these areas after they are retaken would only be examined as part of a comprehensive peace agreement that would guarantee the security of Israel’s citizens.
We should use our determination and sensitivity to produce a new reality vis-à-vis the Palestinians: “Territories are gained through peace and lost in war.” Just like the Palestinians combine terrorism with diplomatic talks, we should also learn to combine the stick of occupying territory with the carrot of peace.
There is no chance for a Palestinian compromise while there is no territorial price tag for Qassam attacks. After all, any minimal Israeli territorial demand in talks with Mahmoud Abbas is compared to “withdrawal to the last centimeter” achievements in Gaza – these achievements have been maintained by the Palestinians even though Hamas’ belligerence has made life in the western Negev region unbearable.
This equation entrenches the twisted Hamas perception of reality within Palestinian society, premised on the concept of “territories are won in war and lost in peace.” Therefore, not only those who seek normal life in Sderot must back the shunning of the failed disengagement principles, but also the eternal optimists who believe that somewhere on the horizon there is a formula for making peace with the Palestinians.
The writer is an attorney and former Communication Ministry official