Reporters covering the Israeli 2005 exit of Gaza were surprised by the less than enthusiastic response with which Gazan civilians treated the move. They understood better than their so called “supporters” the price Palestinian rulers are sure to extract from them. They may have expected difficulty procuring foreign videos and even cutting off thieves’s hands though it is doubtful they expected Hamas to legalize the crucification of traitors. Be it as it may, I doubt that they expected Sunni Hamas to turn them into the sacrificial lams of Iranian Shia but that is what happened.
Disgusted with PA corruption, they voted for Hamas. But the man calling the shots is not Haniyah, the Hamas leader living in Gaza. The man calling the shots is Mashal, the Hamas leader living in Damascus and, hence dependent on Ahmadinejad’s side kick Bashir Asad. It was he who for the sake of his Iranian/Syrian pay masters said no to the renewal of the cease fire with Israel.
The result? Gazans are paying the price of an Iranian strategy designed to distract Israel from the Iranian nuclear threat by making it focus on Gaza. Olmert may understands this but, ultimately, chose to follow his enemies game plan for political as well as strategic reasons.
He had to be seen to be doing something to stop the rocketing of the south and he had to demonstrate to the citizenry that Kadima’s territorial retrenchment policy has merit.
Israelis seeking a divorce from their Palestinians neighbors bought into the idea that territory does not matter in the 21st Century. Israelis living in northern and southern Israel know that it does. Securing the peace of Northern Israel mandates a security corridor in Lebanon and securing the peace of Southern Israel mandates control of Gaza at least as long as the Palestinian leadership has a major change of heart.
Unfortunately, the Israeli ruling class which is concentrated in the Center of the country, has yet to come to terms with that unpleasant reality because it has never experienced it. How else can one explain the fact that it is negotiating with the Palestinians a Gazalike exit of the West Bank? Fortunately, elections loom and that leads Labor’s Ehud Barack, the man responsible for leaving Lebanon and Kadima’s Livni responsible for leaving Gaza to go to try to prove yet again that strategy is not the failure it is. If they succeed, Israel will withdraw to the 67 borders and central Israel too will become vulnerable to rocket attacks.
That is the reason Oren and Halevi argue that Palestinians Need Israel to Win. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agrees. He went so far as to say that Hamas brought the attack on itself by refusing to negotiate a new cease-fire and relentlessly bombarding Israel with rockets. The West is silent. The Islamists are not. I watch the news, fear a Lebanon war redux and hold my breath. I suspect many Palestinians do the same.
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