February 28, 2008:
As a democracy,
Israel cannot ignore threats to its citizens. So the continued rocket attacks
on southern Israel create a public outcry for a solution. Moving Israeli troops
out of Gaza three years ago was supposed to be a solution, but it wasn't.
Israelis can access Palestinian media, and all they see is the same old "kill
the Jews and destroy Israel" propaganda (from both Fatah and Hamas, although
the Hamas stuff is more strident and abundant.) So Israel is increasingly
applying the same tactics in Gaza (go after the terrorist leadership and
technical experts) that worked to stop the Palestinian suicide bombing campaign
that began in 2000 (and was defeated by 2005). Even most pacifist Israelis have
given up on trying to make deals with
the Palestinians. There are too many Palestinian factions, conditioned by a
century of "kill the Jews" propaganda, that will not abide by any deal, and
will keep trying to kill Israelis.
Defensive measures often have serious
limitations. For example, the Palestinian rocket attacks on the town (Sderot) closest
to Gaza, continue to kill and wound and Israelis. The "Iron Dome" anti-rocket
system Israel is building will not, it turns out, protect Sderot, because the
town is too close (two kilometers) to where the rockets are launched. Iron Dome
is designed to take down missiles fired from at least four kilometers away.
That might change, because the basic problem is time. Missiles fired from two kilometers
away arrive in 9-10 seconds, which is before Iron Dome can react. Some Israeli
army commanders want to reoccupy part of northern Gaza, to force the
Palestinians to launch their rockets four kilometers from Sderot. In the last
year, these rockets have killed two Israelis, and wounded dozens more. Israeli
attacks on the terrorist groups responsible have left over 300 Palestinians
dead. The Israeli shift to mainly targeting the terrorist leaders and
technicians has the best chance, in the near term, of crippling the Hamas
attacks. The increased Israeli attacks are apparently the result of improved
intelligence within Gaza, probably the result of Fatah ordering its supporters
there to aid the Israelis in targeting the Hamas leadership.
In the meantime, Israel continues its
blockade of Gaza, allowing only food and medical supplies through. This has
made Gaza Palestinians angry, but also apathetic and fearful. Hamas is running
a police state, so the feelings of the average Palestinian have little impact. The
blockade has enraged many Europeans, who are calling for diplomatic, economic
and legal moves against Israel for "war crimes." Many Israelis see this as the
old European anti-Semitism, which led to the Nazi mass murder of six million
Jews during World War II (with the cooperation of officials and citizens in
many European countries). But the Palestinians see such support as one of the
few weapons they have left. However, an increasing number of Arabs are getting
tired of the Palestinian inability to work out a peace deal. These Arabs have
come to recognize that the Israelis are trying harder to make a deal than the
Palestinians are. Moreover, Arabs public opinion has turned against the Islamic
terrorists, mainly because of the murderous tactics used by Islamic terrorists
in Iraq, and elsewhere in the Arab world. The Palestinians are running out of
allies, and options. It's the Palestinians who are best able to control the
radicals, whose violence is preventing any peace deal from being made, or kept.
Fatah is trying to organize a "resistance" against Hamas, within Gaza. But so
far, Hamas has proved too powerful for that to work. But after a few months of
concentrated Israeli attacks on Hamas leadership, that may change.
Fourteen members of the Al Asqa Martyrs
Brigades "escaped" from a Palestinian prison in the West Bank. The men were
terrorists working for Fatah, and had been in jail for a month. Such incidents
are all too common, and are the main reason Israel does not trust Palestinian
efforts to crack down on terrorism. The terrorists were supposed to spend three
months in a Palestinian prison in order to get taken off Israeli lists of known
terrorists. But the men, who can leave the prison during the day, say the
living conditions are not adequate and refuse to abide by the deal.
Meanwhile, Fatah accuses Hamas of
allowing al Qaeda to set up shop in Gaza. Hamas denies this, but more non-Palestinian
Islamic terrorists are showing up in Gaza, which has become one of the few sanctuaries
in the world for these guys. Groups claiming to be allied with Al Qaeda are
openly operating in Gaza.
In Lebanon, Hizbollah is still fuming
over the recent killing of terrorist leader Imad Mughniyeh in Syria. Now
Hizbollah threatens to make attacks against Israeli targets outside of Israel.
This has not been done much in the past because Hizbollah relied on fund
raising and recruiting among Moslems (especially Shia) living outside the
Middle East (especially in the West). But in the past few years, Western
counter-terror efforts have cracked down on both of these activities anyway. So
there is real fear that the furor over Mughniyeh's death will encourage
Hizbollah to branch out into international terrorism. The downside of this is
increased international efforts against Hizbollah. Logic, however, does not
always play with Hizbollah and the Islamic radicals in the Iranian government
who provide money and weapons for the Lebanese based Hizbollah. Then again, the
Iranian Islamic radicals are on the defensive at home, where Iranians are
increasingly angry over how the religious dictatorship has mismanaged the
economy, and stepped up use of religious police to enforce rules on how people
are supposed to live (no entertainment, dress codes for young men and women,
press censorship, etc). Going international with their terrorism would be a big
mistake for Hizbollah, but they just might do it.