Thursday, January 23, 2014

Preventing the next Escalation

by Zvika Fogel

The current response policy of the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet against Hamas terrorist activities in the Gaza Strip may produce short-term deterrence, but it will not bring an end to the terror threat that disrupts our lives. The targeted killing of one terrorist operative or another is not enough to ensure the security of a country that is supposed to defend its sovereignty. Only a series of pro-active Israeli actions will get Hamas to understand that sitting at the negotiating table is its only remaining option.

To bring about normal lives for people on both sides of the Gaza border fence, Israel must deal a fatal blow to those who dispatch the terrorists on their missions. These terror organizers would not dare to carry out the attacks themselves, as they do not believe 72 virgins are awaiting them in paradise, and they have something to lose.

With all due respect to those involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, I believe a long-term deal could be reached with Hamas in Gaza much quicker than the uneven tango that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are conducting. Hamas, the only sovereign entity in Gaza, is susceptible to pressure that threatens its grip on power. Egypt, which under Mohammed Morsi was Hamas' guardian, now views Hamas as a bitter enemy and treats the group like a leper.

Abbas continues to travel around the world promoting the peace sham, while completely ignoring Hamas, which for him is a hot potato in a fire that he does not intend to put out.

Syria, which used to host the Hamas "Foreign Ministry," is busy with its own troubles and understands the internal threat posed by terrorist groups. Even Turkey's ruler, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan, who sent every possible ship toward Gaza, has begun to shy away from fanatical terrorists.

Also, in Gaza in recent years, many groups have opposed the "soft" manner in which Hamas has fought the "Zionist entity." This opposition threatens Hamas' military and civil leadership in Gaza. 

All of these factors have forced Hamas to make calculations in terms of what its priorities need to be to survive. Mostly, Hamas has tried to figure out what price it needs to pay to maintain control of Gaza. The optimal solution it found was to give the green light to fire rockets at Israel to extremist factions within Hamas, as well as other jihadist groups in Gaza. This green light, which also applied to smuggling operations, the planting of explosive devices on the border with Israel and the digging of tunnels, permitted terrorist pressure to be relieved in exchange for Hamas receiving "civil quiet" in Gaza. Hamas also approved the establishment of terror bases in Sinai, to be used every few months for "dry runs" against Israel, holding many swathes of land hostage.

I think that we could all learn from how King Abdullah deals with terrorist groups that try to set themselves up in Jordan and how Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sissi is treating Hamas in Gaza. I am also anxiously waiting to see how Sissi handles the terrorists who launched rockets from Sinai toward Eilat on Monday night. There is nothing to do but admit the unpleasant truth -- Arab leaders understand the potential threat and know how to deal with Arab terrorism better than U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry do.

Terrorist groups are being choked off from their supplies and are having their maneuverability space reduced due to a number of regional developments, including the expected survival of the Assad regime in Syria and its reliance on Russia, the political situation in Lebanon, the uncompromising leadership of King Abdullah in Jordan and Sissi in Egypt, and the nuclear agreement between the West and Iran.

Yet the potential for a wave of terror is getting larger. Abbas still does not understand that terror represents a greater threat to the Palestinian Authority than compromising on Jerusalem and the right of return would be. And Hamas has not internalized that we are becoming fed up with conducting a major operation in Gaza once a year.

Now is the time for us to take the initiative and vanquish those who seek to harm us. We should not wait until their rockets exact casualties in our cities.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Zvika Fogel is a former chief of staff of the IDF Southern Command.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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