Instead of fully disengaging from Gaza, truce may keep us connected forever
Today, the Gaza Strip is like a water tank with two outlets. Israel is keeping one opening closed, while Egypt keeps its finger on its own end. The first ones to remove their finger will find the Gaza Strip spilling to their end, for dozens of years to come. We brokefirst, and because of our folly we shall pay the historic, demographic, and security price.
Ever since the Six-Day War, the Egyptians watched from the sidelines, with pleasure, while we and the Palestinians were pulverizing each other in the Gaza Strip. When we disengaged from Gaza, the hope was to see it connecting to Egypt. Through a very sophisticated move, a mostly psychological siege was imposed on the Strip by the Israeli side, and for the first time the burden shifted to Egypt.
The Arab world responded with fury upon the Gaza crossings’ closure: How come Egypt does not open its own border in order to help the Palestinians? The media pressure on Mubarak’s regime was immense as well. We were on the brink of a historic achievement: Gaza was on its way to be drawn back into the Arab world.
The Egyptians were of course uninterested in seeing the Gaza burden shift to them, and they were the ones who exerted pressure, mostly on us, to secure the latest lull. They did not do it because they love the Palestinians, but rather, in order to distance from them, so that the burden shifts back to Israel – the same Israel that already paid a heavy price in order to disengage from Gaza.
For several months we were able to contend with Egypt, keeping our finger on our end of the water tank. Yet now we realize that Egypt had an interest in seeing the rocket terror from Gaza continue, so that we yield and Gaza remains ours.
Hamas did the job for them. Our full disengagement from Gaza was near, as Mubarak promised Hamas that he will unilaterally open the border in Rafah should a lull not be secured. We were one Qassam away from getting there.
Major strategic damage
However, we yielded. We accepted the “lull” and removed our finger from our end of the water tank. From now on, Gaza shall be ours – probably forever. The Rafah Crossing with Egypt will remain closed during the lull, but we shall reopen our crossings to the Strip. In other words, we shall go back to feeding the terror that intends to ruin us.
What’s worse, once the crossings are opened the Palestinians will demand that “innocent civilians” be allowed to travel from Gaza to the West Bank, and we’ll see the experts trained in Iran and the rocket production knowhow travel there, as preparation for a Hamas takeover of the West Bank a well.
And so, the pursuit of superficial and temporary calm will be causing major strategic damage to Israel, with our major cities coming into Qassam range. Everything is embarrassingly predictable.
Such Israeli blindness, which mixes up transient tactical considerations with major strategic considerations, already happened to us in 1983, for example, upon the decision to set up the security zone in southern Lebanon. Instead of quickly withdrawing, we were stuck there for 18 years, and with our very presence there we created and boosted Hizbullah.
Are we now facing a similar decision of this type? Very possibly so.