Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Israel Is Being Backed Into a Corner

There is only one thing that can come of Hamas taking control of Gaza - War. With Hezbollah on one side, Syria on another and now Hamas on the Southern border, what else can the Israelis do to defend themselves? If they wait too long, Hamas will dig in and fortify all of the Gaza strip as one big bunker and co-ordinate an attack on Israel with Hezbollah, just as they tried to do previously in making Israel fight a multi-front war. Make no mistake, the Muslims, whether Shiite or Sunni, all want to kill the Jews by 'driving them into the sea'.

Israel needs some strong leadership, which unfortunately they don't seem to have after the debacle that was the war with Hezbollah. They still don't have Gilead Shalit in hand and didn't accomplish their objectives in that war due to poor management and planning going into the conflict.

Here's a take on the situation in the region from The Fourth Rail - Bill Roggio. Please browse the site and take a look at the main page. He has posted a lot of insightful stuff, probably one of the top 3 or 4 sites on the Internet for information and analysis regarding the current conflict of our times.
The Road to Hamastan

Hamas fighters pose in President Abbas' office in Gaza.

Hamas gains control of the Gaza Strip, Israel's strategic situation has worsened

The Palestinian Civil War in the Gaza Strip has ended with Hamas defeating Fatah, its long time rival. The fighting over the past six days resulted in over 110 reported deaths, and these are the numbers that can be confirmed. The highly motivated Hamas fighters immediately seized upon the victory to declare its Islamic State, with all the trappings of a strict interpretation of sharia, or Islamic law.

By the few first hand accounts available from inside the Gaza Strip, the situation has degenerated into a cross of Lord of the Flies and Escape from New York. In less than a week's fighting, Hamas ran roughshod over the numerically superior, long established and better armed Fatah security forces. Hamas attacked and killed women and children for merely being affiliated with Fatah. Captured Fatah officers were frog marched through the streets in various states of undress, and beat and executed their rivals. Fatah fighters were thrown from roofs of buildings. Executions of Fatah members are said to be ongoing, although Hamas offered an amnesty.

Hamas is now engaged in an orgy of looting. "An AFP correspondent witnessed dozens of Palestinians taking everything they could carry from Dahlan’s villa -- furniture, plant pots and even the kitchen sink, complete with the plumbing fixtures... masked gunmen rode on the back of armoured vehicles taken from Abbas’s presidential guard... Windows, doors, toilets, furniture, taps, even the light bulbs were gone."

Hamas celebrates in Gaza, while members site on a captured Fatah armored vehicle.

The fall of Gaza was only a matter of time. After Hamas' election victory in January of 2006, it became clear it could not coexist with Fatah. The signs of civil war, particularly in Gaza, were apparent.

At the end of April, I joined a group of journalists on a one week tour of Israel, sponsored by the American Israeli Education Fund. Part of the trip included a helicopter tour of Israel - I don't think you can understand the scope of Israel's security dilemma unless you see the close quarters the Israelis live with respect to the Syrians, Palestinians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Egyptians - and Hezbollah.

We visited and Israeli Defense Force outpost near the southern town of Sderot, which is shelled by the Palestinian terror groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas on a near daily basis.

Gaza City was just a few miles over the border, the outpost lay just a mile from the Gaza Strip. After receiving a briefing from an IDF spokesman and a Colonel in charge of a combat brigade in the region, I remarked to several members of the group that the situation inside Gaza was far, far worse than we could understand. Seth Gitell, a columnist and contributing editor of The New York Sun, was in the group and confirms this in his excellent update on the situation in Gaza.

Besides the open source reporting of the building chaos inside Gaza, the signals given by our Israeli hosts were clear. The Israeli officers were clearly unsettled and seemed perplexed about how to deal with the threat from Gaza. Under no circumstances were we permitted to go near the border while in the care of the Israelis. In the helicopter, we went no closer than 3 miles to Gaza. The overlook was as close they would take us on the ground. The Israelis recommended that under no circumstances should we consider venturing Contrast this with the West Bank, where we drove the bus through, stood on the wall, and the warnings not to enter into Palestinian administered territory were far less severe.

While in Israel, we met with numerous members of the Israeli elite: intellectuals, military officers, think tankers, journalists, businessmen, and government officials. Both the peace plans of the heady days of the 1990s, and disengagement from Gaza were recognized as failed policies. The majority of the political spectrum, from Likud to Labor, recognized there must be a two state solution, but there must be a legitimate, earnest partner in peace. The recurring question, which went unanswered, was with whom the Israelis would negotiate the two state solution. Many were resigned that a viable partner would not emerge for ten to twenty years.

But the fact is no partner exists on the Palestinian side that accepts the two state premise. Since the Olso Accords were signed in 1993, Yassir Arafat and his Fatah party paid lip service to the idea, all the while promoting the destruction of Israel on government sponsored television and radio. Palestinian schools indoctrinated their children on Islamist literature and encouraged the youth to martyr themselves.

After rejecting the Camp David Accords in 2000, which guaranteed a Palestinian state, Arafat unleashed his fighters to take part in the Second Intifada. Members of Fatah and its extremist Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades fought along side Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Seven years later, President Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat's successor, was destroyed by the monster it succored.

With Hamas' military takeover of Gaza, any chances for negotiating a two state solution in the near term has ended. While Fatah at least pretended to accept the idea of Israeli and Palestinian states coexisting, Hamas makes no pretenses. Hamas refuses to acknowledge the existence of Israel, and seeks to "drive the Jews into the sea."

While in Israel, many of the intellectuals we spoke to feared a war this summer, and looked north to Lebanon and the threat from Hezbollah. The Olmert government is weak due to its poor showing in the Israel-Hezbollah War of 2006. Iran is flexing its muscle in the region, has worked to rearm Hezbollah in Lebanon and threatened to "wipe Israel from the map." Syria has been rattling sabers, and is believed to have redeployed weapons systems and troops to the border.

But the engine for war in the near term may be inside Gaza. Hamas' swift military victory was no accident. The terror group has been trained by Iran's Qods Force. Israeli officers told us they've captured operatives and seized documents which prove this. Hamas, along with its ally Islamic Jihad, have continuously shelled the town of Sderot, which is politically untenable in the long term. Israeli military officers now fear Hamas rocket can hit the city of Ashkelon, about seven miles north of the Gaza border.

Can the Islamic State of Hamastan hold back from attacking Israel? Can the Israelis allow Hamas consolidate power in the Gaza Strip? Will the Israelis allow Hamas to rule Gaza, and risk having the West Bank fall under Hamas' control? We should know the answers to these questions this summer.

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