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Giving Up Gaza, Again?

July 26, 2007
JINSA Report #690

We didn’t say anything about Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s overtures to Abu Mazen in the wake of Hamas’s swift and brutal putsch in Gaza. We did worry about President Bush offering further incentives to Abu Mazen who, we believe, has never been willing and/or able to use them to create a political future with Israel. He can only be less able after losing a war, half of his population base and much of his weaponry.

Therefore, we were totally dismayed to read Stratfor quoting Ha’aretz saying, “Israeli officials said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is ready to discuss ‘an agreement of principles’ that would create a Palestinian state made up of 90 percent of the land in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in addition to linking the two with a tunnel.”

First, how can Mr. Olmert propose the creation of a Palestinian state or anything else in Gaza? He isn’t in it, doesn’t control it and can’t talk to the people who do.

Which leads to the second point. With whom is he planning to discuss his principles? Abu Mazen? Abu Mazen doesn’t control the Gaza Strip any more than Mr. Olmert does. To make a deal covering both territories, Abu Mazen would have to reach accommodation with Hamas, and it appears he is already working on it. Does Mr. Olmert accept that? And at what cost to Israel? Or perhaps the Israeli Prime Minister will discuss his principles directly with Hamas. Will he do it while Hamas is firing rockets at Sderot, importing ever more lethal weapons and insisting it will not only NOT recognize Israel, but will use military force to eliminate it?

Third point: a tunnel?! Controlled by whom? Running under what? Secured how? Tunneling is a favorite Palestinian pastime. The Palestinians were using a stolen Austrian tunnel digger in Lebanon in the early 1980s to hide weapons and fighters before Operation Peace for Galilee in 1982. (Hezbollah is a Johnny-come-lately here.) In Gaza, the Palestinians have been tunneling from Egyptian-controlled Rafah to Israeli-controlled Rafah for years. Tunnels up to 35 meters deep, lined with electric lights, rails and handcars have been used to bring everything from rocket-propelled grenade launchers to cigarettes and whiskey into Gaza (we suspect the whiskey is a thing of the past). The idea of a secure tunnel from Gaza to the West Bank is absurd.

And, since Gaza and the West Bank are at war with each other as well as with Israel, a tunnel would simply allow Gaza fighters and weapons to come to the West Bank and vice versa. This is no to way “strengthens Abu Mazen” if that is Israel’s goal.

Bottom line: Israel appears ready to give up on any conditions that would once have been required of the Palestinians for a secure Israel next to a Palestinian state. The Israeli Prime Minister appears ready to let go of the whole thing now – forget President Bush’s conditions for “leaders untainted by terror, clean institutions, etc.” And Hamas – the long arm of Iran – is calling the shots. Meanwhile, no one in Israel and few in the United States appear to object. Is this demoralization the long-term effect of last summer’s war or political opportunism run amok?

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