Israelâ€™s current behavior in Gaza brings to mind Albert Einsteinâ€™s much quoted aphorism: â€œThe definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.â€
Prior to Israelâ€™s â€œdisengagementâ€™ from Gaza in 2005, there was a broad public belief, fed by media, academics and politicians, that the Jewish communities there were a huge security burden upon the state. In 2003 then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised disengagement would â€œrelieve the pressure on the IDFâ€ as well as â€œincrease security for the residents of Israel.â€ Politicians like Kadimaâ€™s Meir Sheetrit (then of Likud) airily dismissed predictions that the Negev communities would come under threat: â€œI have never before heard such a ridiculous argument.â€
It turns out of course that it was the expectations of Israeli politicians and pundits that were â€œridiculous.â€ Far from being a security burden, the reviled â€œsettlersâ€ had safeguarded southern Israel. Now many have been returning to their destroyed communities as soldiers. â€œItâ€™s a stab in the heartâ€ said one of them. â€œToday it is clear that when I lived in Netzarim I was the countryâ€™s flak jacket.â€
Yet Israelâ€™s leaders have learned nothing. Two days into the campaign Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced Israel had no plans to occupy Gaza and Defense Minister Barak reiterated this.
Yes, the military operation in Gaza was handled better than the disastrous Lebanon incursion of 2006 (when units even lacked maps of the area). But lacking firm goals or the persistence to achieve its declared objectives, Israel will lose, Hamas win the war. Israel states that its purpose is to stop the rocket assaults on its territory and to seal off the smuggling of arms and terrorists from Egypt. The only way to secure those goals is for Israel to control the territory from which the threat comes. As the always incisive Thomas Sowell puts it: â€œThe Israelis traded land for peace, but they have never gotten the peace, so they should take back the land.â€ Or as Steven Plaut says: â€œThere are worse things in the world than occupation and the experiences of the past few years have demonstrated how much worse are the consequences that follow the removal of Israeli occupation.â€
But the Israeli government does not even envision such limited steps as taking control of the Philadelphi corridor between Gaza and Egypt through which weapons have been pouring both above ground and through an elaborate system of tunnels. Israel gave up its control of the corridor after 48 hours of nonstop pressure from Condoleezza Rice in November 2005. EU observers were supposed to monitor the passage to Egypt to prevent smuggling of arms. Never of any use, they prudently fled when Hamas took over Gaza. Now there is again talk of international monitors (under their aegis Hezbollah-â€“whose disarming they were supposed to overseeâ€”has tripled its armaments and taken over southern Lebanon).
There is talk of reliance on Egyptâ€”hello? Hasnâ€™t Egypt been in control of the Egyptian-Gaza border since 2005? This time, we are told it will be different. There is talk of erecting a â€œmoatâ€ and/or a barrier with two fences and bringing in several thousand Egyptian soldiers to â€œguaranteeâ€ smuggling will stop. (This undercuts one of the few achievements of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty–setting troop limits on Egyptian forces in the Sinai while it will do next to nothing to stop arms smuggling).
At the end of the day Hamas may well emerge as the clear victor. Its short-term goal is to end the blockade and other restrictions on movement of men and goods imposed by Israel. Israeli concessions on these issues may well be an end product of the â€œnegotiations.â€
Insanity? The insane are not responsible for their actions. Rather, what we have here is government by the criminally negligent.