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Weekly Commentary: Is the Olmert Administration taking the situation in Gaza seriously?

Dr. Aaron Lerner IMRA October 26, 2006

Is the Olmert Administration taking the situation in Gaza seriously?

This week the IDF pulled out from the Philadelphi Corridor after only
searching some 10% of the 15 kilometer long band that separates between
Egyptian Sinai and the Gaza Strip.

No. The soldiers weren’t withdrawn because they failed to find anything in
the 1.5 kilometer long area they checked. They stopped the operation
despite the shockingly large number of smuggling tunnels they unearthed.

One would like to think that the IDF’s current nickel and dime approach to
the Gaza Strip security challenge is just a very temporary stalling tactic
as battle plans are finalized .

But I fear that this is not the case.

It would appear that the current pace reflects the civilians at the helm
rather than any inherent limitations in the IDF itself.

There are a number of factors contributing to the situation:

Defense Minister Peretz has always practiced a “speak loudly and carry a
small stick” approach in the Gaza Strip. Abandoning this policy now in the
Gaza Strip might be interpreted as an indication that Yisrael Beiteinu has
more influence on Government policy than Mr. Peretz and his Labor Party
(Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Leiberman is labeled “extreme right” though
he wants to ultimately hand over most of the West Bank as well as portions
of pre-1967 Israel to Jordanian control).

An effective operation would require retaking and widening the Philadelphi
Corridor to facilitate long term control of the area. But an ongoing IDF
presence in the Philadelphi Corridor is seen by those who advocated full
retreat from Gaza as a move that would forfeit the international support
Israel supposedly enjoys as a result of the retreat.

The Hamas-Fatah conflict could boil over with Israel benefiting as the rival
Palestinian groups squander their resources fighting each other. A major
IDF campaign, the argument goes, would cause Hamas and Fatah to temporarily
set aside their differences. But this line of reasoning ignores the sheer
size of the armed Palestinian forces involved. These rival groups could
kill and wound many hundreds of their fellow Palestinians without it putting
a dent in their force levels. And as long as the Philadelphi Corridor is
abandoned the Palestinians can readily replace any weapons and ammunition
expended

Can the foot dragging continue ad infinitum?

No.

This isn’t a static situation. Israel isn’t the only one moving pieces on
the board.

Israel’s choice is not between war and peace because conflict is inevitable.

Instead the question is if Israel acts now while it still has the upper hand
or instead allows the Palestinians to further erode the Jewish State’s edge
so that the cost of the battle – when it ultimately transpires – will be
magnitudes greater.

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