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Weekly Commentary: Israel’s rapidly closing window of opportunity to respond to the Hamas victory

Aaron Lerner Date: 23 February 2006

Less than three years ago Ehud Olmert still understood the score:

“Israel will have to destroy the Islamic terrorist groups along with
Arafat’s Fatah guerillas. There can be no short cuts when it comes to
eradicating the terrorist groups. Goodwill gestures have repeatedly come
back to haunt us and we must now be prepared to finish off the task.If we
are not prepared to undertake the task of dismantling the terrorist groups
that infest the Palestinian Authority, our civilian population will continue
to be targeted for murder.”

[End of the Road Map By Ehud Olmert The Wall Street Journal Monday,
September 15, 2003]

And today?

According to plan, the many tens of thousands of official PA armed security
forces will soon be under the command of Hamas.

Mr. Olmert has nothing to say.

According to the plan, Hamas will soon be in charge of the Palestinian side
of every crossing point, with the possible exception of Rafah.

Mr. Olmert has nothing to say.

Today Mr. Olmert and his team would like us to believe that the Hamas
challenge is actually no more than an accounting problem: it would appear
that it would suffice if Hamas doesn’t get funding specifically earmarked
for their army through Israel and contributing western nations and instead
gets that funding from Iran and the rest of the Arab world.

But the threat created by the rise of Hamas is not an accounting problem.

The problem is not who pays the salaries of the tens of thousands of
official PA armed security forces joined by an equally huge armed popular
army or who buys them weapons.

The problem is that Hamas will have tens of thousands of official PA armed
security forces joined by an equally huge armed popular army.

The problem is that Hamas can take this conflict well beyond its current
scope via third parties.

It is easy to understand Mr. Olmert’s motivation.

Here he is, a month away from what all the polls indicate will be a
tremendous victory for his Kadima Party, and the last thing he needs to do
is concede that the Palestinians cannot simply be ignored.

After all, Ehud Olmert’s plan to unilaterally withdraw after the elections
hinges on the assertion that it doesn’t matter who or what fills the void
created by the retreat.

The failed Oslo experiment cost Israel dearly, but at almost every turn,
Israel has enjoyed the luxury of being able to pick both the time and place
to unilaterally act to address problems created by Oslo’s failure.

When Israel felt it had no choice but to act, the IDF proved that it could
go essentially anywhere and do most anything at a minimum of Israeli
casualties – figures that would have been even lower if not for bizarre
temporarily self-imposed operational restrictions.

But Hamas and the rest of the Palestinians know this and are racing to
change it.

Already today Palestinian weapons programs are rushing to reach the point
that Palestinian rockets represent a serious enough threat that the IDF:
Palestinian relationship takes on the characteristics of the IDF: Hezbullah
stand-off. A “stand=off” under which Israel makes no real effort to prevent
the enemy from continuously strengthening and in turn expanding its threat.

This would be bad enough, but the situation promises to become much worse
with the very real possibility that the new Hamas government will quickly
enter into defense pacts with radical and other states

Today Mr. Olmert can still “undertake the task of dismantling the terrorist
groups that infest the Palestinian Authority” at a relatively low risk of
either regional conflict or large losses among the Israeli civilian

But if acting PM Olmert opts to continue to heed the advice of his election
campaign advisors over the advice of the security experts this last-minute
“window of opportunity” will slam shut leaving Israel to face the Hamas
challenge at a cost many magnitudes greater to the Jewish State.

Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(Mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-7255730

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