You may bomb Sderot, Ashkelon and Beer Sheba in the South freely, you may bomb Haifa in the North all you want, and still Israel will usually respond with no more than the ironic “We will not tolerate (yet we are tolerating) ..” But if you bomb Tel-Aviv, home of Israel’s left and ruling elite who are all too willing to give away the rest of the tiny nation as long as they are left alone, then you invoke a massive response.
Just Yesterday, I warned about the growing confidence of Hamas controlled Gaza with a supportive Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood. Today, the seriousness of my warning was shown with an Egyptian ambassador recalled and Hamas launching Iranian missiles at Tel-Aviv. We must keep in mind, that while they have dared to go further than before, note that they also show their overall inability and weakness. With all the rage in the world, and one of its leaders dead, all Hamas can do alone is lob a few rockets aimlessly at Tel-Aviv. Israel is not wiped out as they warned.
When danger actually hits the streets of Tel-Aviv, their response is much like Edward the Longshank’s portrayal in Braveheart
If he can sack York, he can invade lower England….it might be my head in a basket
First – Appeasement
Of course the response is first one of fear, and want to appease. When terrorists struck the streets of Tel-Aviv in the early 2000’s in the form of Suicide bombers, Israel was convinced that it must leave Gaza (really meaning Gush Katif) to appease the terrorists. This would undoubtedly bring peace.
It did not matter that under similar pressure, Israel had actually left the Gaza strip in the early 90s and that it had been fully independent already for over a decade by then. No “settler” (a Jewish person) or Israeli soldier walked the streets of Arab Gaza, they suffered under their own corrupt Fatah armed policemen, but still they were somehow under Jewish “occupation”. Why? Adjacent to Arab Gaza, several small communities together formed Gush Katif and housed 10,000 Jews. There was precisely zero Arabs living in Gush Katif and so it was mind-blowing to call it part of an occupation. Only Jews lived there.
However, since they lived partly on lands lands retaken and liberated by Israel (as they had mostly first been captured by Egypt in the 1948-49 War of Independence) during the Six day war in 1967, they argued that they should be considered part of Gaza and handed over – ethnically cleansed of Jews of course. Well, to be more precise they did not argue, no arguing was needed, the campaign was simply called and is still remembered as the “Disengagement” from Gaza in late 2005.
Because of the public’s short political memory span, the debate mirrored that of the early 1990’s when Israel had in fact already left Gaza. No one then had even suggested that Israel leave the neighborhoods of Gush Katif, where there were only Jews, while Gaza had over a million Arabs; why would Jewish areas have to be evacuated? The issue everyone said, was about not ruling over a 1 million Arabs who did not wish to be ruled.
In any event, the old debate was rehashed, and ironically over the same arguments about Israel not ruling over a million Arabs in Gaza (who were already not being ruled by Israel), Gush Katif was forcefully evacuated by the IDF (illegally, since under Israeli law, soldiers are not policemen and are not allowed to deal with the public). Arab Gazans simply were given new lands that they had never before lived in. Empty (cursed by locals) sand dunes where Israelis had created beautiful small towns and agricultural establishments. In fact 80% of Israel’s lettuce was grown in Gush Katif, as were much of the winter tomatoes exported to the EU.
The right argued that not only would the Arabs see this (correctly) as a triumph for terrorism, and embolden them to continue it, but that the extra land will put them just that much closer to main population centers in Israel. Their rockets will now reach further. It only look a few days to prove them correct, when the city of Ashkelon was bombed for the first time.
Today, that range extended all the way to Israel’s political, industrial and commercial heartland of Tel-Aviv.
Backed to a Corner
After the initial response of appeasement, Israel is now backed into a corner. Should Ashekelon be given over to Gaza next? There are no more 1967 lands to hand over to them. Gaza is seen as continuously oppressed by Israel by the world’s media no matter what it does..they are often referred to as “caged in”. Israel does not cage in Gaza any more so than any other nation. Can an Arab citizen of Gaza walk into the US without citizenship nor Visa? Germany? Norway? How about Egypt (they were all Egyptian citizens as Egypt ruled Gaza pre-1967)?
Israel does not let an Arab without Israeli citizenship or a valid Visa enter Israel just like any other country does not. When Israel ruled Gaza, back in the 80s and early 90s, commerce and travel was commonplace between Jews who would go to Gaza to enjoy the beautiful beach and ethnic cuisine, and Gazans who worked and traveled inside Israel. The world insisted that that was illegal occupation and Israel evacuated Gaza, despite that it has never gotten anything in return other than terror and death.
But if Israel left Gaza so long ago why is it still oppressing it according to everyone? Gaza is small and densely populated? Why yes it is, and what is the world doing about it? Israel is pretty small too… has Canada donated some land to the Gazans? Or what about given them visas?
One does not have to go as far as Canada (chosen at random as a big country – no offence Canada – we actually greatly admire your current PM), Egypt’s case is most striking yet receives no coverage. Yasser Arafat himself, national symbol of the Palestinians was born in Cairo and was an Egyptian. Gaza was Egyptian until 1967, and its population were Egyptian citizens. Today, Hamas controlled Gaza and Egypt share a border, Egypt is a large country with vast lands (including the neighboring and nearly empty Sinai), why does it not let fellow Arab, Muslim and one could argue Egyptian, Gazans in?
Simply because that would be to everyone’s benefit in including Israel’s. They are a thorn at Israel’s side that no Arab country is interested in removing. While no amount of wars were able to crush Israel, this palestinian issue is the one doing Israel in as it struggles to cope with it. Instead of Gazans flowing out to Egypt (Sharon’s original plan), there are weapons flowing in. Weapons that today hit Tel-Aviv, and are likely Iranian built and almost certainly brought in through the Egyptian border.
Neither the Gazans themselves nor the world in general were ok with the Arab population of Gaza living under Israeli rule. So it gave it up. Surely therefore no one is suggesting that they retake them then. But why is there no pressure or even suggestion that Egypt do so?
And if no one does, yes Gazans will continue to live in Gaza, in the independent land they so desperately said they wanted. Yes it is relatively small, as is Israel who should not make it any bigger. Yes it is relatively poor (unlike the West Bank under Israeli rule). The world is free to enrich Gazans with land and money as they see fit. The fact that they are small and poor is not Israel’s doing. In fact, what little economic activity that does take place actually takes place as trade with Israel. The few visas and travel permits given to Gazans are also given by Israel either to travel to the West Bank or Israel proper.
The blockade is a charade and a joke. While Egypt and Hamas control either side of the Philadelphia corridor (the narrow strip serving as the border between Gaza and Egyptian Sinai), and have a border between them, there is no blockade. Israel reserves the right to inspect any ships before coming into Gaza, simply to make sure no weapons are being smuggled in, but the impression by the media is that Gaza lives under a medieval siege-like blockade. If that was true, Gazans would be all long dead by now. Water, electricity, medicine, food, trade, all comes in via Israel (often unpaid). There is simply a legal way for it to come in like in all countries, through customs etc, and an illegal way by trying to challenge the Navy in Israel’s territorial waters and landing directly at a beach in Gaza.
The only reason anyone would be interested in doing that would be either to smuggle weapons in (as in the Karine A ship case) or as a political stunt (like the Turkish ship fiasco with Islamic militants nearly beating Israeli solders armed with paintball guns to death).
However, the blockade is a joke since the border between Egypt and Gaza remains in their hands. There are official border crossings between them, manned by Egyptian customs officials, and the unofficial tunnels for “smuggling”. Obviously Egypt controls how much “smuggling” goes on. With Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood at the helm in Egypt now, I am sure it is plenty.
With Tel-Aviv and Beer Sheba being hit today, as well as three known fatalities so far, PM Netanyahu must respond. As I often caution within these pages however, Bibi should have a well thought out plan. Israel is beset by dangers, Hezbollah and a chaotic Syria in the North, the PA in its heartland, and Hamas controlled Gaza in the South, all supported by a delusional Islamist Iran. In addition, and changing the balance, an aggressively Islamist Turkey and Egypt are also now in the background. These are extremely large and modernly equipped armies.
The current situation not only presents dangers, but also great opportunities. Israel has the ability to break out of this enclosing Noose, (original article on this Noose over a year ago) and deal her enemies a mighty blow that can usher more decades of peace and stability with security and strength. But there must be a plan, a repeat of the 2009 Cast Lead under the incompetent PM Olmert is not what we need. My report predicting the wasteful and inconclusive end of Cast Lead in 2009.
Actions must have consequences, and endless tit for tat are not the kind of consequences that deter Israel’s Islamist enemies. Gazans and the world must realize that attacking Israel (especially bombing civilian cities indiscriminately) has consequences. Before the Lighthouse keeper himself must have to go off (and pause writing articles) and help enact Bibi’s chosen response, let me present a suggestion.
Gush Katif’s forceful evacuation was a shameful blot on our history, and given as a token of great goodwill to our enemies. The IDF would do well to re-establish these legally Jewish lands (many purchased by Jews during the British mandate period) , and declare them never to be handed over again. Further Arab aggression should have a similar response.
If it is land that the Arab enemies want so badly, then they must realize killing Jews will make them lose more of it, and not vice versa as is the current policy. The Arab world must be given a very simple choice; to accept the tiny single Jewish state on earth that is not even visible on a world map in peace and tranquility which we welcome, or face its expansion. If that was the choice given, the outcome would be no worse than Israel having to accept it will remain rather small.
The last two decades however, have seen Israel pushed on by a foolish Western World, offer quite the opposite choice… the more Jews you kill, the more land you get. It has led us to this point, after withdrawing from Lebanon, from the Sinai, from Zone A (PA), from Samaria, from Gaza, from Gush Katif, our enemies under the cloud of Iran terrify the world and engulf us from every side.
The peace and stability that was hard earned through wars like the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, peace and stability understood even by our enemies, men like Mubarak, Tantawi and Suleiman (now all dispatched by the Western backed Islamists), has been lost to decades of weakness and appeasement.
We have one of the better leaders we have had in a long time under Bibi Netanyahu, Am Israel stands behind him; as part of and staunchest supporters of the Western World, we would like to stand with friends together, but we will stand just the same.