Thursday, August 29, 2019

 Vic Rosenthal's Weekly Column

A Strategic Plan for Peace

I spent some time Tuesday at a kibbutz in the “Gaza envelope,” the area close to the Strip that absorbs the brunt of the rockets that are the usual expression of Palestinian Arab rage at my existence. The kibbutz was sprinkled with little concrete shelters, because the 15 seconds or less that would elapse between the warning and the impact of a rocket doesn’t permit even a fast person to make it to the main protected areas.

There is also a serious fence around the kibbutz, and an electric gate. If one or more of the terrorists that often break through the border fence were to get in, there could be a disaster. So far, this hasn’t happened, because the IDF usually stops them, thanks to the female soldiers that “man” the observation posts up and down the border. But when we got to the gate, there was nobody to let us in. So we just waited for another car to drive out. No problem.

It was a beautiful day, not as humid as here in Rehovot even though it was closer to the coast. It was hard to believe that earlier in the day several mortar shells had been fired from Gaza at Israel, and that on Sunday night there was a rocket attack nearby. But Tuesday afternoon was quiet and peaceful.

It wasn’t peaceful in early May, when 690 rockets were launched at Israel. Some were intercepted by the Iron Dome system, but some got through, doing significant damage, killing four Israelis and wounding numerous others. Most of the rockets were aimed at the area near Gaza, but several of the deaths were in the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod, farther north. In March, a rocket from Gaza landed in a town 20 km north of Tel Aviv, destroying a house and injuring seven.

If it were not for the Iron Dome systems and the plethora of shelters in the communities near Gaza, the death toll would be much higher. A massive, all-out attack – Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad may have as many as 30,000 rockets stockpiled – would certainly overwhelm the systems, which can’t be everywhere at the same time. 

There are not only the rocket and mortar attacks that kill people, but there are the arson balloons, the attempted incursions, the threat of actual invasion. And why limit the discussion to Hamas? There are also the paymasters of the “lone-wolf “ terrorists, the leaders of the Palestinian Authority – the organization that we allowed to be set up in Ramallah, led by the men of Fatah, the heirs of the Nazi al-Husseini and the ones responsible for the Second and (as yet unofficial) Third Intifadas.

These are the Palestinian Arabs, our deadly enemies.

We can’t defeat the PA and Hamas in a direct military confrontation without killing thousands. We won’t do that, even though they would do it to us in an instant. But we can’t make peace with them either. There is no common ground, no desire for anything other than total victory on their side, no possibility of trust on our side – and we are completely correct in not trusting them.

But there is a solution. And luckily, it is also a solution for some of our other problems.

The Palestinian Arabs do not have the resources to maintain their struggle by themselves. They are supported by other enemies of the Jewish state (what other country in the world has such a collection of enemies?), primarily Iran and Qatar, sometimes Saudi Arabia, and the European Union. The Palestinians are our proximate enemies, but these are our remote enemies. They are no less our enemies, and they have the same goal: they do not want there to be a Jewish state in the Middle East (or probably anywhere).

The Iranian regime fights by proxy. Its powerful Hezbollah proxy is probably the most dangerous threat facing us today. But it also supports Hamas. The remarkably hypocritical European Union also fights by proxy; it financially supports the Palestinian Authority and tries to subvert Israel’s government by supporting left-wing groups within Israel.

If we could knock out the support systems, the Palestinian war effort against us would collapse. Without financial support from Iran and Qatar, Hamas would be unable to maintain control of Gaza. The existing tribal forces in Gaza would take over. We would still have to deal with local terrorism, but the ability to mount a coordinated attack would be gone.

If Iran were neutralized, Hezbollah would wither away, along with the Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria. And that’s the solution. Rather than exhaust ourselves fighting with Iran’s local proxies, we need to confront the Iranian regime directly. 

It sounds daunting – Iran is a massive country with a huge population. But it isn’t necessary or desirable to invade or occupy Iran. All we need to do is to help the opposition overthrow the regime, which is very unpopular. In this enterprise we would have the US on our side, at least under the present administration. I think it’s doable, if dangerous. Military operations would be limited to the Revolutionary Guard, which protects the regime and implements its expansionist policy.

There is also the looming nuclear threat. On this, we have no choice. The only way to deal with it is to neutralize Iran.

I think that PM Netanyahu understands this and that it is in fact his policy (that’s the only way I can understand the degree of restraint we are exercising toward Hamas).

The Palestinian Authority also must collapse. This is about to happen almost all by itself. There will soon be a struggle for power after Mahmoud Abbas dies or retires; we can support multiple tribal leaders, aiming to create a group of decentralized “emirates” in Judea and Samaria as suggested by Mordechai Kedar. But it will be important to get Iran out of the picture; otherwise the PA would simply be replaced by Iranian-funded proxies like Hamas. That implies that action against the Iranian regime must come soon.

Once the PA is gone, the EU’s influence over the Palestinian Arabs will be reduced. Our own government can and should work to strengthen regulations that will prevent the Europeans from supporting anti-state organizations here.

The solution for both Gaza and Judea/Samaria, in other words, is the same: decentralize Palestinian governance and split them from the outside forces that maintain their belligerency.

Israel is a truly beautiful place when it is at peace. We are now on the verge of a very difficult period, which will be quite the opposite. But I believe that if we have a consistent strategic plan and carry it out, we can bring about a situation in which our country will at last experience long-term peace. Timing will be everything: if we wait for the demise of Mahmoud Abbas, or if we don’t act before the administration in the US changes, it may be too late.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.


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