Israel launched a "crushing" retaliation Saturday against Hamas in Gaza with deadly airstrikes, troops massed at the border and a planned ground incursion after militants fired 35 rockets at Israeli towns — their first major attack since the Gaza pullout.This is both bad news and good news: The bad news, though not surprising, is that the Palestinians are unable and unwilling to do anything to stop the terrorists from acting as they please - if not actively participating and encouraging. The good news is that the Israelis, at least so far, have no qualms about responding at full force to what should be considered an act of war, as I wrote after Sharon's UN speech:
Sharon is essentially holding the Palestinians to be absolutely perfect and responsible for Hamas, Islamic Jihad et al for any attacks, whether by suicide bomber, shooting, mortar, or missile. (There already have been rocket and mortar attacks.)Today's actions bring back the thoughts many have had regarding Sharon throughout the disengagement process. A couple of months ago, I and others remarked during conversations about Israel that from a simplistic standpoint, Sharon's actions make no sense. [My friend Reb Abe sent me an article by Victor Davis Hanson in Jewish World Review along similar lines.] Sharon, after all, is the general who led many successful campaigns and spoke out strongly in favor of the settlements, and was considered much toward the right end of the political spectrum. He was elected along those same lines - promising not to give away Gaza, to fight the terror, to move the country away from the "peace" accords which led to much of the terrorism which has killed and wounded many thousands. As the article points out,
As a response to any attack Israel reserves the right to respond as they see fit. As an autonomous entity, the Palestinians' actions could theoretically be construed as an act of war (if they weren't until now).
"Brilliant tactician, lousy strategist." So goes the conventional wisdom about the old bulldozer Ariel Sharon.
But that assessment is exactly backward.
Sharon's strategic insight has always proved more impressive than his messy tactical operations. For now, keep that in mind — even as we seem to watch divided Israelis yell at each other while united Palestinians gloat about expelling the Zionists.
Gen. Sharon's counterattack across the Suez Canal in October 1973 during the Yom Kippur war was also seen as reckless, in its disregard for logistics and lines of communication. His 1982 army that invaded Lebanon proved tactically lax in allowing allied Christian militias to commit atrocities.
But Sharon's long-term thinking? That's another story altogether. Trapping the Egyptian 3rd Army in the Sinai, and then showing the world that Cairo itself was defenseless in the path of an Israeli armored division, was a strategic masterpiece aimed at ending the 1973 war outright to Israel's advantage.
The march into Lebanon forced Yasser Arafat out of the Middle East for a decade — and he might have been discredited for good as a defeated terrorist had third parties not escorted him to Tunis or brought him back under the Oslo accords.
Yet, within two years, he turns around and gives away Gaza - despite the Palestinians doing absolutely nothing on their part to stop the terror. He does so against most of his own party; against the platform he was elected on; and against the wishes of most of the defense heads and the people who elected him. It just doesn't make any sense.
Unless, we look at everything from a different angle: Sharon is making a brilliant strategic move. He has decided that Israel must show the world the true state of Palestinian terrorism, and the inability of the Palestinians to be a true nation among the other nations of the world. They are purely devoted to terrorism and the destruction of Israel: Not the rebuilding of a proud Palestinian nation, on their "rightful lands," as they claim. Therefore, the best way to show this is to pull the curtain away, and show the world what is truly going on behind it. It is a win-win situation for Israel (discounting the tragic losses of hundreds of homes), as there are only two possibilities:
1) The terror stops. The Palestinians immediately shape up, begin building an infrastructure, controlling the terror, and taking away the terror groups' power; anti-Israel sentiment is removed from the schools and streets, and children begin going to school on a regular basis. Jobs are created, trade begins, and corruption is removed from the Palestinian leadership.OR
2) The terror does not stop. Palestinians continue assaulting Israel with rockets and mortars. Wanton destruction. Borders are controlled by either nobody or terrorists. Abbas has no control over Hamas and the other groups. Hamas builds a museum for terror weapons. Children join terror rallies - and die when explosives go off.
In the first example, the Palestinians prove all the doubters wrong; but Israel is perfectly willing to accept this, as this means - finally - that peace has come to the region. In the second example, Israel has pulled the curtain on the Palestinians, and showed that what is behind the curtain is nothing but pure hate and terror. With the settlers now safely behind the Gaza wall, Israel can strike back at any attacks with as much firepower as they desire - with no worries about accidently hitting its own people, nor that the Palestinians have easy targets nearby to retaliate against.
Again, Hanson puts it well:
Gaza itself is only a tessera in a far larger strategic mosaic. The Israelis also press on with the border fence that will in large part end suicide bombings. The barrier will grant the Palestinians what they clamor for, but perhaps also fear — their own isolated state that they must now govern or let the world watch devolve into something like the Afghanistan of the Taliban.He agrees with the notion that the Palestinians can truly shoot themselves in the foot - or head - if they don't watch where their hands are reaching.
Palestine as a sovereign state rather than a perpetually "occupied" territory also inherits the responsibility of all mature nations to police its own. So when Hamas and co. press on with their killing — most likely through rocket attacks over the fence — they do so as representatives of a new Palestinian nation.At the same time, Sharon is showing a sharp contrast between the Israelis and Palestinians - and in essence had to fool his own people. Sharon right now looks like a centrist: Not only did he tick off the right by disengaging, he is now about to split off from the Likud and form his own centrist party. He comes out looking as a leader who is able to move from the right to the center, make hard choices and sacrifices, and rein in the hard-liners to his right.
In response, Israel can strike back at an aggressor without worry about the blowback on isolated vulnerable Israeli settlements.
Sharon's withdrawal policy from Gaza is thus a critical first step of turning the struggle from an asymmetrical war of terror back into a conventional standoff between delineated sovereign states. And that can only help a militarily superior Israel.
Politically, Gaza plays well. If the once right-wing Sharon can harness his own zealots, the world wonders why Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas cannot muzzle Hamas and Hezbollah?Not only that, but the Palestinians have publicly been stating the same garbage and hate that has always been around: But they're looking increasingly stupid as they do so, with no Israelis around to constantly blame.
From their creepy rhetoric so far, Palestinian militias have proclaimed that Gaza is the first step toward the eventual destruction of Israel proper. But once again that only plays into Israel's complaint that withdrawal is seen by Palestinians as something to be manipulated rather than as an opportunity upon which to build a just society.In desperation, they have tried to retain this idea, repeating the same lies they have in the past - but now, these lies are easily spotted and called on; and remind the world that perhaps many of the statements in the past weren't so accurate either.
The pullout from Gaza is bringing long-needed moral clarity to a fuzzy crisis. Heretofore the Palestinians have counted on foreign support through fear of terrorism, influence with oil producers, unspoken anti-Semitism and carefully crafted victim status accorded savvy anti-Western zealots. But now they are increasingly on their own, and what transpires may soon end their romance of the perpetually oppressed.
The chain of events began Friday afternoon, with an explosion at a Hamas rally in Gaza's crowded Jebaliya refugee camp in which at least 15 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded.Sharon is looking increasingly like a genius, much to the horror of the Palestinians - and the Palestinians are looking increasingly pathetic while digging their own graves.
Hamas blamed Israel for that blast, claiming Israeli aircraft fired missiles into the crowd, and said its rocket attacks on Israeli towns were meant as retaliation. However, the Palestinian Authority held the Islamic militants responsible, saying they apparently mishandled explosives at the rally. Israel denied involvement.
So Ariel Sharon leaves, with a "Hasta la vista, Gaza — and be careful what you wish for."You never know when you might get what's coming to you.
Technorati tags: Sharon, Israel, Hamas, Abbas, Palestinians, Terrorism, Responsibility, Rockets.