Intelligence Minister Steinitz has been quoted by news sources as saying that “if the trickle of rockets from Gaza continues, we’ll have no choice but to enter and eliminate the Hamas rule, allowing the Palestinian Authority (PA) to rule Gaza again”. His comments came following another rocket attack on Friday night emanating from Gaza and directed towards Eilat.
The question of whether or not Israel should attack Hamas, invade Gaza, or carry out an operation to replace the rule of the Gaza strip with the PA is flawed. If Israel intended to fulfill any of these objectives it should have done so already. As always timing of military actions is of the utmost important.
Some of the likely results from attacking Gaza at this point in the game should be clear.
1) Israel carries out a largescale operation against Hamas and other Gaza based terrorists: Such an operation will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the so called ‘peace process’. Abbas may be backed into a corner of pulling out of the talks when civilians are consequently caught in the crossfire.
2) Israel carries out a largescale operation to the point where Hamas is totally dismantled and other terror groups suffer significant losses: Such an eventuation would only take place with much loss of life on both sides. The duration from start to finish would be relatively long when compared to other operations that have only sought to deter Hamas. Perhaps the most significant result would be increased US, EU, and world pressure for Israel to sign a ‘peace agreement’ with the PA since the latter would now be in control of all the territory it claims to desire and represent.
Regardless of what Israel chooses to do it will make their political positions more difficult to maintain. They will be unable to remain committed to the ‘peace process’ if they take the first option, and they will suffer from increased pressure and leverage if they elect to go with the second option.
Despite the downfalls of either of the two options, and the unacceptability of having rockets fired at its civilian populations, one has to wonder on what basis Steinitz has made such a bold declaration. If the trickle of rocket fire by non-Hamas affiliated groups is enough to warrant such comments and intentions then surely the same should and must be said of Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”). The number of casualties—whether injury or death—is far greater from terrorists based from these areas. They too are mostly unaffiliated with the PA, although many are affiliated with Fatah: the party that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas still heads.
If threat of injury from terrorists warrants a widescale operation to remove the governing body who Israel views as responsible for the area from which the terrorism emanates, then Judea and Samaria should be scaled well above Gaza on any ‘List of Priorities’.
Some would say that such a suggestion threatens the ‘peace process’. They would be correct. However it would only threaten the ‘peace process’ as much as Steinitz’s Gaza operation plan and with arguably more security and political benefit.