Wednesday, October 31, 2012
I realize that many of my NY readers, who took the brunt of the storm, may be without electricity now and for some undetermined time into the days ahead. May they all be safe and able to return to reasonable normality before too long. Full recovery of the city will be a long and heavy haul.
Hamas continues to remain in the news, and I think it's worth taking a look at a couple of things here. With the resumption of rocket attacks yesterday and the day before, it's important to note that it was not renegade groups that had refused to cooperate with an Egyptian-negotiated ceasefire that were claiming credit. It was Hamas itself.
In fact, Hamas let down some of its facade this week, when it released a video showing their rockets being fired from within a populated area.
Elliot Abrams, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations, has cited former Israeli National Security Adviser Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland (below) on the subject of Hamas.
The general -- while he recommends a very tough stance -- does not recommend a ground operation in Gaza or attempts to actually take out Hamas. He has some interesting thoughts:
"He does not believe Israel has any particular interest in reuniting the West Bank and Gaza, rather than seeking a greater integration of Gaza with Egypt. He also notes that efforts by Israel to strengthen the PA and its leader, President Abbas, against Hamas quite often have the opposite effect.
"...weakening Hamas does not strengthen Abbas and Fatah in Gaza because they are so weak there and unable to improve their situation. Instead, weakening Hamas strengthens even more extreme salafist and jihadi groups."
I believe his next point is debatable:
"He argues that to the extent that Hamas comes to be more like a stable government for Gaza, with a decent economy, it will have that much more to lose from confrontations with Israel."
Maybe, but there is no guarantee of this. There are some governments that are very confrontational indeed. It depends on whether or not they allow the responsibilities of governing to take precedence over their ideological goals, which include destruction of Israel.
What this reminds me of is a statement by outgoing head of the Hamas politburo Khaled Mashaal, who, in a recent speech, alluded to the fact that Hamas has found it harder to govern than had been anticipated. He also said in that speech that Hamas is a nationalist movement and not purely jihadist. Interesting. Hamas leaders seem to be struggling with exactly what Hamas is supposed to be.
But it is not Mashaal who is going to resolve that issue for them. And my own take, given the recent evidence of Hamas behavior, is that it is going the route of more militant, not less.
Returning to Eiland. He recommends:
"respond[ing] extremely strongly to any attack that does come out of Gaza. No slow escalation, no signaling and messaging, just very quick and very tough responses that make Hamas pay a heavy price
"Second, after every incident close the border completely, and cut off electricity for a while....that is treating Hamas like the government of Gaza and punishing it and its constituents for mortars, rockets and border attacks."
Ah that our government would be prepared to do at least this!
Two days ago, the IDF, working with Shin Bet, broke up a Hamas cell in Ramallah, arresting thirty. The goal of the cell was to reinvigorate Hamas activity in Judea and Samaria. Most specifically, they wanted to establish Hamas operations in Hevron and Bethlehem. This cell was alleged to be in touch with foreign-based Hamas leaders in order to collect money and gather intelligence.
According to an army statement:
"The affair reveals, once again, the Hamas leadership’s efforts both here and abroad to bolster their enterprise in the field and improve their operations."
We should never lose sight of the fact that Hamas does operate in -- and seeks opportunities to take over -- Palestinian Arab areas of Judea and Samaria. It is the presence of the IDF and its ability to operate in these areas that counters those efforts.
Our soldiers are something special:
Captain Ziv Shilon, a Givati company commander, lost one hand recently and sustained serious injury to the other. In fact, he almost lost his life when -- in the course of a routine patrol -- he got caught in a blast from a device rigged to a fence at the border with Gaza.
It made news when Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and then Prime Minister Netanyahu visited him in Soroka Hospital in Beersheva.
Shortly after he was injured, he told reporters that if he regained use of his remaining hand, he wanted to return to the army.
To the prime minister, he said:
Many citizens visit me and encourage me. Israel and its citizens need total security, including self-sacrifice if need be. This is the reason I joined the army."
And I salute Captain Shilon.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.