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Handing Victories to Hamas By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, July 08, 2008

On Thursday, after a Qassam rocket was fired at Israel from Gaza, Israel announced it was closing the crossings into Gaza. The Qassam was the sixth (along with four mortars) fired since the “ceasefire” began on June 19. Israel’s announcement of a closing of the crossings was its seventh since that time.

On Friday, Hamas claimed the closing was a breach of the ceasefire agreement by Israel and announced that in reprisal it was suspending the talks on a deal for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas two years ago. On Sunday, Israel announced it was reopening the crossings.

As usual, Israel’s response to Thursday’s Qassam turned out to be short-lived playacting and Hamas retained the upper hand. Hamas claims it’s not behind, in fact opposes, the Qassam and mortar firings since the ceasefire, and it may even be true. Hamas is benefiting from the current situation and is capable of enough strategic thought to see that calling off the bombardment for a while could be to its advantage.

Just how much to its advantage was detailed in a piece called “Fortress Gaza” by Israeli analyst Jonathan Spyer. Hamas, Spyer notes, has been extensively recruiting, “feverishly training,” and acquiring weapons “far superior in quality” to those it had previously. The new armaments are thought to include, particularly, antitank weapons and bombs, the idea being to exact such high military and civilian casualties from Israel should it eventually invade Gaza that Israel will back down.

The Israeli defense establishment, usually (though not reliably) more reality-attuned than the political leadership, reportedly sent out a document last week calling for military responses to the rocket firings and stressing that the present situation serves Hamas’s interests. It hasn’t taken long, then, for the latest “ceasefire” to turn into the usual one-sided farce as Israel—complying with the terms—has stopped its military operations in Gaza while Hamas—not complying with them—is at least not stopping the rocket fire and certainly not the weapons importation.

How dire the situation has gotten under the Olmert government has now prompted a guilt-ridden salvo from Yehezkel Dror, a veteran Israeli policy analyst and member of the five-person Winograd Commission that was set up to investigate the failures of the 2006 war in Lebanon.

Dror already created a stir last February after the commission’s final report was published. That document, while indeed scathingly critical of the government’s performance during the war, seemed strangely mum about mentioning Olmert by name.

Asked by the Israeli daily Maariv why the report didn’t call for Olmert’s resignation, Dror replied that “If we think that the prime minister will advance the peace process, it is a serious consideration…. What do you prefer, a government with Olmert and Barak, or new elections that will put Netanyahu in power?”

But in an article that came out Wednesday in the American Jewish liberal weekly Forward, Dror said he now thinks he “erred in trusting the political system and the public to do what was obviously required in light of our harsh findings, namely to remove the prime minister from office…. I regret that I did not insist on making an explicit institutional recommendation that, because of his grand failures, the prime minister should not continue to serve.”

Olmert, says Dror, “stands accused of unseemly personal behavior. He is preoccupied with political survival and is distrusted by the vast majority of the public.” He rebuked Olmert for “showing a serious lack of strategic thinking” and repeated the charges in an interview to Israel Radio on Saturday.

After the Winograd Commission’s cushioning of the Olmert government in its final report earlier this year, Dror’s words come bitterly too late—particularly since, in the latest “ceasefire” farce, Hamas is showing that very capability for “strategic thinking” that Israel’s prime minister lacks. The price for the failures of Olmert and his government, and of Dror and his commission, continues to be paid by Gilad Shalit, the Israeli people as a whole, Middle Eastern stability, and any hope for a real peace based on Israeli deterrence and resolve.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.

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