November 14, 2018

Liberman and 'The Day After'

There is no doubt that, short of sending in troops on the ground, the IDF dealt Hamas its most lethal blows in this last round of hostilities. It will take a lot more than Qatar's $15m to rebuild and a lot more time than after previous rounds of fighting.
Yes, the average Israeli taxi driver - usually the wisest of all people in Israel - will be baying for full revenge and the total flattening of Gaza or to take the strip back completely.
Isn't that exactly what the US coalition did in Iraq? They never planned for the 'day after' and now - 15 years after the allied invasion, or 'liberation' - Iraq is a basket case of terrorism and political corruption.
There is one person who wants Hamas destroyed even more than our Israeli taxi driver. That is PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas. And he desperately wants Israeli soldiers to do his work for him, and deliver him control of the 'other part' of his so-called Palestinian State.
Our mainstream Likud has always been opposed to a Two State Solution. The plain fact is that any serious notion of a viable Palestinian State is a non-starter so long as the leadership of its two parts - Abbas in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza - are in conflict with each other. Relations are now at their bitterest point, with Abbas trying the starve Gaza of salaries and other essentials needed to maintain civic life. This is why Qatar had to come to the rescue last month. Israel is not the bad boy in this game - it is merely a bystander caught in between these two terror enclaves.
It was quite understandable that Liberman resigned in frustration at a cabinet that was preventing him from carrying out the duties of Defence Minister the way he saw fit. But in our view it is not right for him to make this an election issue. This is a time for cool heads, not elections. Nothing makes Hamas and its Iranian paymasters feel more victorious than seeing their 24-hour barrage throwing the "Zionist Entity" into disarray and toppling its government.
Unlike Liberman, living in the moment and wanting to pander to the masses with a show of force to match his physical stature, Prime Minister Netanyahu has much broader considerations in his calculus.
Firstly there is Iran, and the Trump sanctions which are literally crippling the 'ayatocracy' in Tehran. If and when the mullahs come to heel, Trump will almost certainly insist on their withdrawal from Syria and Gaza as two key demands for the removal of sanctions, over and above the imperatives of nuclear inspection. If Iran stops sending money, Hamas ceases to exist. Gazans may soon have to sell their rockets for fuel and food.
Then there is the unpublished Trump peace plan hanging in the firmament. As we have said above, the reality of a Palestinian State is a non-starter without reconciliation between Abbas's PLO and Hamas. We should not help that happen.
Beyond that there is the wider regional picture and our good relationship with Egypt's president Sisi who has significant influence over Hamas, not least in holding the keys to their vital smuggling routes. For the Hamas leadership the two top priorities are killing Jews and making money - lots of it.
And beyond Egypt there's the new relationship with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states opposed to Iran's regional hegemony. A new Gaza War may kill that nascent Israeli-Arab axis in the crib.
All this is not to say that Israel can allow Hamas to fire off hundreds of rockets and then declare a ceasefire every other month. Short of launching a war that may put another 1.7m Arabs under 'occupation', it may be wiser to move a tank division to the Gaza border and keep it permanently stationed there, ready for the army to move in at the next rocket barrage. Hamas needs to know that the IDF can and will roll in and flatten them all within a matter of hours.
The combination of such visible deterrence on the ground, plus the economic pressures coming through Iran seem to be a much smarter means of dealing with the situation than firing from the hip without a clear plan for the day after.

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