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Tags: gaza | israel | protests

Gaza Protests Show the 'Land-for-Peace' Concept Has Failed

Gaza Protests Show the 'Land-for-Peace' Concept Has Failed
Palestinian protesters watch smoke rise during clashes with Israeli forces near the border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 2, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

Martin Sherman By Wednesday, 04 April 2018 11:56 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

The mass demonstrations that took place over the weekend on the fence separating Gaza from Israel underscored two points of grave significance. The one relates to past decisions made by Israel; the other to future ones it will have to make.

With regard to the past, it is clear that the formula of land for peace has failed dramatically, disastrously, and definitively.

Land for Peace Has Failed Both Jew and Arab

After all, it was in Gaza that the misguided experiment of attempting to foist self-rule on the Palestinians was initiated with Yasir Arafat’s triumphant return to the coastal enclave in July 1994, amid fanfare and international acclaim.

The events of last Friday have proven just how unfounded the high hopes of peace and prosperity, back then, were. For the process that was set in motion in mid-1994 has — predictably — brought only trauma and tragedy to Jew and Arab alike.

However, although it has imposed several serious security challenges on Israel — such as suicide bombing, overhead rockets, underground terror tunnels, lone-wolf knifing, and ramming attacks — what it has wrought on the Palestinian-Arabs is far worse — particularly in Gaza, where it all began.

With frequent and extended power outages, soaring unemployment, pervasive penury, undrinkable water, polluted beaches and awash in flows of raw sewage, the largely destitute Gazan population has been the real victim of two-statism and the ill-conceived initiative to grant them political sovereignty. To make matters even worse, the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, locked in a fierce power struggle with Hamas that (mis)governs Gaza, is threatening to make the situation of the hapless Gazans even worse by further cutting off funds to reduce electric power, food, and medical supplies.

So after almost a quarter century after the Oslo Accords were signed, allowing self-rule to the Gazan-Arabs, and well over a decade after Israel completely evacuated the Gaza Strip, removing any remnant of Jewish presence, hordes of Gazans, tens of thousands strong, massed at the border, egged on by their leaders to obliterate Israel — within the pre-“occupation” borders — in what was dubbed the “March of Return.”

A March to Destroy Israel

This was clearly articulated in the fiery proclamation by the head of Hamas, Yahya Sinwar, who vowed: “The ‘March of Return’ will continue. It will not stop until we remove this transient border. Friday's protests mark the beginning of a new phase in the Palestinian national struggle on the road to liberation…and the return of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their former homes inside Israel…”

He continued, declaring, “The ‘March of Return’ affirms that our people cannot give up one inch of the land of Palestine … The protests will continue until the Palestinians return to the lands from which they were expelled 70 years ago.”

The reference to erasing the “transient border” between Gaza and pre-1967 Israel, to the “return of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their former homes inside Israel and…the lands from which they were expelled 70 years ago” removes any doubt as to the purpose of the so-called “March of the Return.”

For this clearly indicates that the sense of “grievance” that the March is intended to address is not any alleged injustice due to the “Occupation” (which began in 1967 just over 50 years ago) but the existence of Israel as a Jewish state (established in 1948, i.e. 70 years ago).

Thus as Gatestone’s Bassam Tawil aptly points out in his “A March to Destroy Israel”: “Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Yehya Sinwar… did not hide the real goal behind the ‘March of Return’ — to destroy Israel.”

“We Will Eat the Livers of the Jews”

Israel can ill-afford to treat the “March” as anything less ominous — especially in light of the manifest resolve to continue — indeed, escalate — the hostile rally on the border. Indeed, recent reports suggest that the participants will attempt to obscure the vision of the IDF forces with smoke screens produced by burning huge quantities of old tires and blinding IDF sharpshooters with mirrors and lasers, to allow rioters to breach the fence, undetected.

One need little imagination to picture the ghastly consequences were a tiny fraction of the frenzied mob, pressing against the fence were to burst through and overrun a single Israeli community close to the border, butchering the residents, ravaging the women, and razing the homes. After all, it was none other than Sinwar himself who unabashedly pledged publically that the invading Gazans would “eat the livers” of Israelis they encountered.

Clearly, Israel cannot afford to treat this initiative to launch a popular invasion of its sovereign territory with anything other than zero tolerance. For even the perception of partial Palestinian success is likely to ignite similar mass marches in Judea-Samaria, on Israel’s northern border and even among Israeli Arabs in the Galilee, the Ara Valley and the Negev.

“March” Is an Act of War, the Participants Enemy Combatants

The sustained specter of large, potentially violent — even lethal — mass demonstrations will inevitably draw off and pin down large numbers of troops, which will disrupt other IDF activities. This could obviously be used as a distraction or a diversion to facilitate perpetration of other terror activities.

Accordingly, Israel must convey, unambiguously, that it will consider the continuation of the “March of Return” an overt act of war — and all the participants in it, enemy combatants — who must expect to face all the risks that entails.

Dr. Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, dedicated to the preservation and propagation of joint values shared by the USA and Israel as embodied in the U.S. Constitution and Israel’s Declaration of Independence. He served for seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli Defense establishment and acted as a ministerial adviser to Yitzhak Shamir's government. Sherman lectured for 20 years at Tel Aviv University in Political Science, International Relations, and Strategic Studies. He holds several university degrees — B.Sc. (Physics and Geology), MBA (Finance), and PhD in political science/international relations. He was the first academic director of the internationally renowned Herzliya Conference and has authored two books as well as numerous articles and policy papers on a wide range of political, diplomatic and security issues. He was born in South Africa and has lived in Israel since 1971. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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The mass demonstrations that took place over the weekend on the fence separating Gaza from Israel underscored two points of grave significance. The one relates to past decisions made by Israel; the other to future ones it will have to make.
gaza, israel, protests
Wednesday, 04 April 2018 11:56 AM
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