Today, the problem in Gaza is not operational. It is conceptual!
If the Israeli leadership persists with its perception of the Palestinian-Arabs in general, and the Gazans in particular, as potential partners in some future peace arrangement, rather than perceiving them as they perceive themselves — as implacable enemies, whose enmity towards the Jewish state is not rooted in what it does, but in what it is — it will never be able to formulate a policy capable of effectively dealing the continuing, and continually intensifying, threat emanating from the Gaza Strip.
Fatal Failure of Conventional Wisdom
Time and again, over the course of the conflict, it has been shown, clearly and convincingly, that the penury and privation are not the reason for Arab enmity towards Israel. Quite the reverse! It is Arab enmity towards Israel that is reason for the prevailing penury and privation.
Almost inevitably, the dismaying recurrence of violence along Israel’s southern border brings to mind the pithy dictum attributed to Albert Einstein, who reportedly observed: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
After all, the problems of Gaza are the undeniable outcome of the ill-conceived attempt to foist self-governance on Gaza and the Gazans. As such, it is a problem that cannot be solved by persevering with the same mode of thinking that created it. Accordingly, the failed formula of self-rule for Gaza must be set aside — since any obstinate insistence on it will only continue to exacerbate the current situation and extend the misery it precipitates — for Arab and Jew alike.
It is in this context that the Israeli government’s decision to refrain from decisive military action, after almost eight months of violence against its civilians in the South, must be assessed — and branded not only imprudent but irresponsible!
To grasp the significance of this rather harsh allegation, we should recall that since Israel unilaterally abandoned the Gaza Strip almost a decade-and-a-half ago, its enemies have succeeded in upgrading the scope and scale of their arsenal beyond recognition. At the end of every round of fighting, the inter-bellum period of calm was not utilized for developing their society or advancing their economy — but rather to enhance their martial capabilities for the next round of fighting. If, back in 2005, on the eve of the “Disengagement,” some far-sighted individual had predicted that reality would be as it is today, his caveats would have been disdainfully dismissed as unfounded scaremongering.
Tenacious Strategic Enmity
Accordingly, it would be perilous for Israel to underestimate the gravity of the long-term strategic significance of the tenacious enmity that Hamas — and its more radical offshoots — harbor against it.
Indeed, every time Israel has managed to thwart a given mode of terrorist activity, the Palestinian-Arabs have managed to devise methods to overcome, or circumvent the Israeli countermeasures.
Thus, when Israel managed to curtail terror attacks by means of a security fence with secured and regulated checkpoints, the Palestinians developed overhead rocket capabilities to by-pass them from above; when Israel developed anti-rocket defense systems, the Palestinians began excavating an array of underground attack tunnels, to by-pass those systems from below; when Israel began constructing a massive billion dollar subterranean barrier to block the tunnels; the Palestinians began flying incendiary kites and explosive balloons, to by-pass it from above — and so on and so forth.
Growing Disaffection With Government Inaction
The ramifications of this enduring Judeocidal war are beginning to take their toll on Israeli society.
The increasingly vociferous demonstrations by the residents of the Israeli communities close to the Gaza border, reflect the growing impatience with what is perceived as the government’s impotence in responding to the challenge from the terror organizations in Gaza — and its manifest failure to discharge its most basic duty — providing security to its citizens. They indicate mounting unwillingness to endure the evermore onerous conditions in which they are being forced to live, with their economy being devastated — particularly tourism and agriculture, their livelihoods drastically diminished, the constant disruption of daily life, the ongoing danger to their lives and their families…
It is difficult to decipher the strategic rationale — if any — behind the current policy of the government. After all, unless, for some unknown and certainly unspecified reason, it is banking on the Palestinian-Arabs morphing into something they have not been for over 100 years and indeed, show little sign of doing so in any foreseeable future, it is hard to understand — given its penchant for inaction — how it sees the situation evolving in the future. In the next ten years? The next twenty years?
The Bitter Dilemma
Given the continual upgrading of the military capabilities in Gaza, the irrelevance of humanitarian aid for stability, the growing disaffection of Israel’s civilian population, and the looming threats on other fronts, the Israeli leadership must internalize the bitter truth: The solution to the problem of Gaza is its deconstruction — not its reconstruction. For, at the end of the day, it must face a regrettable but unavoidable dilemma: Eventually, there will either be Arabs in Gaza or Jews in the Negev. In the long run, there will not be both!
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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