Israel Changes Governments and Strategies Towards Peace
Israel Changes Governments and Strategies Towards Peace
By Sarah Ann Haves
Israel’s 32nd government will be sworn in this week, and a priority in the agenda of Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister will be the complex issues associated with arms smuggling from Sudan and other rogue states into Gaza. This non-stop smuggling has helped to re-build the weapons arsenal of Hamas since the Gaza War ended in January 2009.
Israel’s continued crackdown on arms smugglers will be only one of the issues that Netanyahu will be confronted with in his new job. He will also have to deal with a shaky unofficial temporary cease-fire with Hamas, along with the continued pressure on Israel’s government to release terrorists with blood on their hands in a prisoner swap that could bring home Israel’s P.O.W. Corporal Gilad Shalit.
After recent negotiations for Shalit’s release failed, under the direction of the Olmert government, Israel decided to limit the benefits that Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails will receive in the future. Israeli analysts predict that if this plan goes into effect it will backfire on Israel because international human rights advocates can be expected to blame Israel for inhumane treatment of prisoners. This is predicted to occur despite the fact that Hamas is not adhering to international human rights laws regarding Shalit, who is being held in a secret hideaway in Gaza, not able to connect with his parents or the Red Cross.
Speaking at a recent briefing for diplomats and journalists at the Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs (JCPA), Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yair Naveh, former Commander of the IDF Central Command and Gaza Division, talked about the goals of Fatah and Hamas, including Iran’s influence on these groups and others in the Middle East region. One of Naveh’s main jobs in the IDF has been to expertly identify terrorist activities within the Jewish State and stop terrorism on the home front.
What the Palestinians and the Global Community expect from Israel
In 2000, Naveh met privately with Brigadier General Saib Ajez of the Palestinian armed forces. He learned that the Palestinians do not see their home as Gaza, but instead want to occupy towns and cities in Israel, such as Yavne, Ashkelon, Hadera, and Tel Aviv. Their long range perspective is much deeper than the kind of peace process Netanyahu is expected to try and navigate with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Naveh believes that Israelis are accustomed to a Western worldview where life is highly valued, but the Palestinians are concerned with obtaining land. “For the Palestinians… land is associated with respect, dignity and honor,” he said.
It is a known fact within the international community that Hamas does not want to recognize Israel, stop violence against civilians, and adhere to previously signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). But, few international leaders are willing to accept what Fatah officials within the government of Abbas actually claim. Earlier this month, in reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah, Muhammad Dahlan, former PA Security Commander, said Hamas did not need to recognize Israel’s right to exist because Fatah has never done that.
Fatah wants a democratic state of Palestine instead of recognizing the Jewish state of Israel. The Palestinian group had hoped years ago that the Arab populations both in Gaza and in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) would double, and that, demographically, Israel would cease to have a Jewish majority within its borders. Then, Israel built the infamous security fence which created a separation between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This allowed Israel time to expand Jewish communities on Israel’s side of the fence.
This was a major factor that caused Abbas to push for a two-state solution several years ago. This two-state concept was first mentioned in the global arena during a speech by former U.S. President George W. Bush before the U.N. General Assembly on November 10, 2001. He said, “We are working toward the day when two states Israel and Palestine live peacefully together within secure and recognized borders as called for by the Security Council resolutions. We will do all in our power to bring both parties back into negotiations. But, peace will only come when all have sworn off forever incitement, violence, and terror.”
Despite the Road Map, which called for incitement, violence, and terror to stop, the Palestinians continued their war against Israel. Bush, however, continued to push for a two-state solution throughout the rest of his presidency, and today, it has become the slogan for the global community when trying to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Dan Dyker, a Senior Foreign Policy Analyst at the JCPA, told this writer that current U.S. President Barack Obama is clearly advancing a two-state solution. “That has become the brand in the United States. And, Israel has bought into that brand.” But, Dyker claims that Netanyahu will take a different approach with the Palestinians, and will promote the concept of an “economic peace” during future peace negotiations.
The Power of Hamas
Meanwhile, General Naveh told journalists and diplomats at the JCPA briefing that Hamas is a religious and political organization that Israel helped to establish over 20 years ago when the Jewish state wanted to create an alternative to Fatah. Now, Israeli leaders are beginning to understand that whether they are dealing with Fatah or Hamas, the goals are much more similar than they originally thought.
According to Naveh, a main goal of Hamas is that “there will be no sovereign political reality in the Middle East except the Palestinians and Hamas.” Hamas has copied the successes of Hezbollah in Lebanon by providing help to poor Gazans through social welfare programs including hot meals in schools; improved education; summer camps for children; transportation; and housing (especially after Israel’s Defense Forces demolish the houses of terrorists). As a result, Hamas has greatly increased its popularity among the Palestinians.
The political view that Hamas leaders carry is that once they turn Gaza into a Hamas state they will be able to expand their power into the West Bank. They believe they will accomplish this politically and militarily. “This is the biggest vision of Hamas,” states Naveh. He says that Iran has become a key player in helping Hamas. There has been a more radical religious system implemented in Gaza, and more women are wearing the veil as extremism and fanaticism take hold within the population. In this way, Iran has extended its influence among the Palestinians, along with training, funding, and arms supply to terrorists helping to develop the military capabilities of Hamas.
Iran’s Nuclear Threat a different point of view
Israeli leaders have expressed various viewpoints on whether they believe that Iran would use a nuclear weapon against Israel in the future if the Islamic Republic is able to acquire one. Naveh’s opinion is that Iran would not use the weapon against Israel, but instead, would threaten the Jewish State. Naveh believes that Iran’s goal is a Palestinian Middle East that embraces the ideology of Iran. Therefore, he sees Iran developing a strategy of “forward divisions”: Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border; Hamas on Israel’s southern border with control of Israel’s heartland (the West Bank — Judea and Samaria); Syria on Israel’s northern and eastern border. Naveh claims that Iran would like to see a situation of civil uprising and terrorism in Israel that would weaken the Jewish State.
Naveh warns that an Iranian nuclear umbrella would allow Hezbollah and Hamas to beleaguer Israel, and once the Jewish State was bogged down, this would help Iran in its goal of achieving greater dominance in the region. This threatens Israel and moderate Arab states, which is one reason these states have considered taking a pro-active approach in deterring Iran from its nuclear ambitions. Naveh’s assessment is not to focus so much on Iran pushing the nuclear button in the future, but rather the possibility of regional deterioration into full blown terrorism because of Iran’s ability to threaten states in the Middle East if Iran acquires a nuclear arsenal.
The Philadelphi Corridor
The Philadelphi Corridor, the porous border between Egypt and Gaza, was named in secret Israeli military encoded maps. The term was then used in military jargon, and has now been associated with hundreds of tunnels that go deep underground. From Rafah into Gaza, Bedouins and Palestinians smuggled cows, drugs, and missiles, with each tunnel costing about $20,000 per month to run. Originally, Rafah residents did the smuggling as a family business. But, when Hamas took over Gaza, the weapons smuggling increased.
According to Naveh, as soon as Hamas controlled Gaza, Israeli military forces worked at separating Gaza from the West Bank. This proved to be a successful plan when Israel fought Hamas during the recent Gaza War. At that time, there was quiet and a semblance of order in the West Bank. Meanwhile, Naveh claims that terrorism can only be deterred “night to night, house to house,” not by air strikes. Only this way can you fight terrorism, he explains. You cannot win without securing the area. This is a veiled implication that Israel did not have complete victory in its recent war against Hamas.
Some Israeli politicians and military officials believe that Netanyahu will have to order the IDF to re-take the Philadelphi Corridor in order to stop arms smuggling; and, go back into Gaza to root out Hamas in order to stop rocket attacks on Israeli southern border towns. Naveh believes that the military achievements during the Gaza War were good, but those achievements are slowly eroding. Furthermore, he is concerned that behind Hamas are even greater forces that Israel will have to contend with. Islamic Jihad may increase its military power, followed by Al Qaeda. Finally, the greatest existential threat to Israel is Iran.
While the international community debates the Iran nuclear issue, Israel’s new government will already be focused on neutralizing the forces that Iran uses as proxies against Israel…Hamas, Hezbollah and other militant groups. Israeli leaders will work, strategically, to wipe out terrorist threats on their northern and southern borders while preparing for a more serious confrontation with Iran.
“And, you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” Matthew 24:6.
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting from Israel on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues affecting the nation.
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