Israelis ponder alternatives to 'mowing the lawn' in Gaza (+video)
Israel has yet to articulate a long-term strategy for Gaza, but there is a growing consensus that a military operation every few years is not the answer.
(Page 2 of 2)
Some Israelis fault Mr. Sharon’s withdrawal for paving the way for greater militancy. “All the places where Israeli settlers used to live in Gaza are now areas from which rockets are launched [toward Israel],” says Mesodi Sugaker, a resident of Kiryat Malachi, where three people were killed by rocket fire last week. “They couldn’t do that before…. All the people who died, died because Ariel Sharon made a big mistake in his life.”Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Life under Hamas
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But there is little desire for Israel to reoccupy Gaza now, even though the Israel Defense Forces are strong enough to do so.
“The IDF can conquer Gaza tomorrow and wipe out Hamas, but then the question is, ‘What do you do the following morning?’” says Yehuda Ben Meir of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, pointing to the challenges the US military has faced in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It’s not so difficult sometimes to overcome the military foe but it’s very difficult to control the territory and to rule it. The last thing Israel wants to do is to rule Gaza again.”
Professor Ben Meir says that while the ultimate solution would be to remove Hamas, sometimes there is no choice but to take a middle road.
“It doesn’t have a clear-cut end-game, but the idea is to create a deterrent,” he says. “With Hezbollah it’s worked for six years.”
Indeed, since the end of Israel’s month-long 2006 war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, the border has been very calm.
But Hezbollah is widely believed to be steadily rearming and fortifying its positions in the rugged hills of south Lebanon, and is now far stronger than when the last war broke out. And Ben Meir acknowledges that there are key differences between Hezbollah and Hamas. For one, Hezbollah has a dominant hold on south Lebanon, whereas Hamas has faced an increasing challenge from Islamic Jihad and has been either unable or unwilling to keep all of Gaza’s various militant groups in check.
There is a growing consensus in Israel that the ultimate solution may not be the reunification of Gaza and the West Bank into a sovereign Palestinian state, but rather Gaza breaking off and either becoming its own entity or a statelet of Egypt – though Cairo doesn’t appear to relish that idea.
“The way out of the current situation in the long-term is the normalization of the international border between Gaza and Egypt for the passage of goods and people,” says Gershon Baskin, an independent Israeli negotiator who was working with Egypt and Hamas to arrange a cease-fire when Pillar of Defense broke out. “The total kind of dependence on Israel that existed in the past for electricity, water, food, and other things is going to have to be diverted toward Egypt.”
“I think violence is not the answer for Israel,” he says.