Yesterday I wrote about a JCPA briefing by Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror and Dan Diker regarding Egypt’s growing relationship with what they see as the Hamas radical Islamic mini-state in Gaza, with implications that were troubling.
At that time I alluded to an earlier piece by Daniel Pipes that was, shall we say, more upbeat in its predictions — envisioning an Egyptian takeover of Gaza that would control Hamas. Today Pipes has a follow-up piece in the Post, "How to Turn Gaza Over to Egypt."
The difference between his take and that of the JCPA briefing remained considerable, and so I wrote to Daniel Pipes today for some clarifications, and have received a gracious response from him.
In a nutshell: He believes that to take on Hamas would not be difficult for Egypt. "…the dinky Hamas structure could be swooped up in a few days by the government of Egypt." He certainly does not believe that Egypt feels benevolent towards Israel, and would stop Hamas from launching Kassams at us for our sake. Rather, he believes that Egypt would feel constrained to stop Hamas because of what Israeli deterrence exists and the realization that all out war might proceed if they continued to allow it. As he says in his piece today, "Mubarak has coped with Islamists throughout his 27-year presidency and he can deal with this new challenge in ways that Israel cannot." This is most certainly the case.
What would be required for this scenario to be enacted, however, would be a willingness on the part of Israel to allow additional armed forces into the area of Gaza — beyond what is permitted by our peace treaty with Egypt, which rendered the Sinai demilitarized.
Egypt is currently requesting that its force of 750 be doubled. Foreign Ministry officials are inclined to go along with this, but the Defense Ministry is solidly opposed, believing that Egypt could do more with the troops they have.
And there is solid reason for this reluctance . Egypt has permitted the smuggling of weapons into Gaza, and has failed to do its part per agreements.
As I’ve indicated previously, this has huge implications for us, and I will continue to follow this closely.
What I find amusing is that Abbas has now announced that Fatah is prepared to take over the Rafah crossing, in accordance with the 2005 agreement. Guess he doesn’t know yet that he’s being rendered less and less significant. Don’t hold your breath that this is going to happen.
Of considerably more significance is that the IDF , along with plans for a large scale invasion of Gaza, is drawing up a plan to retake the Philadelphi Corridor — which stretches for 10 km. along the border between Gaza and the Sinai. This plan would include a sealing of the border, destruction of smuggling tunnels, taking out of weapons warehouses located in that area, and an assessment of Hamas capabilities.
Defense officials are saying they would expedite this plan if Hamas began launching more sophisticated rockets rather than Kassams.
When plans are complete, they must be submitted to the political echelon for approval. Is Olmert ready to defend Israel yet?
If we were, finally and at last, to do that large scale invasion, this would have to be factored into the equation of what follows in Gaza.
Also significant is this, from Egypt: Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egypt’s foreign minister, gave a late night interview on Egyptian TV, during which he was particularly harsh and direct. Egypt permitted the breaching of the fence temporarily for humanitarian reasons, he said, but now, "Anyone who violates Egypt’s borders will get his legs broken."
He blamed Israel for the crisis because of collective punishment, but also blamed Hamas:
"After Hamas’s takeover of Gaza, it has decided to clash with Israel, though this clash seems to be a laughable caricature, because clashing with an opponent in battle is supposed to mean damaging them. You do not go into battle just to damage yourself."
Hamas did not receive these words gladly . Hamas spokesman Aami Abu Zuhri actually called them "inappropriate" and said Egypt should be focused on criticizing Israel. Additionally he said he did not believe this reflected the official Egyptian position. No? The words of the foreign minister?
"All we want is an open border crossing," Abu Zuhri said. "Instead of making these threats against the Palestinian people, he [Aboul Gheit] should voice his anger against the Israeli occupation, which is what is closing the border crossings between Gaza and Egypt."
Huh? A rather garbled version of the situation. Is there anything that is not because of "Israeli occupation"? Stay tuned folks.
Foreign Minister Livni met today with US envoy Gen. James Jones and told him that the threats from Gaza must cease before a Palestinian state can be established.
I continue to see this sort of statement , which is true enough as far as it goes, as rather ridiculous. For the question remains as to WHY we are now negotiating with Abbas, when he claims that Gaza will be part of the future Palestinian state but he has no control whatsoever over Gaza.
It’s a charade, a case of the emperor’s clothes. The West and our government are pretending that a "two state" solution can be achieved, when in fact the evidence is that the myth of Palestinian nationalism has been destroyed to a large extent. (It was Daniel Pipes who pointed out last week that Gazans have more in common in language and culture with Egypt than with the Arabs in Judea and Samaria.)
I confess that I have difficulty here — there’s a sort of mental dissonance. On the one hand I’m looking at serious analyses regarding Gaza as a radical Islamic mini-state and possible Egyptian assumption of responsibility for Gaza. And then I turn around and read statements by Abbas and Livni that take none of this into account.
Consider this statement by Livni: "A real response must be given to the threats from the Gaza Strip prior to the establishment of a Palestinian state – as long as the Palestinians see Gaza as part of the state they intend to establish." Does this mean if the Palestinians relinquished the idea of Gaza as part of their state, then we wouldn’t have to respond to the threats? Are we supposed to respond to make us safer or to make the situation better for Abbas and his dreams?
MK Avigdor Itzchaky, a founder of Kadima, has submitted his resignation from the Knesset.
"This was a hard decision to make , but I promised the public that if the prime minister didn’t step down – I would; and I am a man of my word," he said.
He called Olmert "dangerous to Israel. He is the worst prime minister in the history of the State of Israel."
The pity is that we’ve now lost the vote and the voice in the Knesset of a good man of integrity.
The attacks against Israel continue. In total today 17 Kassams and three mortar shells hit Israel. Two Kassams landed in Sderot, destroying a building and causing a fire. Yesterday two childr
en were wounded by shrapnel when a Kassam landed near a playground in their Kibbutz in the Negev, and this was followed by a Kassam that destroyed a home in Sderot.
A woman was lightly wounded this afternoon, when rocks were thrown at her car, outside the community of Itamar, which is near Nablus.
Yesterday there were three strikes by Israel into northern Gaza, aimed at launching squads, a not uncommon occurrence. This time seven Palestinians were wounded. Then last night, in two more strikes, five Hamas operatives and one from Islamic Jihad were killed; they were said to belong to look-out cells.
Tonight we begin to cut back on the amount of electricity supplied to Gaza, as now sanctioned by our High Court. There is to be a reduced flow in three of the 10 power lines used to supply Gaza.