Hamas and its international collaborators have a new plan. To forcibly end Israel's embargo of Gaza's seacoast, they intend to operate a "ferry" service that will sail from Cyprus to Gaza every couple of weeks. The plan was announced on Friday by American Hamas collaborator Paul Larudee. Larudee and 32 other Hamas collaborators from North America and Europe disguised themselves as "peace activists" last week as they ran the gauntlet of Israel's naval blockade in a bid to facilitate Hamas's unfettered access to the high seas.
Israel is fully cognizant of what these Hamas collaborators are up to. It knows they are trying to force the country to concede its vital interest in maintaining the blockade to prevent massive quantities of heavy weaponry from being brought into Iran's Hamas-controlled enclave. Israel understands what is at stake. But it has absolutely no idea how to contend with this new challenge. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post over the weekend, defense officials said that they have no policy for contending with additional ships in international waters that set sail for Gaza with the declared aim of ending Israel's blockade of the coastline.
The Olmert-Livni-Barak-Yishai government claims that its handling of last week's blockade runners was successful. By allowing the ships to sail to Gaza and then return to Cyprus, the government argues that it averted a public relations trap that Hamas and its collaborators set for it. Had Israel interdicted the ships, they argue, Hamas and its allies on board would have been able to demonize Israel by accusing it of preventing humanitarian aid from getting through to suffering Hamas supporters and regime officials in Gaza.
While Israel's decision to capitulate rather than defend its interests did in fact avert bad headlines, that success should be a comfort to no one. For Israel's decision to permit the ships to sail to and from Gaza exposed two of the government's most egregious and devastating strategic failings.
IN STANDING down in the face of Hamas's high seas challenge, Israel demonstrated yet again that it prefers to capitulate rather than pay a price to defend its vital interests. And Israel's readiness to surrender came as no surprise to either Hamas or its European and North American agents. They have watched for three years as Israel has taken no action to end Hamas's use of Gaza's border with Egypt to smuggle sufficient quantities of advanced weaponry into the area to transform Gaza from a tactical nuisance into a strategic threat to southern Israel. Through its refusal to launch a military operation to retake control over Gaza's international border, Israel has daily demonstrated its unwillingness to fight to secure its vital interests of ending Iranian encroachment on its borders, and weakening with the intent of overthrowing the Hamas regime in Gaza. Knowing this, Hamas and its international collaborators rightly assumed that Israel would similarly take no action to prevent their access to the high seas.
The blockade runners were also quick to capitalize on was Israel's other major failing: Its consistent refusal to recognize and contend with the role of international collaborators in advancing the Palestinian war effort against it. Hamas's international allies knew that Israel would take no action against the ships because they have watched for years as Israel has capitulated to their colleagues who challenge the IDF in support of Palestinian terrorists in Judea and Samaria. They saw for instance in the weeks leading up to their decision to set sail to Gaza that the Olmert-Livni-Barak-Yishai government has preferred to humiliate and court martial IDF commanders operating against terror collaborators in Ni'ilin rather than formulate a coherent information and law enforcement strategy against them.
Since 2001, international groups posing as peace activists and human rights champions have enjoyed generous funding of European governments as they have violently challenged IDF counter-terror operations in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Operating under the aegis of groups like the International Solidarity Movement, the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions, Anarchists Against the Wall, Rabbis for Human Rights and other EU-funded anti-Israel groups, these terror collaborators have actively engaged in criminal behavior to thwart lawful IDF actions.
They have illegally entered closed military zones. They have illegally interfered with IDF operations. They have worked openly with Palestinian terror masters including Marwan Barghouti and Ismail Haniyeh. In so doing, these groups have been fully integrated into the Palestinian information war against Israel which itself is a vital component of the overall Palestinian war effort against Israel.
Far from acting to expose these criminals as terror collaborators, and then targeting their European governmental financiers, outlawing them, and arresting, imprisoning or deporting their members, Israel has not even tried to challenge their false self-identification as "peace activists." In surrendering the war of words to its adversaries, Israel has facilitated their war efforts against it. In legitimizing Hamas's international allies, Israel has ensured that as they have promised, they will expand their use of blockade running ships to enable Hamas's free access to the high seas.
The terror-enabling ships' successful challenge of the government demonstrated once again that under the Olmert-Livni-Barak-Yishai government, Israel's deterrent capacity has utterly collapsed. In international affairs, deterrence is the only truly effective way to prevent war. Deterrence is predicated on a state's ability and willingness to credibly threaten its adversaries' vital interests if its own are endangered. Under the Olmert-Livni-Barak-Yishai government, Israel's deterrence has collapsed because the government freely dispenses threats that it has no intention of carrying through. Rather than frighten its enemies and so convince them to relent in their attacks against the country, Israel's reckless recourse to empty threats under the current government has emboldened them and so placed the country in ever greater jeopardy.
THIS ABYSMAL and dangerous state of affairs was fully in evidence with the government's decision last week to tell the local media that it had just "reached a strategic decision" not to permit Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Showing again its contempt for Israel's empty sloganeering, Iran announced it has finished installing 4,000 uranium enriching centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear facility, that it is preparing an additional 3,000 centrifuges for use, and that it has armed Hizbullah with long range missiles.
In light of our enemies' open contempt for the government's continued use of empty threats it is clear that far from preventing war, the government's continued utilization of threats actually increases the likelihood of war. The question that necessarily arises then is why is the government still making threats that its enemies do not believe?
THE ANSWER to that central question was provided on Sunday morning at the government's weekly meeting. That meeting was dominated by statements by Kadima ministers who are running to replace Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in this month's party leadership race. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, and Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter all outdid one another in their criticisms of Olmert's last ditch bid to conclude and accord with Palestinian Authority figurehead Mahmoud Abbas that will commit Israel to surrender Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to the Hamas-dominated PA before he leaves office.
Their criticisms of Olmert were shocking for what they say about the fundamental cynicism of Kadima's would-be leaders. After all, in his feverish attempts to strike his deal with Abbas, Olmert is simply dischargi
ng the policies that all of them have repeatedly signed off on. Indeed, Livni has chaired Israel's negotiating team, and Mofaz and Dichter, like Shas leader Eli Yishai have repeatedly supported Olmert's and Livni's efforts in the face of outspoken criticism from Likud.
The cynicism of Kadima's would-be leaders exposes the actual target audience of the government's wholly discredited threats against Israel's enemies. That audience is not Israel's enemies, but the Israeli people. The government knows full well that none of Israel's enemies take its threats seriously. Between Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, Fatah and their international collaborators, not a day goes by when Israel's bluff isn't called. The government makes those threats not because it actually intends to defend the country, but because it wants us all to believe that it will defend the country despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.
BUT BEYOND that, the criticisms that Olmert's own Kadima colleagues launched Sunday against the policies he is advancing with their full support and participation tells us two fundamental truths about the nature of the Israeli public.
First, it shows us that Kadima's leaders understand that in advancing the cause of capitulation to the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, they are acting against the wishes not only of the general public, but of their own party members. Livni, Mofaz and Dichter are vying for the support of some 70,000 Kadima members who alone have the right to vote in their primaries. By attacking Olmert for carrying out capitulationist policies they themselves have supported, they are signaling that they understand that those policies are opposed not only by their political opponents, but by their political supporters.
The second fundamental fact that their condemnations of Olmert exposes is a troubling one. While Livni, Mofaz and Dichter – like Yishai – understand that Israel's enemies are unmoved by their protestations of readiness to protect the country – they all believe that Kadima members and the Israeli public as a whole are willing to believe their cynical lies. And the polls seem to back them up. Despite the Kadima-Labor-Shas government's systematic destruction of Israel's deterrent capacity, public opinion polls show that one in five Israelis still intend to vote for Kadima in the next elections. Shas's support has not been significantly degraded since the last elections. As for the Labor party, its recent fall in the polls is due to the exposure of a new corruption scandal surrounding Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his wife, not to Barak's facilitation of Hamas's entrenchment in Gaza. Although Likud still leads Kadima in the polls, the Right's projected parliamentary majority is a narrow one.
The Kadima ministers' cynical manipulation of public opinion so prominently on display on Sunday morning together with the utter collapse of Israel's deterrent capacity makes clear the Right's central political challenge today. Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu and his allies must convince the public to call the government's bluff, just as Israel's enemies have. Until the public stops its habit of believing wholly discredited threats and declarations on the part of the government, the incompetent politicians scuttling Israel's national security will continue their failed policies. Moreover, they will stand a chance of winning the public's trust to continue on this disastrous course for years to come.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.