A world gone mad

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It would seem that the world has gone mad. Israel's security is being systematically undermined by its own government and the US-led international community. At this point it seems that the Sharon-Peres government is engaged in a perverse competition with the Bush administration to determine who can come up with the most deranged counter-terror policy.


Last week it was reported that the US has given the Palestinian Authority $4.4 million dollars to pay the salaries of terrorists from Fatah's Al Aksa Brigades. For its part, the terror group showed its gratitude to the US by becoming the first Palestinian terror organization to publicly endorse Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's call for Israel to be "wiped off the map."


Then we have the latest machinations of the Sharon-Peres government regarding Israel's policies now that we have vacated Gaza.


This week the IDF announced that it was removing non-essential personnel from bases bordering Gaza. The move is being made due to information that terrorists are digging tunnels beneath the bases for the purpose of either bombing the bases or infiltrating Israel for the purpose of bombing civilians. Since the withdrawal, 16 bombs have been discovered along the new border.


As critics of the withdrawal from Gaza warned, the Palestinians have smuggled shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles into Gaza from the Sinai Peninsula. After denying these reports for six weeks, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz finally acknowledged that these missiles have in fact been brought in during testimony before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday.


Air Force commanders, whose forces are the only ones that remain active in Gaza, told the media last week that they are revising their operational methods over Gaza in light of the presence of these missiles. That is, the IAF considers these missiles to be a threat to its aircraft.


If these missiles manage to find their way into Judea and Samaria they will threaten not only IAF aircraft but civilian aircraft taking off and landing at Ben Gurion Airport. The fact that al-Qaida – whose presence in the Sinai is enormous, according to IDF Intelligence Analysis Chief Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kupperwasser – and its Palestinian allies wish to attack Israeli civilian aircraft was made clear this summer with the Katyusha rocket attack on Eilat's international airport as well as in the 2002 attack on the Israeli jetliner in Mombassa, Kenya.


Since late 2002 when then Labor Party leader Amram Mitzna put forward the notion of a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip replete with the uprooting of Israeli communities from the area, critics of the move argued that such a plan would open Israel to grave security risks. These warnings became increasingly detailed and specific as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in late 2003 adopted Mitzna's plan after basing his campaign for the premiership on laughing at it.


Critics of the plan explained that a unilateral departure from Gaza, particularly if such a withdrawal included vacating Gaza's border with Egypt and surrendering control over the airspace over Gaza and its coastline, would enable and indeed invite international terrorists to use Gaza as a new international terror base. Critics further warned that terrorists in Gaza would transfer their center of operations to Judea and Samaria and place the major population centers of Israel at risk of rocket and mortar attacks.



The communities in Gush Katif and northern Gaza stoically absorbed some 6,000 such attacks over the past five years. In their absence, and as the critics warned, those rockets and mortars have already become the scourge of residents of some 40 communities surrounding Gaza in the western Negev. Just last week the IDF arrested two terrorists attempting to transfer rockets to Judea and Samaria.


The critics' concerns were never addressed by Sharon or any of his many defenders. Changing the subject, Sharon's champions, who included many right-wing politicians and intellectuals in Israel and the US who willingly abandoned the wisdom that had motivated them for more than a generation in order to jump onto Sharon's bandwagon, spoke of the demographic dangers to Israel's democracy. Using fabricated population data published by the Palestinian Authority, they claimed that if Israel did not disengage from Gaza by removing its civilian population from the area and withdrawing its military forces, Israel, together with Judea, Samaria and Gaza, would turn into a majority Arab geographical unit within 10 years.


Champions of Sharon's plan further argued that the great demographic disappearing act of Gazan Arabs could only be enacted if Israel relinquished control over the international borders. "The occupation will continue," they explained, if Israel maintained any control over these passages. And if the "occupation" were to continue, they continued, Israel would still be accountable for the 1.5 million Arabs in Gaza (although there are only 1 million Arabs in Gaza).


And so Israel relinquished all control over Gaza. The IDF and the police were massed for the largest operation they have undertaken in years. All the resources of the state were placed at their disposal as they trained and planned for months and months, not to fight Palestinian terror, not to destroy Iran's nuclear installations, but to expel their own countrymen from their homes and communities in Gaza.


No one ever answered the question how precisely the unilateral withdrawal would enable Israel to disengage from the Arabs of Gaza. No one ever explained how Israel would cease to be pressured by the US and the rest of the international community to enable Gazan Arabs to work in Israel or to enable their integration with the Arabs of Judea and Samaria. No one ever explained how withdrawing from Gaza would do anything other than increase the terror threat to Israel. Rather than answering these questions Sharon and his many defenders ignored them, preferring to attack the questioners by claiming that anyone who asked how the withdrawal and expulsion plan benefited Israel was clearly an extremist right-winger who probably would have murdered Yitzhak Rabin if he had the chance.


AND NOW we know why these questions were never answered. In the aftermath of Israel's withdrawal of its civilian population in Gaza, in the space of hours, Gaza was deluged with international terrorists and advanced weaponry. Contrary to bizarre statements by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to Newsweek this week, where he applauded Egypt for its work in securing its border with Gaza, military sources and Palestinian sources have repeatedly stated that the border between Gaza and Egypt remains breached and that both terrorists and weaponry continue to be smuggled into Gaza.

Given the open border between Gaza and the Sinai, for Israel to prevent the transfer of the advanced weaponry and international terrorists from Gaza into Judea and Samaria and its civilian centers within the 1949 armistice lines it can do one of two things. It can reoccupy Gaza's border with the Sinai and reinstate its complete control over the international passages leading in and out of Gaza, or it can seal Gaza off from Israel and Judea and Samaria.


Unfortunately, there is no chance that the present Sharon-Peres government, which embraced the strategically catastrophic withdrawal from Gaza as the centerpiece of its national strategy, will take either of these steps. Doing so will, after all, rightly be viewed as an acknowledgement of our leaders' colossal stupidity. And so, rather than acknowledge reality, Israel, at the unhelpful urging of the US-led international community, is compounding the damage.



Led by Mofaz and Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Israel is now negotiating the reopening of the Rafah terminal, which is the official land passag
e between Gaza and Egypt, with the PA, the EU, Egypt and the Quartet's envoy James Wolfensohn. These negotiations are nothing more than an obscene and pathetic joke.


Initially, Israel insisted that its security personnel be deployed at the Rafah terminal as they were before Israel vacated Gaza. The Palestinians laughed and said no. Then Israel demanded that EU security personnel control the passage in its stead and be vested with the authority to arrest terrorists entering or leaving Gaza. Both the Palestinians and the EU laughed at that one, but offered that EU personnel could be there as "observers."



Finally Israel demanded that closed-circuit television cameras be installed at the passage that would transmit real-time imagery of all those crossing through the terminal to Israel. The Palestinians again laughed and offered that they would send the footage to Israel a day or two after the fact.



The absurdity of this charade is that Israel is negotiating about the control of a terminal when it already voluntarily and unilaterally relinquished all control of the terminal. For once, it is hard not to be on the Palestinians' side in the argument.


The absurdity of Israel's position at the negotiations over the Rafah terminal is exacerbated by the fact that the talks themselves are irrelevant. Even if Israel received all its wishes in these negotiations, Israeli control over the Rafah terminal would do nothing to seal the border with Egypt.


That border remains hopelessly breached along the abandoned Philadelphi Corridor which links Palestinian Rafah with Egyptian Rafah.


While Israel has no standing any longer regarding Gaza's international land links to Egypt, it most certainly has the right to assert its own authority regarding Gaza's border with Israel and through Israel to Judea and Samaria. But here, bowing to easily surmountable international pressure, Israel is relinquishing its sovereign rights to control its own borders and, in so acting, it is relinquishing its national security.


To date, Israel has agreed to enable convoys of private vehicles, trucks and buses to travel between Gaza and Judea and Samaria on a daily basis. It has agreed that the cargo and persons traveling in these convoys will undergo minimal security checks before traveling. That is, Israel has relinquished its control over movement between Gaza and Judea and Samaria. Cargo traffic from Gaza to Israeli ports is similarly to be enabled with minimal Israeli fuss. Given the vast increase in terror capabilities in Gaza, Israel's agreement to enable free passage between Gaza and Judea and Samaria – and on a level it has not allowed since the establishment of the PA in 1994 – is simply insane.



The fact that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been publicly pressuring Israel to enable such traffic is an indication that on the most basic level, the US has abandoned its pledge to work to ensure Israel's security.


And so we watch mouth agape at this stunning array of delusion and derangement. The saddest thing about watching our government and the Americans combining forces to strengthen our enemies for their next round of war is that there is no telling how many of us will be murdered before we replace them with sane leaders or events force them to regain control of their faculties.  


Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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