This week the IDF pulled out from the Philadelphi Corridor after only searching some 10% of the 15 kilometer long band that separates between Egyptian Sinai and the Gaza Strip.
The soldiers weren’t withdrawn because they failed to find anything in the 1.5 kilometer long area they checked. They stopped the operation despite the shockingly large number of smuggling tunnels they unearthed.
One would like to think that the IDF’s current nickel and dime approach to the Gaza Strip security challenge is just a very temporary stalling tactic as battle plans are finalized.
But I fear that this is not the case.
It would appear that the current pace reflects the civilians at the helm rather than any inherent limitations in the IDF itself.
There are a number of factors contributing to the situation:
Defense Minister Peretz has always practiced a “speak loudly and carry a small stick” approach in the Gaza Strip. Abandoning this policy now in the Gaza Strip might be interpreted as an indication that Yisrael Beiteinu has more influence on Government policy than Mr. Peretz and his Labor Party (Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Leiberman is labeled “extreme right” though he wants to ultimately hand over most of the West Bank as well as portions of pre-1967 Israel to Jordanian control).
An effective operation would require retaking and widening the Philadelphi Corridor to facilitate long term control of the area. But an ongoing IDF presence in the Philadelphi Corridor is seen by those who advocated full retreat from Gaza as a move that would forfeit the international support Israel supposedly enjoys as a result of the retreat.
The Hamas-Fatah conflict could boil over with Israel benefiting as the rival Palestinian groups squander their resources fighting each other. A major IDF campaign, the argument goes, would cause Hamas and Fatah to temporarily set aside their differences. But this line of reasoning ignores the sheer size of the armed Palestinian forces involved. These rival groups could kill and wound many hundreds of their fellow Palestinians without it putting a dent in their force levels. And as long as the Philadelphi Corridor is abandoned the Palestinians can readily replace any weapons and ammunition expended
Can the foot dragging continue ad infinitum?
This isn’t a static situation. Israel isn’t the only one moving pieces on the board.
Israel’s choice is not between war and peace because conflict is inevitable.
Instead the question is if Israel acts now while it still has the upper hand or instead allows the Palestinians to further erode the Jewish State’s edge so that the cost of the battle – when it ultimately transpires – will be magnitudes greater.
Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(Mail POB 982 Kfar Sava) Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-7255730
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