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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Doing something about Gaza

 Last update - 02:50 22/02/2008       
Who is pressuring Gaza?
By Haaretz Editorial
Two news reports, that complemented one another, on the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip were published yesterday. Haaretz reported there is growing international criticism - in Europe, Russia, the United Nations and even in the American administration - of Israel's policy toward the Gaza Strip. Al-Hayat reported that during a recent visit to Turkey, Defense Minister Ehud Barak considered the possibility of establishing a multinational force to oversee the situation in the Gaza Strip.
These are two sides of the same coin. The situation on the two sides of the Gaza fence is unbearable, and a move to alter this situation using force may have unacceptable results. Israel can no longer explain to itself that it has to become reconciled to the shooting of rockets and mortars against its communities. A responsible government is required, at the end of the day, to be accountable to its citizens who are under attack. Its justifications for the failings, however reasonable they may be, may result in its rejection.
The government, which finds itself stuck between the possibility of sustaining bloody attacks on the residents of the western Negev, and the possibility of a large-scale military operation, which will be costly and will last a long time, is searching for a middle road, in the form of ground and air attacks against Qassam rocket crews, militants and armed Palestinians threatening to attack Israel or endangering IDF forces. Another stage, which failed, was pressure on the civilian-economic front: harming the welfare of the residents of the Gaza Strip, which is already quite fragile. This poses the problem of collective punishment, which is both immoral and ineffective. The Hamas response - breaching the wall separating Rafah and Egypt - only complicated the relationship between Jerusalem and Cairo, and increased the likelihood of terrorism spilling into the Negev through Sinai.
It may be exaggerated to describe the attitude of the international community as "pressure." The expression of concern by low and mid-level officials, in whispers through cables, is still not pressure. So long as there is no president in the White House who threatens to suspend military aid to Israel, or avoids vetoing a Security Council resolution unfavorable to Israel, it is too much to talk about pressure being applied on Israel.
But behind the words there are also no actions, and while the concern is genuine and justified, it is necessary that it influence the Israeli decision makers, both in terms of reasoning and feelings.
To this is added the multinational force idea. Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi have sent out a clear message in recent weeks: they are not excited about a large-scale operation in southern and northern Gaza, but the operation is nearing because the Qassam terror is not coming to an end.
The duration of the operation will depend on the political and security arrangements that will be reached at its completion - the transferring of responsibility for the territory from which the IDF will withdraw following the completion of its mission. The UN and NATO will not send units to the Philadelphi Route. Moderate Muslim countries, who are not hostile to Israel - such as Turkey, Jordan, Malaysia and Qatar - are good candidates for such a force.
The idea will not be enthusiastically welcomed by all; but whoever wants to avoid the need for such international intervention, the need for an IDF offensive, and the suffering of the Palestinian population - must pressure Hamas to put an end to the shooting that is causing all this.

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