Israel’s Pullout-out Has Changed Nothing

The Palestinian-Israel war has blown up in force five weeks after Israel evacuated all its civilians from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank – 12 days after pulling its troops out of Gaza and one day after they exited the northern West Bank – as though nothing had changed.
The scenario was not unexpected; it was plotted by Palestinian terror chiefs.
The three Palestinian ticking bombs killed by Israeli troops near Tulkarm Friday Sept. 23 were no more than a pretext for scores of Qassam missiles to start flying from the Gaza Strip at Israeli towns and villages that same night. But that was not the source of the deterioration. It began when Israel failed to fight off Palestinian attacks in the course of the evacuations. That operation was plagued by shooting attacks, roadside bombs, Qassam missiles and grenade attacks on troops pulling out of the Philadelphi border route. Israel’s defense minister and generals promised “zero tolerance” for Palestinian attacks – but sat on their hands.
On the West Bank, the situation went from bad to worse. As Israelis were rooted out of the northern region, Palestinian terrorists regrouped further south undisturbed. They systematically upgraded their gunmen as mortar and missile crews. They laid the foundation for a proactive operational link between Gaza and the West Bank.
Israel’s passivity was most remarked when Palestinian weapons and terrorists flooded into the Gaza Strip from Egyptian Sinai, day after day, from the moment Israeli troops departed on Sept 12. The ordinary Israel has never been told how an enormous pile of war materiel came to be stockpiled in northern Sinai, who paid for it and who stood ready to organize its efficient transfer to waiting hands in Gaza. There is no explanation of why Israel omitted to make Egypt’s liquidation of the lethal stocks a condition for handing over the Philadelphi route to Egyptian border police?
Up to this minute, the border remains wide open for the free passage of terrorists and smugglers.
According to debkafile‘s military sources, this open door enabled the Hamas and Jihad Islami to beef up their manpower and weapons resources by one third. Incredibly, the Palestinian Authority purchased some of the smuggled goods.
The slow-burning terror embers of the last few weeks burst into flame Friday, Sept 23, when two missile-trucks blew up during one of Hamas’ almost daily triumphal “military” parades. The missiles were meant for Israelis, but at least 19 Palestinians were killed including some top Hamas terror chiefs. One was identified as Ahmed Randur, northern Gaza commander. Another 80 people were injured, including children. The presence of Israeli helicopters overhead to stop the hail of Qassam missiles fired earlier against Israeli border locations gave the Hamas a convenient party to blame for its own criminal negligence.
The Palestinian Authority hastened to blame Hamas’ own Qassam missiles for the disaster, fearful that the escalating violence would eliminate its vestigial hold in the Gaza Strip.
The flare-up erupted within hours – with much greater speed and force than even the most pessimistic intelligence experts predicted. It begs the question: why did Israel permit the situation to rocket out of control? Clues may be found in two speeches.
September 15, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon addressed the UN General Assembly without a single mention of the proliferating security problems, lest he mar the presentation of the Israeli evacuations as “an historic feat,” performed by a peace-loving farmer forced to assume the roles of military leader and statesman.
Then, on September 23, defense minister Shaul Mofaz, in a lecture in Tel Aviv, laid bare the Sharon government’s policy guidelines.
He made three points:
1. The most important project after the pull-backs is to build up the Palestinian economy as the means of reducing incentives to engage in terrorism.
2. The Palestinian Authority is geared for a genuine, tough struggle to assert its authority over the Hamas.
3. If the Hamas seizes power through the ballot box, Israel will withdraw its cooperation from Palestinian Authority institutions.
debkafile‘s counter-terror and intelligence sources maintain that all three guidelines are totally unreal, based on nothing more than pious hopes.
Senior military and security officers conversant with Palestinian affairs complain that Mofaz has uncritically embraced the thinking of vice premier Shimon Peres, co-author of the discredited 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, and international coordinator James Wolfensohn. They both argue that material prosperity is the cure-all for terrorism. This philosophy has held Israel’s military back from cracking down on persistent Palestinians provocations – even as they go ahead with diverting construction funds to arms stockpiles in broad daylight instead of slum clearance.
Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority has no intention of tackling the Hamas. Its chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, openly advocates the Islamic radicals’ participation in elections and government.
As for the defense minister’s threat of non-cooperation with a Palestinian government dominated by Hamas, even he cannot ignore the intelligence data affirming that the Hamas does not aspire to seize Palestinian government. It only seeks a 30-35% share and no government portfolios. This is because the jehadist group is comfortable with Abu Mazen and his ministers running government, representing the Palestinians in exchanges with Israel and the United States, and procuring budget financing. Hamas easily pulls the strings from behind stage, its dominance asserted through violence and the threat thereof.
This division of labor worked very well for the Israeli pull-back. Abu Mazen and his interior minister Mohammed Dahlan are persona grata in Washington and Cairo and provided a good front for Hamas interests. As a result, the terrorist groups were not constrained in their smuggling rampage of the last 12 days.
The sentiments expressed by Mofaz are interpreted by Palestinian terror tacticians as meaning that they are getting away with their maneuvers and can continue to advance on their goal of Israel’s destruction without fearing military repercussions.

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