Outgoing Israeli government bargains away military success in Gaza

All too quickly Israel’s three war leaders – prime minister Ehud Olmert, defense minister Ehud Barak and foreign minister Tzipi Livni – forgot the goals they set for the three-week military offensive launched against Hamas on Dec. 27, 2008: That Operation Cast Lead would not halt until security prevailed in southern Israel, that the eight-year Palestinian missile offensive be brought to an end and that Hamas never be allowed to rearm for a fresh assault of terror.
Six weeks later, the Islamists terrorists are reaping the spoils of a war they lost.
Jerusalem is feeding Egyptian mediators with concession after concession to keep Hamas at the negotiating table in Cairo and talking about a long-term truce. Frustrated Israeli commanders warn their victory is being traded to buy undreamed-of gains for Hamas, such as the creeping recognition of the Palestinian Islamist group as the Gaza Strip’s legitimate ruling power and acceptance of the enclave’s status as a forward Iranian base on Israel’s southern border. The deal on the table in Cairo would moreover lead to perpetuating the separation between the pro-Western West Bank and the pro-Iranian Gaza Strip, generating a fixed impediment to any discussion of a potential Palestinian state.
Saturday, Feb. 7, defense minister Barak Hamas granted safe passage to Hamas leader Mahmoud A-Zahar to come out of hiding in Gaza for the first time since the hostilities began. He flew to Cairo and on to Damascus to deal with the release of the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit, held since he was kidnapped in 2006. By this concession, Barak gave Tehran, from which Hamas-Damascus takes direct orders, the last word on all these transactions.
Barak is believed to have promised Egypt that other Hamas leaders may also safely emerge from their bunkers as long as the Cairo negotiations continue, even though Hamas has made no commitments of any kind and continues to shoot missiles into Israel as well as smuggling arms.
As Israel’s general election looms Tuesday, Feb. 10, Barak, who leads the Labor party, and his colleagues are disseminating pink clouds of optimism while pursuing steps that reverse the goals of Operation Cast Lead: They are solidifying Hamas’ strength and its grip on the Gaza Strip for years to come.
debkafile‘s military sources count eight areas in which the outgoing government is relinquishing assets to Hamas:
1. Military attacks on Palestinian military targets have been suspended in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has offered nothing in return except for an oral undertaking to Egypt to try and keep the level of missile fire down. The Israeli air force responds to each salvo by bombing empty Palestinian buildings and sand dunes.
2. Israel has suspended targeted strikes against Hamas leaders and commanders according to an understanding with Cairo.
3. According to another understanding, Israel will allow an increasing number of supply trucks and types of freights to enter the Gaza crossings daily.
This is a virtual surrender to Hamas’ demands for fully opened crossings (translation: end of Israel’s embargo of the Gaza Strip). Hamas has not been held to any guarantee for ending its smuggling of arms – or any other quid pro quo.
4. Israel has also promised Egypt to gradually lift its naval blockade of Gaza.
5. Jerusalem has given ground on its initial demand to remove Hamas from the crossings and pass them to Palestinian Authority control. The deal emerging is for foreign monitors to be posted on those crossings and report to Hamas. This is another form of Israeli recognition of the Palestinian extremists’ rule of the Gaza Strip and its control of Israel’s southwestern frontier.
If approved, it would also perpetuate the divide between the pro-Iranian entity in the Gaza Strip ruled by Hamas and the pro-Western territory of the West Bank under the control of its rival, Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, which Hamas kicked out of the Gaza Strip in 2007
Israeli military sources warn that the eventual upshot of these Israeli concessions will be the collapse of Abbas’ rule. Hamas will be able to use the Gaza Strip as a jumping-off base for taking over the West Bank as well.
It is a matter Israeli national policy to withhold recognition from the Palestinian Hamas – which the US and European Union also list as a terrorist organization for its commitment to violence and Israel’s destruction. Yet, by knuckling under on this point, Israeli authorities will find themselves engaging Hamas officials willy-nilly in the day-to-day management of the shared border crossings.
6. Many of the soldiers who took part in the Gaza offensive declared that their mission was unfinished because Gilead Shalit remained in captivity. Instead of using its military feat to improve the chances for his release, Israel has allowed itself to be cornered here too. Hamas has upped its demand for the release of 1,000 jailed Palestinian terrorists including convicted multiple murderers of the Fatah, Tanzim, Popular Front and Hamas, which Israel was inclined to accept. Now the price has gone up to 1,250 inmates, all of whom are to be released at the Gaza crossings. The West Bank residents will be sent home later.
7. Israel has agreed to leave the monitoring of Hamas’ arms smuggling in Egypt’s hands, although Cairo’s past record is notoriously wanting. For years, Egyptian police looked the other way as Hamas imported massive quantities of weapons through Sinai.
8. Not by a single word is Hamas required to dismantle its armed strength. Israel is therefore seen to be accepting the presence of an armed terrorist force on its border.

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