The siege of Gaza has failed
The situation that arose once the Egypt-Gaza border was flung wide open has apparently not yet penetrated Israeli consciousness.
While politicians and the media are waiting with bated breath for publication of the Winograd report on the Second Lebanon War, a new situation is taking shape on the Egyptian border that might eventually result in a new investigative committee. The diplomatic and security situation that arose on the Israeli-Egyptian border once the Egypt-Gaza border was flung wide open has apparently not yet penetrated the Israeli consciousness. But it is time to start asking pointed questions about the events of this week instead of about those of July 2006.
The border with Egypt was breached in a single moment, with no warning. It is impossible to refrain from asking whether any of our decision makers, or any of those who whisper in their ears, foresaw this scenario and prepared for it. When Vice Premier Haim Ramon boasts of the impressive decision-making process that preceded last fall's military operation in Syria, his words sound bizarre in light of what is happening in the South.
While hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are streaming into Egyptian Rafah and Hosni Mubarak is having trouble reestablishing the border, while Hamas has succeeded in ending the siege of Gaza via a well-planned operation and simultaneously won the sympathy of the world, which has forgotten the rain of Qassam rockets on Sderot, Israel is entrenching itself in positions that look outdated.
The prime minister speaks about the need to continue the closure on Gaza, and the cabinet voices its "disappointment" with Egypt - as if there were ever any chance that the Egyptians would work to protect Israeli interests along the Philadelphi route instead of thinking first of all of their own interests. The failure of the siege of Gaza, which the government declared only a week ago to be "bearing fruit," and especially the fear that this failure will lead to a conflict with Egypt, requires the government to pull itself together and prove that it has been graced with the ability to solve crises and to lead, not merely to offer endless excuses for its leadership during previous crises.
As hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were streaming into Sinai by car and making a mockery of Israel's policy in Gaza, the prime minister gave a speech at the Herzliya Conference that sounded disconnected from reality. There is little point in extolling the quiet on the northern border when a diplomatic and security crisis for which Israel has no solution is taking place in the South. The Qassam fire is continuing, the policy of sanctions on Gaza has collapsed and Hamas is growing stronger politically, militarily and diplomatically. It is clear to everyone that reestablishing the border along the Philadelphi route will be impossible without its consent. The confusion that characterized official Israeli responses to the international media shows that the developments in the Gaza Strip took the government completely by surprise.
In his speech, Ehud Olmert declared: "Mistakes were made; there were failures. But in addition, lessons were learned, mistakes were corrected, modes of behavior were changed and, above all, the decisions we have made since then have led to greater security, greater calm and greater deterrence than there had been for many years." Olmert was referring to the Winograd report. But he categorically ignored the fact that what was happening in the South completely contradicts his statements. If that is what learning lessons looks like, if that is what deterrence means, the Olmert government has precious little to boast about.