The Israeli government will need to make political compromises in order to reach a security arrangement that will ensure the end of rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, former IDF Maj. Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland told Haaretz on Sunday.
“Israel’s bottom line interest toward Gaza is a security issue – that they won’t fire at us,” said Eiland, who also served as the head of Israel’s National Security Council. “Consequently, if we can reach an arrangement, it’s preferable to give ground on certain political issues in exchange for a better security arrangement.”
This sort of agreement would include “a mutual cease-fire and an Egyptian guarantee of not just quiet, but also that no weapons will enter Gaza,” Eiland said, adding that “this arrangement would be guaranteed by additional parties, for example, Qatar and Turkey.”
Among the political compromises that could be made in exchange for such a security arrangement, Eiland listed lifting the naval blockade of Gaza “so that the European Union member countries could send under supervision dinghies into Gaza’s port.”
Eiland also suggested that Israel recognize Gaza as a state under Hamas’ rule. “This is a country a ruled by an elected government and I expect that this government will act in a responsible manner, like a state would,” Eiland said.
“It’s not enough to say ‘Hamas will surrender,’” Eiland continued. “We need to give something, if not to Hamas, then to others. It’s impossible to reach a point where one side will surrender. Sometimes we become captive to slogans like ‘We won’t talk with Hamas.’ I say the opposite. It’s a fact that Hamas rules Gaza and that Gaza is a state. We need to recognize this and utilize the advantages this situation presents.”
He added that “government spokesmen say the goal of the operation is to halt the fire [from Gaza], but it isn’t clear that they are willing to pay a heavy price [to achieve this goal].”
A security agreement “also depends on Egypt, Turkey and Qatar. I hope they prefer not to see an escalation and will take concrete steps to ensure this doesn’t happen,” Eiland pointed out.
Regarding the necessity of a ground incursion into Gaza, the former head of the National Security Council told Haaretz that such a step was not necessary.
“We need to ask what our goal is,” said Eiland. “If the goal is to reach a situation in which Hamas will no longer fire [rockets], then there’s no need for a ground incursion. Deterrence can be achieved without a ground operation, as long as the air operation hasn’t exhausted itself.”
A ground operation has its own limitations, Eiland said, including the danger that soldiers will be killed during the operation, the possible harm to civilians in Gaza and the risk of entering into prolonged fighting.