Lebanon's Lessons Have Not Been Learned

A new order is what this government wants to impose, to wipe out the Hamas government and install Abu Mazen as Israel's business manager in the territories.

Shlomo Argov is in Gaza and his name is Gilad Shalit. Argov was the Israeli ambassador in London when, 24 years ago this month, a terrorist from the Abu Nidal gang shot him in the head. Within 48 hours of him being wounded, an 18-year-long saga called "Operation Peace for Galilee" began. As far as Israel was concerned, Ariel Sharon admitted, the attack against Argov was the detonator that had been waiting to ignite the great flame. Gilad Shalit has not set off the same mad mechanism that broke out 24 years ago, a madness that has been waiting for some months now to explode once again.

It seems that getting Shalit home safely is no longer the main goal, because the mechanism has been set off; it is already riding into the streets of Gaza, it has a kidnap victim who has ignited a chain reaction and the mechanism doesn't need more than that. Now is the time to create a new order in Lebanon - sorry, Gaza. Because someone has to pay for the lost honor, the snafu, that Hamas was elected to rule, that Amir Peretz is defense minister, for the Qassams, the Palestinian mockery of the disengagement plan and for the fence around Gaza. In short, it was a strategic kidnapping. Now all we have to do is let the IDF win.

The name given to this hormonal outburst is "Summer Rains" - something else that is abnormal in the region. Summer rains; it's certainly less successful than the codename the Palestinians gave to their attack: "Smashed illusion." The signs of the disease are already evident - insignificant to start with, but symptomatic nonetheless. First destroy the power station and impose a blackout on Gaza and then, at night, drop leaflets on the population. And how are they supposed to read the Israeli letter in the dark? Amass tanks and armored personnel carriers, which have zero capability of fighting in the narrow alleys of Gaza, and at the same time, fly noisily over Bashar Assad's palace. That's logical. After all, the idea is to frighten people, both those considered influential over the leaders of the foreign-based Hamas, as well as the local leadership by making the terrified local population rise up against it. But there's no wait for the effect of the intimidation. Instead, there's a rush to kidnap a few dozen politicians, of the type who were supposed to get frightened, and lock them up.

This is what is done by a country that has only just begun a course on how to run an occupation, or by a country that totally failed the course. The trick has been tried so many times, in Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, Chechnya, Afghanistan and dozens of other places that it is impossible to summon up any forgiveness for its repetition. Nowhere did these steps yield the desired results. The local leadership was only strengthened, the terror groups became legitimate in the eyes of the public, and the more the population suffered, the more they supported the acts of terror.

If in Lebanon the population still had something to lose, in the Gaza Strip, the population is already hardened. But now Israel has outdone itself. It kidnapped most of the Hamas leadership and jailed them. Not that it hasn't been tried before - with the kidnappings of Lebanese citizens who were meant to be bargaining cards, and mostly returned with nothing gained. Or maybe the negotiating arrests are only the first stage and Israel will now expel them, perhaps to Marjayoun, where they originally flourished and turned into leaders in Yitzhak Rabin's day. Or maybe to Eritrea, where Herut's leaders were nurtured. Or maybe they'll be dropped into Syria. After all we said Summer Rains, something abnormal here. And then what? Will someone pop out of the Rafah tunnels and agree to negotiate with Israel over the release of Gilad Shalit?

What does it matter; Shalit has finished his role. The tactics are done, now we've moved to strategy. A new order is what this government wants to impose, to wipe out the Hamas government and install Abu Mazen as Israel's business manager in the territories. But carefully, anyone who attributes any strategic thinking to this government can't also argue that there is method to the madness. They obviously know what they are doing. After all, they're the government, aren't they?