Don't Leave Unfinished Business in Gaza

The IDF is the only army that can oust Hamas. That is, if Israel decides that it should be done.

Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens
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Israeli soldiers inspect a Gaza tunnel.
Israeli soldiers inspect a Gaza tunnel.Credit: IDF Spokesman's Office
Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens

Here’s a nightmare for all Zionists, on the left and on the right. After having uprooted the settlers of Gush Katif and cleared all of the Gaza Strip of a Jewish presence, next in line will be those Jews living in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip, the towns and villages, who will be forced to leave their homes because of the constant rocket and mortar barrages that are being rained down on them by the Hamas terrorists who have taken over the Gaza Strip in the wake of the forcible evacuation of Gush Katif.

Impossible, of course, but only on condition that Hamas is decisively defeated by the IDF. This has yet to happen. If the present operation is abandoned midway, leaving Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip and in possession of thousands of rockets and rocket manufacturing facilities, there will be plenty of unfinished business left behind. Destroying tens of underground tunnels was a great achievement, but it was only a first step. If we stop here we better get ready for another round in the future.

Hamas is in control of the Gaza Strip and is holding the 1.8 million Palestinians living there hostage; the inevitable innocent victims of any moves made by Israel to defend its civilian population from attacks by Hamas. Hamas is not about to give up its control of the Gaza Strip or to surrender its cache of weapons. No offers, whether of a sea port or an airport, or open passage to Israel or to Egypt will induce it give up control or to change its ways. In return for these inducements Hamas says it is prepared to cease its attacks on Israel’s civilian population, at least for the time being. Until the next time.

There is a parallel between what happened in Egypt and what is happening in Gaza. In Egypt, the Moslem Brotherhood, an ideological affiliate of Hamas, came to power in elections that were held after the downfall of Hosni Mubarak. It took the Egyptian army to oust the Moslem Brotherhood from power by force, declare it a terrorist organization and put its leaders on trial.

In Gaza, Hamas, a terrorist organization, was voted into power after Israel abandoned Gush Katif, but there is no one capable of dislodging it from control of the area and its population. The people of Gaza have no army of their own that can confront Hamas and call them to account for the disaster they have visited on them. Hamas has declared itself the army of Gaza.

There is only one army that can oust Hamas; it is the IDF. There are many around the world and in the immediate neighborhood who would like to see Hamas removed from power in Gaza and would be happy to see the IDF do the job, but none other than the IDF will do it. That is, if it is decided that it should be done.

The alternative to not completing the job that was begun a month ago is clear. Some will leave their homes in the south, and those that remain will continue to bear the brunt of Hamas’ terrorist acts. And the IDF will prepare for the next round of fighting. Completing the job is not going to be easy. That is the dilemma that faces the Israeli government.

You don’t have to be a member of the government to sense the temptation facing government ministers to leave the job undone. In the near future, that would mean a respite from the great effort that has been made during the past month. On the other hand, resuming the IDF’s attacks against Hamas involves trials and tribulations that are easy to envisage. The future, as all futures, is difficult to discern. Maybe the pessimistic forecasts regarding Hamas’ behavior will turn out to be exaggerated, and maybe Hamas will in time turn away from terror and become a partner for negotiations. To wait or to act, that is the choice facing the government.

Procrastination is the easy choice. It may well be the wrong choice.

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