Op-Ed: Gaza, A Tragedy of Errors
Dr. Mordechai KedarDr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at...
Every organization, like every group, has goals and objectives, and every group organizes its objectives according to its own priorities, with these objectives and their order of importance serving to reflect the group's culture. Different groups have different objectives and different priorities, and it is the interaction between groups that exposes the objectives of each of them as well as their individual priorities and cultures.
Disputes between groups occur when their goals are diametrically opposed.
For example, the Jewish people living in Israel see the Land of Israel as their land and their primary goal is to survive there forever, while the so-called (Pan) Arab Nation has chosen destroying Israel as one of its goals, but not as the chief one. The reason that Israel still survives in the Middle East is that its destruction –for the time being – is not the main thrust of the Arab Nation, which has not united in an attempt to destroy her.
Peace between parties in conflict arrives when one of them, or both, changes its opposing goals or priorities.
When Egypt and Jordan defined themselves as independent from the Arab Nation (supposing there really is a united Arab entity) and its primary goals, and when the rulers of these countries understood that the meta-goal of eliminating Israel is not achievable, they further changed their order of priorities, placing economic issues in higher priority - and making peace with Israel.
Did the change filter down to the general population? – That is a different question, which has no clearcut answer.
Sometimes one group temporarily changes its priorities for a short period due to other concerns. A humanitarian catastrophe such as tidal waves and heavy rains that cause flooding can cause the group to cease its jihad against Israel for a while so as to rescue women and children from homes that have been flooded.
Does that mean that the flooding has erased the jihad from its place at the top of the list of priorities? Most definitely not.
Unemployment and famine can also temporarily change the order of priorities, explaining the desire of Gazans to work in Israel. At the moment, they need to make a living and are willing to come to work in Israel, letting the jihad wait for a more opportune time.
Mistakes happen when one group thinks that the rival group has permanently changed its priorities, when it is actually only pretending to do so, or has done so temporarily. This is the major error of those who pushed for the Oslo process, among them Israelis, Europeans and Americans. Someone bamboozled them into thinking that the artificial new group, self-defined as "Palestinians", had left the Arab Nation and adopted objectives and priorities that differ from those of the Arab Nation.
Because the Israeli Arabs worked in Israel from 1967, some, both in and out of Israel, believed that they had separated themselves from the Arab Nation and erased the destruction of Israel from their culture and objectives.
This is also the reason that the tired souls among us - and in the world - make sure to call them "Palestinians" and not "Arabs" – not only because they want to create a new nation, but in order to allow for a new culture that does not include the meta-objective of the Arab and Islamic Nation, destroying Israel.
The concept of a New Middle East that spawned the Oslo Accords was based on the premise that the Arab Nation changed its priorities, erased destroying Israel from the top of its list of priorities, and has replaced it with welfare, development, education and health. The Palestinians, according to this concept, have changed their priorities, erased the destruction of Israel and replaced it with the state, economy and welfare.
Reality was more complex: Hamas appeared on the stage in 1987 and did not hide its goals and priorities.In addition, there was Yasser Arafat searching for a way to bring a Trojan horse, that is Arab military forces, into the land of Israel, with some naïve Israelis believing that the PLO would "take care of Hamas without a Bagatz or Betselem (without having to obey the courts and face hostile NGO's) ".
They thought that Arafat was telling the truth and fell right into his trap, despite it being obvious that he had no intention of changing his objectives and priorities. He only changed his way of speaking, in order to be able to continue with his nefarious plans.
In 2004, the blood-soaked Second Intifada was beginning to recede. Israelis were weary and exhausted from the Hamas, Islamic Jihad and PLO terror attacks and the more than 1000 victims killed in them. Many Israelis searched for a solution and buliding on the foundation of this national depression, then PM Ariel Sharon decided to leave Gaza unilaterally.
The decision was greeted with approval not only by the left, but also in the political center and even to its right. Many people felt that the expulsion of residents from the Katif Bloc was a fair price for disengaging from Gaza. Many Israelis expected the PLO to establish normal life in Gaza and that it would control Hamas and other terror groups because of its interest in establishing a strong entity that could eventually become a state. This opinion ruled in Sharon's government and he was party to it. On June 6, 2004, the government met to discuss the plans for the "Disengagement" and in Decision no. 1996 of that date, wrote:
"…The goal of the plan (the Disengagement, M,.K.) is to bring about an improved political, secure, economic and demographic situation. In any future permanent agreement, there will be no Israeli settlements in Gaza. The state of Israel supports the efforts of the United States, in conjunction with the
This [Oslo] agreement is a clear expression of the self-delusion that Israel convinced itself was true...
international community, to advance the progress of reforms, establishment of institutions and economic improvement for the welfare of he Palestinian civilians, so that a new Palestinian leadership will arise and prove itself able to fulfill its commitments as expressed in the Roadmap.
"Leaving Gaza should serve to minimize friction with the Palestinian population. Bringing the plan to fruition will nullify the claim that Israel is responsible for the Palestinians in Gaza… Israel will supervise the encircling border of the land in Gaza, it will have sole control of the air space over the area and will maintain a naval presence in the sea bordering Gaza.
"Gaza will be demilitarized except for those weapons permitted in the agreements reached by both sides. The state of Israel retains the right to self defense, including preventive measures as well as responding with the use of force against threats that may develop from Gaza…"
This agreement is a clear expression of the self-delusion that Israel convinced itself was true: a demilitarized Gaza, new leadership, new priorities (establishment of institutions and improvement of the economy and citizen's welfare), and the PLO's ability to control Gaza in the long term.
There were voices that warned against a Hamas takeover after the "Disengagement". As the date for leaving Gaza approached, the Institute for National Security held several sessions on possible scenarios. In the discussion that took place on July 5, 2005, over a month before the retreat from the Katif bloc and the expulsion of its residents, one of the participants brought up the possibility that Hamas would take over Gaza.
One of the experts present, a man with a doctorate who published a book on the Palestinians, claimed that "Gaza is the diamond in the crown of the PLO" and therefore "the PLO will fight Hamas until the last drop of its blood.",
The facts turned out to be quite different.
After the expulsion from the Katif Bloc and as a resul tof it, Hamas gained a majority in the Legislative Council in the January 2006 elections, and succeeded in a violent takeover of Gaza in June 2007. At that point in time, there were still those in Israel who believed that Hamas is a "rational player" whose goal is the establishment of a state, institutions, a viable economy and the "good life". This assumption was based on the premise that our goals and objectives are the same as those of the PLO - a state, a working economy, the "good life" – and that their order of priorities match ours.
The mistake those believers made stemmed from the fact that the Hamas goals and priorities stayed the same as they had been. At the top of their list they had destroying Israel and the jihad against her, with all the other objectives occupying lower spots. This egregious error is what caused Israel not to act with the required forcefulness immediately against the smuggling tunnels from Sinai to Gaza which were used to transfer rockets from the Sinai to Gaza, turning it into the second largest rocket stockpile in the area, second only to that of the Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Another problem that makes a credible ceasefire difficult to achieve is the fact that Hamas is not one unified, cohesive group, so that even if what is termed the "political echelons" want to reach a ceasefire in order to take a breather and prepare for the next round, those who launch the rockets do not necessarily heed the "political echelons" and continue launching missiles and rockets towards civilian communities in Israel. These rocket launchers refuse to change their priorities, even temporarily.
The dead and wounded, the suffering of the population and destruction of infrastructure are very low on the priorities list of the Jihadists and they are not willing to change that order despite the people's suffering. They even take advantage of that suffering to fight a political, legal and media war with Israel.
The Gazan tragedy is first and foremost the result of its transformation into a base for jihad against Israel, but also a result of Israeli mistakes – and those of Europe and the United States, who assumed that their goals and priorities are those of the PLO members, Hamasniks and Jihadists.
It is crucial that the present reality serve to open everyone's eyes to the truth, that it is understood that the Middle East has its own priorities and objectives – quite unlike those of the West – and that in this part of the world the only survivors are those who cannot be defeated.
Proper government, a viable economy, health, education and welfare are far less important than the main objective – destroying Israel.
Although hard to achieve, I would like to believe that the day will come when the Israelis and their friends in the world will actually understand the bitter reality of the Middle East and Israel's resulting challenge - survival in this part of the world, whose culture posits that human life, welfare, economics, health, development and education occupy a different and much lower place than they do in the West. Here, near us, there are several meta-objectives that are much higher up on the list than we and the West suppose, and at their head stand the elimination of Israel and the hegemony of Islam.