Op-Ed: Gaza - Israel Takes off the Gloves
Israel’s disastrous unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005 faces possible reversal with the Israeli army’s re-entry into Gaza in July 2014.
Israel’s decision to take the gloves off came after 1381 rockets had been indiscriminately fired from Gaza into Israeli population centers over a period of ten days with Hamas then rejecting a ceasefire proposed by Egypt – but accepted by Israel.
An attempted Hamas raid from the sea - caught on video during this criminal rocket bombardment - had reached Israel's Zikim Beach - culminating in five Hamas terrorists being killed and one Israeli soldier wounded.
“Earlier today, the IDF identified around 13 Palestinians who had infiltrated Israel through a tunnel dug from Gaza. The tunnel began in the southern Gaza Strip and its exit was near Kibbutz Sufa in Israel. The terrorists were heavily armed with RPGs and assault rifles and were prepared to carry out a massacre. The IDF foiled their attack, saving countless Israeli lives.”
Until a cease fire is inevitably declared - Israel is now proceeding to destroy the network of tunnels running under Gaza – capturing or immobilizing the large number of rockets and armaments stored in Gaza - and killing any terrorists attacking them from the myriad number of terrorist groups operating in Gaza.
What will happen when the hostilities cease?
Israel cannot possibly return to the situation that has prevailed since Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza – that has seen 11000 rockets and missiles indiscriminately fired into Israeli civilian areas and triggered two Israeli incursions into Gaza in 2008 and 2012.
Amid the current turmoil enveloping Gaza - one pertinent question from the 2005 disengagement remains unanswered:
Were the 8000 Jews “expelled” or were they “evacuated” from Gaza and Northern Samaria as a result of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal?
The answer has a vital bearing on determining who gets sovereignty of those areas.
The language used by Israel's government in 2004/2005 spoke of "evacuation" and “disengagement” - whilst an outraged opposition spoke of "expulsion".
"Evacuation" and “disengagement” indicate a temporary uprooting with the intention of returning when the emergency giving rise to the evacuation has subsided.
"Expulsion" on the other hand indicates a situation of permanent and irreversible departure.
Prime Minister Sharon addressing the nation said on 15 August 2005:
“The day has arrived. We are beginning the most difficult and painful step of all – evacuating our communities from the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria.”
But he also said in the same breath:
“Gaza cannot be held onto forever. Over one million Palestinians live there, and they double their numbers with every generation. They live in incredibly cramped refugee camps, in poverty and squalor, in hotbeds of ever-increasing hatred, with no hope whatsoever on the horizon.
It is out of strength and not weakness that we are taking this step. We tried to reach agreements with the Palestinians which would move the two peoples towards the path of peace. These were crushed against a wall of hatred and fanaticism.
The unilateral Disengagement Plan, which I announced approximately two years ago, is the Israeli answer to this reality. This Plan is good for Israel in any future scenario. We are reducing the day-to-day friction and its victims on both sides. The IDF will redeploy on defensive lines behind the Security Fence. Those who continue to fight us will meet the full force of the IDF and the security forces.
Now the Palestinians bear the burden of proof. They must fight terror organizations, dismantle its infrastructure and show sincere intentions of peace in order to sit with us at the negotiating table.
The world awaits the Palestinian response – a hand offered in peace or continued terrorist fire. To a hand offered in peace, we will respond with an olive branch. But if they choose fire, we will respond with fire, more severe than ever.”
Sharon never expressly articulated whether Israel still maintained its claim to sovereignty in those areas from which it was withdrawing Jewish communities.
Based on the use of the words "evacuation" and “Disengagement Plan” - it would appear that Sharon was not ceding Israel’s claims to sovereignty in international law under the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter.
As I wrote in August 2005:
“One can envisage an Israeli return to Gaza and northern Samaria, should the Palestinians carry out their threats to continue the armed struggle all the way to Jerusalem. Israel's response could be disastrous for the Palestinians and wipe out whatever political or territorial gains they may make as a result of Israel's initial withdrawal…
By continuing to use the word "evacuation" to describe its actions, Israel seems to be making it very clear that if the Palestinians don't embark on the Road Map, and instead continue to use violence and incitement to achieve their goal of an independent state, the removal of the Jewish communities will be only temporary. Israel will return in force and claim sovereignty of such parts of the areas vacated as it deems in its national interest.”
Jews expelled from the 'West Bank' in 1948 by six invading Arab armies returned there in 1967. Jews withdrawn from Gaza in 2005 may well seek to return there in 2014.
The current war of rockets and tunnels seems set to be replaced with an equally confrontational labyrinthine war of words.