With Hamas apparently on the verge of taking over Gaza, former IDF Generals are concerned that the area will turn into a Hizbullah-like "Hamastan" within reach of large parts of Israel.
IDF Gaza Formation sources, quoted anonymously on the NRG-Maariv Hebrew news site, say that if Israel had listened to ex-Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon before the Disengagement, Israel might not now be facing such a dangerous situation in Gaza and the Negev. Yaalon warned at the time that the unilateral withdrawal would empower and give a "supportive tail wind" to Gaza terrorists. Statements of this nature cost Yaalon his job, it is generally believed; then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon hired Gen. Dan Halutz to carry out the withdrawal/expulsion for him instead. Halutz later resigned after his failure in running the Second Lebanon War.
"What we are seeing now in Gaza," Gen. Yaalon now says, "is just the first step. Hamas is taking over... Our entry into Gaza is inevitable; no one else will do it for us. There are many questions and dilemmas, of course, but the writing is already on the wall. We must enter before the threat reaches Ashdod and elsewhere."
Yaalon says he is aware of the dangers and price that a ground entry into Gaza will cost, "but that's the job of the army; there is no alternative other than a broad ground operation against the terror infrastructures."
Former IDF Intelligence Deputy Chief Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror is even more abrupt: "Israel must be willing to enter Gaza and remain there for years," he told Ynet.
While Fatah was "busy stealing public monies," Amidror feels, Hamas was getting stronger militarily. Hamas is now set to take over Gaza, "turning Gaza into Hamastan like Hizbullah in Lebanon, with Iranian and Al-Qaeda elements. We will have a full-fledged terrorist state on our borders. This will affect not only Sderot, but soon Kiryat Gat and Ashdod as well, and in the long run, rockets will even be directed at Haifa."
Like Yaalon, Amidror too blames the Disengagement: "Israel's irresponsible departure from Gaza enabled Hamas to get stronger with tremendous quantities of explosives, weapons, training, money and more."
Sixteen months ago, in February 2006, ex-Chief of Staff Yaalon summed up the problem caused by Ariel Sharon's unilateral withdrawal:
"We wanted to disengage ourselves from any connection with and responsibility for Gaza - but this meant one of two things: Either we continue to be responsible for the borders, or we do not. If we continue to supervise the borders, the international community would regard us as being responsible for what goes on inside Gaza; this cannot be called disengagement. On the other hand, if we agree not to supervise the borders and who and what passes through, while on the Palestinian side there is no responsible and effective leadership - this would be dangerous, leading to Gaza becoming Hamastan, Hizbullahstan and Al-Qaedastan. I therefore recommended that we not give up our control and presence on the Philadelphi Route between southern Gaza and Sinai... I never considered the Egyptians an effective alternative."Vilnai Takes Dovish Approach
Former Deputy Chief of Staff Matan Vilnai, a Labor MK, is still optimistic that things will work out: "The Egyptians are definitely our allies in the war against terrorism in Gaza. They can stop the smuggling of weapons into Gaza..."
Vilnai does not feel that massive military force is necessary: "We must use our military force smartly, together with diplomatic moves vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority. We are from 'war' [Israel against the PA]; all talk of an IDF ground entry is unnecessary... We must resume targeted killings, air strikes, and special forces in Gaza against those who try to use terrorism against us..."
Meanwhile, there is talk of bringing United Nations troops into Gaza to keep the peace, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saying Wednesday that the Security Council was considering this option. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and the far-left Meretz party have all recently expressed support for an international patrolling force in Gaza, while Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman says NATO troops should be deployed there.
It won't happen, however, if Hamas has anything to do with it. On the eve of its apparent victory over Fatah, Hamas announced today that it opposes an international force, and would relate to such a thing as if it were the "Israeli occupiers."