Gaza chaos not surprising


The Gaza—Egyptian border breakdown  that has resulted in increased arms smuggling, warfare between rival Palestinian factions and violent chaos in general, though 'worrisome to Jerusalem,' are not unexpected to Ariel Sharon and the IDF.

The withdrawal of Israeli settlements from Gaza was a sound strategic move  by Sharon to permit consolidation of Israel's defensive perimeter, and to remove 8,000—plus Israeli citizens from a sea of 1.3 million Palestinians.  The withdrawal challenged the Palestinians to take control of their own destiny in a peaceful manner.  And if they failed, as seems to be the case, it created more freedom of action for the IDF by removing Israel's ready—made hostage population.

The tragedy instigated by the terror leadership of the Palestinians does present problems to the security of Israel, but it is now in a position to better control the entire Gaza Strip.  In fact, some of the problems expressed by Ze'ev Schiff in the Haaretz article are either misplaced or are actually falling in line with Sharon's maneuver.

For example, Schiff's argument to wait and see if the Egyptian force is effective before the IDF withdrew is specious.  Among the Arab armies of the world, Egypt's is one of the best.  Its officers have benefited from over 25 years of advanced US military schooling and decades of US—sponsored Bright Star exercises.  In 1973, the Egyptian Army conducted one of the most operationally savvy attacks in modern history when they successfully assaulted across the Suez Canal and breached the Bar—Lev line.  As Schiff says, Egypt evaded their responsibility in protecting the border, but their efficacy is not in doubt.

The concern that short range missiles can be smuggled in and used to target Israeli cities such as Ashkelon is not new.  Terrorists had this capability already; but what is different now is that the IDF can retaliate in strength without fear of killing its own people.  It is also no surprise that Rafah is a key chokepoint for trafficking of arms, and is the favored infiltration route of terrorists.  Most of the Jewish settlements were concentrated around the towns of Rafah and Khan Yunis, which are key terrain for the entire Gaza salient.  Again, Sharon's withdrawal permits the IDF to conduct decisive operations against these two towns to kill terrorists and to stop the flow of arms and people into the strip.

The infighting and wanton destruction in the strip is certainly no shock to the Mossad and the IDF; but perhaps the withdrawal simply hastened the process.  Sharon and the IDF probably concluded that a swift resolution was better than a continuation of the status quo.  No one knows for sure how this entire situation will play out, but Israel is now in a much stronger position to respond militarily.  It's too early for the pessimists to pronounce judgment.

Doug Hanson  09—20—05