Since replacing Ariel Sharon in office last December, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has refused to permit a large-scale IDF incursion into the Gaza Strip. The hundreds of rockets, mortars and missiles that have rendered the Western Negev's population and economy hostage to Palestinian rocket crews could not budge him from his refusal to take the war to the enemy. Indeed, for months he ignored the pleas of residents of Sderot and told the IDF to suffice with artillery fire into empty fields and aerial bombings of terrorists en route to launching rockets.
The fact that Israel's intelligence collection capabilities in Gaza were grievously undermined in the aftermath of last summer's withdrawal; the fact that IDF commanders acknowledge that more weaponry has been brought into Gaza in the past ten months than entered in the previous 38 years, made no impression. Repeated reports of Al Qaida opening shop in Gaza and of Iranian Revolutionary Guards units training Fatah and Hamas members in the destroyed Israeli communities were dismissed as unimportant, irrelevant and insignificant.
Olmert refused to send forces into Gaza to contend with the transformation of Gaza into a strategic threat to Israel because doing so would involve acknowledging that his plan to retreat from Judea, Samaria and parts of Jerusalem will turn Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Hadera, Afula and Beersheba into frontline communities. He refused to send forces into Gaza because doing so would demonstrate that Israel cannot defend its cities from their outskirts.
He refused to send forces into Gaza because it would involve an acknowledgment that Israel is at war and that the war cannot be ignored by building walls or inciting the public against Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria.
He refused to send forces into Gaza because doing so would be tantamount to admitting that all territory abandoned by the IDF is taken over by Israel's enemies.
He refused to send forces into Gaza or take concerted action against Palestinian terror leaders because, as the nasty upbraiding that Israel suffered Thursday at the hands of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her colleagues at the G-8 showed, the international community sees Israeli counter-terror operations in the aftermath of the withdrawal from Gaza as no more legitimate than its counter-terror operations before the withdrawal.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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