Ehud Olmert’s “Convergence” Plan for the West Bank and U.S. Middle East Policy

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Today, IDF forces are deployed inside of Israeli communities in theWestern Negevadjacent to Gaza where they work to protect these communities from the constant barrage of rockets and mortar shells that terrorists lob at them from Gaza every day. The terror forces – both Palestinian and foreign – have exploited the absence of Israeli ground forces in Gaza to amass arsenals whose sophistication and size present would have been unimaginable before Israel’s withdrawal from the area. They have also succeeded in extending the range of their rockets.

The IDF’s post-withdrawal attempts to prevent these attacks through artillery fire, and aerial attacks has met with failure. Tthe IDF’s attempt to mitigate the damage caused by these rocket and mortar attacks by installing early-warning systems in the communities and towns bordering Gaza has also been ineffective. The IDF currently has no means of neutralizing the projectile threat to southern Israel aside from a land invasion of Gaza.[16]

Israeli withdrawals also adversely impact the stability of its peace treaty with Egypt. Egyptian security forces in the Sinai refuse to control their border area with Israel.[17] Israeli military commanders and defense officials believe that Egypt hopes to use the instability of the Sinai and the Sinai-Gaza border to induce Israel to abrogate the demilitarization clauses of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty. This would allow the Egyptian military unlimited deployment rights in the Sinai. Such remilitarization of the Sinai will cause an immediate destabilization of the region by making the specter of regional war with Israel all the more tangible.[18]

In addition, Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza strengthened Islamist forces within Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood’s successful run in Egypt’s parliamentary election in December 2005 was in due in large part to the perception that Hamas had forced Israelout of Gaza. Mubarak is an aging dictator, the survivability of his regime after his death is an open question. If Israel enables an Egyptian remilitarization of the Sinai today, it may well be faced with the prospect of the ascension to power of a radical Islamist regime in Cairowith Egyptian military forces – that have for the past ten years been training for war against Israel[19] – deployed along Israel’s border, with a global terror base in Gaza.[20]

Also troubling are the recent reports which have noted that al Qaeda forces in Gaza and the Sinai, in cooperation with Palestinian terror forces in the areas are interested in targeting the U.S. Multi-Force Observer Battalion stationed in the Sinai and the Egypt-Israel gas pipelines in the Sinai. There are also indicators that the Iranian regime is using its new presence in Gaza to foment the destabilization of the Egyptian regime through acts of terror in the Sinai carried out by Palestinian forces from Gaza.[21]

Finally, Israel’s retreat from Gaza has been represented to the Islamic and Arab world as a great victory for jihad. It has instilled in the hearts of many adherents to radical Islam hope in America’s eventual retreat from Iraq and other theaters. Since Israel is perceived by the Muslim world as an American proxy, an Israeli retreat is perceived as an American retreat.[22]

For the 38 years that Israel controlled Gaza, even when hostility levels were at their peak, at no time did Gaza constitute anything more than a security nuisance for the Jewish state. However, in the months since Israel’s retreat from Gaza, the area has been transformed into a serious security threat to Israel for which Israeli political leaders and military commanders have yet to find any remedy.[23]

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