|The events of the past few days have created two illusions. One is that Israel and the United States are equal; the other is that the problem is Jerusalem. These illusions are dangerous for Israel, in that they create a dangerous diplomatic perception and self-image.
The United States is a superpower; it is doubtful whether Israel is even a regional power. And the problem is not Jerusalem, or even the holy places, but Gaza. Finally, it is in Israel’s best interest that the Quartet’s decision to promote the establishment of a Palestinian state within two years not be implemented unilaterally.
Gaza is Israel’s big problem. Because of the political, security and civic failure of the disengagement, the road to a solution of the problem of Gaza runs through Ramallah and Jerusalem. In Ramallah, it is in the hands of one man – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. But Benjamin Netanyahu’s government refuses to accept that fact. So Abbas is preparing a surprise for it in the form of a “no-partner” declaration.
American bayonets will not bring Abbas back to Gaza, and the Israel Defense Forces certainly will not. He will resume ruling in Gaza – just as he proved, to the chagrin of many in the defense establishment, that he could in the West Bank – on the shoulders of the Arab world, and perhaps also of a joint NATO-Arab force. Such a force would first establish itself in the West Bank, after the IDF evacuates that territory, and at the border crossings with Jordan in the Jordan Valley.
In this way, without negotiation and without the need to explain why there are no negotiations, Abbas could dispel the charges that he is a “pet Palestinian” and get around his domestic problem with his prime minister, Salam Fayyad.
Gaza is the fuel for the anti-Israel struggle. It is the symbol of that struggle throughout the Arab and Muslim world, even among those who live in Western countries. And it is up to us to uproot the anti-Israel cells the flourish there. Gaza’s hunger is the fuel of the struggle. We must dry up this fuel. It is not a tool for getting Gilad Shalit back, or for toppling Hamas.
Perhaps we acted like a responsible power in Haiti, and we deserve praise for that. But in the Middle East, it would be best for us to simply behave as a responsible country. For its own security, and to protect its own interests, Israel must seek negotiations that will deal with the issues of borders and security as a single unit, with the involvement of a multilateral Arab military force and with major involvement by NATO.
Not so long ago, such a formula would have drawn disparagement from the security establishment and even accusations of “internationalizing” the conflict – that is, forfeiting Israel’s security. When senior reserve officers raised the idea of such a force as part of a solution to the problem of Gaza’s northern border, both during the serious clashes that preceded the disengagement and thereafter, they received chilly telephone calls from “the establishment.” Meanwhile, the American force in Sinai was ignored, as was the high quality of the UN force on the Syrian border, and the fact that while the IDF is not satisfied with UNIFIL’s performance in Lebanon in the wake of UN Resolution 1701, no one has come up with a better solution.
The defense establishment is beginning to understand that it is better to redeploy. We need the world, including the Arab world. Several think tanks are thoroughly studying the insertion of a force of this type.
The road to the Arab world will require Israel to treat itself like a country that is not a world power and not one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, but rather a regional or a local power. It was that road that led to Israel’s previous victories. We must not give it up. We are getting closer to a situation in which if we do not act, Abbas will invoke his no-partner thesis.
The writer was a political adviser in the Defense Ministry, responsible for the Palestinians’ “fabric of life”