Thursday, May 27, 2021

Under Siege, from Israel's Riviera (#4 of 4)

(This, the fourth in the series, was written after the ceasefire went into effect and was published Wednesday, May 26, 2021.)

Waterbury Republican-American

Girding for the next Israel-Hamas war


As I write this, it's been 15 hours since the last Hamas rocket fired at Israel. Here in Israel, there are two main emotions. One is relief at the respite from the incessant bombardment of terror rockets, the sleeping in bomb shelters, the rushing into bomb shelters as "Red Alerts" sound. The second is it's déjà vu all over again. We've been through this scenario before, with each cease-fire used by Hamas to rearm, upgrade its rocket arsenal and the rest of its terror infrastructure, leading to a bloodier and more destructive miniwar a few years down the road.

Meanwhile, with all the death and destruction Hamas brought about, Arabs in Gaza, and in Judea and Samaria, are celebrating the ceasefire, while Hamas has declared a "Day of Rage" - that's not really news; it would be news if a few days went by without Hamas or the Palestinian Authority declaring a "Day of Rage" - and Palestinians have lost no time in again rioting on the Temple Mount, elsewhere in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria. It's enough to cause cognitive dissonance.

We now hear the moralizing about the need to help everyone in Gaza. (Of course, not a word about helping the Israelis whose homes were destroyed by Hamas rockets.) Once again, we hear the pompous assurances that assistance in rebuilding Gaza will be conditioned on Hamas not diverting it to build more rockets for the next war it starts.

In Israel, we've learned that assurances from the international community are worthless.

We remember the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism set up in 2014 to ensure the materials sent to rebuild the civilian infrastructure weren't diverted by Hamas, yet by some estimates, upward of 90% of the building materials transferred to Gaza went into the construction by Hamas of the 100 miles of tunnels Israel just destroyed, as well as those which remain - along with the more than 4,000 rockets Hamas fired at Israeli cities and towns, as well those destroyed by Israel, and the estimated 11,000 which remain.

We remember how, under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 ending the 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) supposedly was strengthened and tasked with guaranteeing the only other military force in southern Lebanon would be the Lebanese army. Instead, under the nose of UNIFIL, Hezbollah, with the aid of Iran, increased its rocket arsenal from a few tens of thousands to an estimated 150,000, more than the combined arsenal of NATO save the United States. It's mainly installed in civilian areas, particularly homes, turning virtually all of southern Lebanon into an armed terrorist base.

So, when President Biden asserts the United States will help repair the damage to Gaza "in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority - not Hamas - in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal," we're a bit skeptical. This is not only because the Palestinian Authority itself persists in its "pay-to-slay" program, under which it rewards terrorists for murdering Jews, as it competes with Hamas in a perverse competition where the most extreme gains the most popularity.

Here's one simple proposal: each time a truck unloads supplies for repairing the damage in Gaza, it waits to be filled with rockets, rocket launchers and other elements of Hamas' terror arsenal, to be transported to Israel and destroyed by Israel under the eyes of international observers. Until that truck is filled, the next truck is not unloaded.

Unless this or another effective method is used to eliminate the terror infrastructure in Gaza, any effort to help Gaza will be worse than a waste, and only guarantee a far bloodier conflict a few years down the road.

Unfortunately, unless a way is found to undo the damage in Lebanon abetted by the ineffectiveness of UNIFIL, everything that's happened in Gaza will seem minor compared to the next, inevitable Hezbollah war.

Given the sophistication, heavier payloads and placement of the vast arsenal Hezbollah possesses thanks to Iran, when Hezbollah starts firing them, Israel won't have any alternative to leveling Hezbollah's base, i.e. virtually all of southern Lebanon.

And we expect that instead of blame being placed on the terrorists or on their enablers, once again Israel, the target of those terrorists, will be blamed and demonized.

So, while we are relieved at the temporary respite from Hamas' terror rockets, we understand the cease-fire is a Faustian bargain, and we are likely to pay a heavy price for it in the long run.

Alan Stein was a longtime resident of Waterbury, where he taught in the Mathematics Department of the University of Connecticut for 37 years. During that period, he was active in the Jewish community and the general community. After retiring from UConn, he and his wife Marsha began spending the cold months in Israel and the warm months in Massachusetts, where their daughter resides. 

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