Today’s Haaretz reveals that the Hamas-Popular Resistance Committee joint terror operation which killed two IDF soldiers took place at an outpost within the Green Line.
**UPDATE: In the past few minutes, the reference to the outpost being inside Israel has been removed. The article retains this seemingly contradictory statement:
The gunmen attacked an IDF post near Kerem Shalom just outside the border fence with southern Gaza…The gunmen seized Shalit and fled with him across the border
I can’t tell from this passage where precisely the outpost was located.**
Which means that this action would’ve violated the Prisoner’s Document had it been in effect. It calls for a cessation of all resistance against targets within the Green Line. It is only too easy to argue that a political movement whose military wing refuses to honor the terms of an agreement which it’s supposedly about to sign, is untrustworthy at best. It’s important to also note that Hamas’ military wing is undoubtedly run by hardline Hamas operatives out of Syria. These operatives like Khaled Meshaal have vociferously opposed Hamas’ acceptance of the Prisoner’s Document, which according to other news articles is immiment.
Is it possible that the terror operation is a sort of rump protest against the possible moderation of Hamas’ political policies regarding the Prisoner’s Document? An attempt perhaps to throw a wrench into a potential Hamas-Fatah national unity government? If so, then the Rejectionists of Damascus have succeeded at least temporarily.
Haaretz’s Amos Harel expands on this line of thinking:
Hamas government spokesman Ghazi Hamed called on Israel yesterday, in fluent Hebrew, almost in supplication, not to take steps that would lead to escalation.
Hamed, who said he doesn’t know who the kidnappers are, knows who is behind the kidnapping, even though he won’t admit it. They are Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas’ political bureau in Damascus, and Ahmed Jabari, leader of the movement’s military wing in Gaza. Meshal and Jabari have pushed Haniyeh and his people into a corner.
…PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas accused Meshal of sabotaging the agreement that the Palestinian factions were going to sign in regard to the prisoners’ national unity document. Egyptian diplomats in Gaza, who tried in vain last night to reach the Hamas military wing, realized that the person to whom they actually must address their grievances is in Damascus.
The NY Times echoes this assessment by quoting a Palestinian ex-minister:
A former Interior Ministry spokesman, Elias Zananiri, suggested that Hamas’s military wing attacked on orders of its leadership abroad, in particular Khaled Meshal, the leader of the Hamas political bureau, while the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniya, was kept in the dark.
Ehud Olmert has taken Meshaal’s bait and promised a major incursion into Gaza to teach the militants a lesson. You know what this phrase means: to draw blood and lots of it. Palestinian blood. In invading Gaza, Olmert accepts the extremist political rhetoric of Eli Moyal, the Likud mayor of Sderot who called for clearing the entire north of Gaza in order to prevent Qassam shelling. Another extremist, Avigdor Lieberman, similarly calls for bloodthirsty vengeance against Gaza. Now, we are right back in the pathological trap by which the most extreme and hateful on each side set the political & tactical tone of debate and military action.
Perhaps Olmert would be better off attacking Hamas hardliners in Damascus who initiated the attack.
Unfortunately, Olmert refused to listen to the “cooler heads” of Shimon Peres, Meir Shetreet and Eli Yishai who counseled caution before such an invasion. They have enough tacatical/strategic sense to understand that not only might such an invasion endanger the life of the captured Israeli solider; but it would escalate the conflict for the umpteenth time and undo any promising developments of the past few weeks (of which there were several that were potentially important).
One wonders where Peretz is in all this. As a political dove, he’s got to feel extremely uncomfortable getting dragged into the same old maelstrom of tit for tat revenge attacks. He must understand the absolute bankruptcy of this behavior. Yet, as defense minister, he’s expected to be the cheerleader for precisely these types of policies. Ian Fisher of the NY Times seems to be thinking along the same lines as me and wrote a compelling piece on the battle for Peretz’s soul: Israel’s Defense Minister Is Faulted by Left and Right
All this proves the truism, which I’ve slightly amended, that both Israel and the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to spoil an opportunity.