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Thursday, December 6, 2012
From frying pan to fire? Prof. Shmuel Sandler suggests Egyptian involvement in Gaza

[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA:

Let's remind ourselves for a moment that Mr. Morsi is not a neutral
bystander who just happens to be in the neighborhood. He is an extremely
crafty person who is also willing to be a "high roller" in taking risks to
achieve his goals at an accelerated pace far faster than anyone anticipated.
And while right now the immediate goals on his "do list" are domestic, it
would be the height of irresponsibility to ignore that he is a faithful
believing member of a movement that includes the destruction of the Jewish
State on its "do list".

So if President Hosni Mubarak didn't do a serious job stopping the weapons
smuggling from Egypt into Gaza it is an exercise in wishful thinking to plan
on an Egypt controlled by the Moslem Brotherhood to seriously impede the
flow (yes - there could be headlines and even photo ops).

We also have the very serious need to avoid a situation that "Egyptian
involvement" inside Gaza serves as a form of "human shield" for Gaza terror
as Israel weighs the impact of its response on the critical Israel-Egypt

To be clear: we are not dealing with Arab tic tax toe players but instead
speed chess masters who also can have the patience required to take steps
today that may seem innocuous or downright favorable - because they are
geared to advancing their program to ultimately destroy us.

Towards the end of the article, Prof. Sandler starts to indicate some of
the problems: "Egyptís involvement must be restrained; an Egyptian return to
Gaza may end the demilitarization of the Sinai on Israelís southern border.
Rearmament of the Gaza strip with the Egyptian military would put an end to
Israelís strategic depth that was achieved in 1967 and legitimized in the
1979 peace treaty."

The problem is that when we start implementing such policy recommendations
(semi-independent Gaza linked with Egypt) it is extremely difficult to
control how it plays out.]

Israelís Dilemma in Gaza
by Prof. Shmuel Sandler
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 191, December 6, 2012

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Israelís reluctance to inflict a decisive defeat of Hamas
in Operation Pillar of Defense indicates its desire for a new arrangement
for the Gaza Strip. Israel has no interest in a ground invasion of Gaza
because it might have to hand Gaza over to Palestinian Authority, an
arrangement it does not favor. A preferred outcome would be an Egyptian role
in Gaza, providing Israel with a real government with whom it could

One of Israelís main goals in Operation Pillar of Defense was to reestablish
deterrence, which in accordance with Israelís strategic doctrine can only be
accomplished by inflicting a decisive defeat. The absence of an unequivocal
victory reflects a strategic dilemma regarding the preferred future
arrangement in the Gaza Strip. Past experience sheds light on three possible
futures for Gaza, which would involve returning to the situation of one of
two earlier periods, 1948-1967 or 1967-2005, or maintaining the current
post-2007 situation.

Israelís Approaches to Gaza

During the period from 1948-1967, the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian control
and had almost no interaction with the West Bank. Gaza served as a base for
terrorist acts against Israel, but as result of Israeli military action
(specifically during the 1956 Sinai campaign) the Egyptians halted terror
activity originating from there.

After the 1967 war, Gaza and the West Bank were both occupied by Israel,
allowing for increased interactions between the Palestinian populations of
those areas despite the physical separation. This interaction, as well as
the Israeli presence in those territories, helped contribute to the
emergence of a unified Palestinian identity, which became a force to be
reckoned with on the international scene. The linkage between Gaza and the
West Bank was strengthened following the 1979 peace treaty between Israel
and Egypt, which left Gaza under Israeli control. The Oslo peace process,
which created the Palestinian Authority (PA), further solidified the links
between Gaza and the West Bank.

Those links were weakened after the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Hamas
won the 2006 PA elections and in June 2007 took over Gaza in a military
coup, creating a semi-independent entity that challenged the PA rule in the
West Bank, weakened the Palestinian national movement, and questioned the
viability of the largely accepted two-state solution. The failure of the
linkage between non-contiguous territories is not surprising as other
experiences, such as Bangladesh and Pakistan or Germany and East Prussia,
indicate. Unions between non-contiguous territories display chronic
instability and end up in partition.

Operation Pillar of Defense

Since taking over the Strip in 2007, Hamas has imported large amounts of
weapons and has fired thousands of long-range rockets at Israelís southern
towns and cities. Following a variety of small-scale responses that proved
ineffective, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in December 2008. While
relative calm lasted for around two years, sporadic shelling of southern
Israel subsequently resumed and intensified until Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahuís government ordered Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.

Netanyahuís operation could have been modeled after one of two recent
Israeli military operations: March 2002ís Defensive Shield or Cast Lead. In
2002 the IDF sought a decisive victory by temporarily taking over
PA-controlled cities in Judea and Samaria, the hotbeds of Palestinian
terrorism. In 2008 the government refrained from implementing this strategy
and instead conducted a ground operation designed to weaken the Hamas terror
infrastructure. In 2012 the government chose an even more limited operation,
one that did not include a ground operation of any kind. This limited
operation achieved two major political accomplishments: securing support
from the newly re-elected Obama administration, and the brokering of a
ceasefire agreement negotiated by new Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
Egyptís involvement indicated that the new regime did not renounce itself
from the peace agreement with Israel. Moreover, Cairo continued its
involvement in the affairs of the Gaza Strip. Expanding the scope of the
operation could have endangered these accomplishments.

Future Options for Gaza Ė Encouraging Egyptian Involvement

Netanyahuís main reason for rejecting an operation similar to Defensive
Shield was that Israel did not aspire to return to the situation of
1967-2005. Israel would have preferred to make peace with its Palestinian
neighbors years ago, but by 2012 was skeptical about the prospects of the PA
living peacefully next door. The PAís refusal to accept offers, like those
of former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak in 2000 and Ehud Olmert in 2008,
indicated Palestinian aspirations that no responsible Israeli government
could accept. Despite a 10 month settlement freeze mandated by Netanyahu in
2010, Ramallah refused to renew negotiations with Jerusalem. The PAís weak
President Mahmoud Abbas cannot lead the Palestinian national movement toward
a historic compromise with Israel, and it makes no strategic sense to hand
him Gaza.

The unlikely alternative to Abbas, in light of the weakness of the PA
leadership, would be a state incorporating two non-contiguous territories
controlled by Hamas. Israel cannot accept Hamas control in the West Bank
given its strategic proximity to Israelís major metropolitan area. These
same considerations limited the scope of the Israeli operation.

Under these conditions Jerusalem sees an Egyptian association with Gaza as
the least of all evils. By taking limited responsibility over Gazaís
affairs, Egypt provides an address with whom to negotiate. Instead of a
terrorist organization such as Hamas that is dedicated to Israelís
destruction, Israel prefers to encounter a government, even a hostile one,
with whom it can conduct dialogue. Deterrence is more effective with states
than with sub-state organizations.

The Netanyahu governmentís strategic preference thus seems to be a blend of
the pre-1967 framework and the post-2005 reality, namely, a semi-independent
Gaza linked with Egypt. Assuming that this will be Israelís preferred
choice, Egyptís involvement must be restrained; an Egyptian return to Gaza
may end the demilitarization of the Sinai on Israelís southern border.
Rearmament of the Gaza strip with the Egyptian military would put an end to
Israelís strategic depth that was achieved in 1967 and legitimized in the
1979 peace treaty.

Egyptian involvement must come under close scrutiny and weighed against the
option of reconquering Gaza and linking it back with the West Bank. This
alternative could lead to a two-winged radical revisionist Palestinian
state. In a utopian world, Gaza would turn into Singapore. This option is
not realistic, however, as the ďArab SpringĒ turns into an ďIslamic Winter.Ē
Prof. Shmuel Sandler is a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan
University and a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for
Strategic Studies.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the
Greg Rosshandler Family

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