TO DIE WITH THE PHILISTINES?
THE MOST famous words ever spoken in
According to the Biblical story, Samson took hold of the central pillars of
the Philistine temple and brought down the whole building upon the Lords of the
Philistines, the people of
A story of suffering, destruction and death. It may be about to repeat itself now, only with the roles reversed: the temple may be brought down by the Palestinians (who took their name from the Philistines), and among the dead will be the Lords of Israel.
The people of
For months now, the political and military leaders of
The army chiefs, who are usually raring to go into battle, are not eager
this time. Not at all. They want to avoid it at almost
any cost. But they are fatalistic. Everything now depends on blind chance. For
example, if tomorrow a Qassam rocket falls on a house
in Sderot and kills a whole family, there will be such
an outcry in
For every Israeli military or political planner, the
For months now, the Hamas leadership in
According to the estimate of our military, an invasion of the Gaza Strip may cost the lives of a hundred Israeli soldiers and thousands of Palestinian fighters and civilians. The Israeli army will deploy tanks and armored bulldozers, and the world will see terrible pictures - the same kind of pictures that our army tried to suppress and that caused a world-wide outcry against the "Jenin Massacre" during the 2002 "Defensive Shield" operation.
Nobody can know how this operation will develop. Perhaps the Palestinian
resistance will collapse after all, and the predictions of numerous Israeli
casualties will be proved false. But it is also possible that
The nightmare does not end there. No doubt, the Israeli army will overcome the resistance, whatever the price on both sides, perhaps by demolishing whole neighborhoods and massive slaughter. But what then?
If the army leaves the strip quickly, the situation will revert to what it was before and the launching of the Qassam rockets will be resumed (if it stops at all). That would mean that the whole operation will have been in vain. If the army remains there - what alternative would it have? - it will be compelled to take on the full responsibility of an occupation regime: feeding the population, running the social services, establishing security. All this in a situation of a vigorous and ongoing guerilla war, which will turn the lives of both occupier and occupied into hell.
For an occupier,
It is no accident that both intifadas started
The Hamas movement itself, which is today
celebrating its 20th anniversary, was born - also no accident - in
No wonder that our army chiefs shrink back from re-conquering the Gaza Strip. They do not relish the idea of playing the role of the Lords of the Philistines in the story of the Palestinian Samson.
THE PROBLEM is that nobody knows how to undo the Gordian knot left behind by Ariel Sharon, that master-weaver of such knots.
As will be remembered,
The next chapter was inevitable: Hamas took military control over the Strip, without the helpless politicians in Ramallah being able to intervene. From the Strip, Qassam rockets and mortar shells were launched at the neighboring Israeli towns and villages, without the Israeli army being able to stop them. One of the most powerful armies in the world, with the most sophisticated weapons, is unable to counter one of the most primitive weapons on earth.
Thus a vicious circle was set up: the Israelis choke the people in the Strip, Gazan fighters bombard the Israeli town Sderot, the Israeli army reacts by killing Palestinian fighters and civilians, the people from Gaza launch mortars at the kibbutzim, the army carries out incursions and kills Palestinian fighters daily and nightly, Hamas brings in more effective anti-tank weapons - and no end in sight.
AN ORDINARY Israeli has no idea of what is happening in the Gaza Strip. The disconnection is absolute. No Israeli can enter the Strip, almost no Palestinian can get out.
This is the way most Israelis see things: We left
This week I heard a report from one of the most credible individuals in
Local water is undrinkable.
There is no import of cement. When there is a hole in the ceiling, it cannot be repaired. The building site for the children's hospital stands silent. There are no spare parts of any kind. A medical instrument that goes out of order cannot be repaired. Not even incubators for babies or dialysis equipment.
The severely sick cannot reach hospital - neither in
Students cannot reach their universities abroad. Foreign citizens who
happened to be visiting
Practically all enterprises have been closed and their workers thrown onto the street for lack of raw materials. For example, the Coca Cola factory has closed down. After 60 years of occupation - first by the Egyptians and than the Israelis - almost nothing is produced in the Strip, except oranges, strawberries, tomatoes and the like.
Prices in the Gaza Strip have risen sky-high - fivefold and even tenfold.
Life is now more expensive in
How do people exist? The members of extended families help each other. Well-to-do people support their relatives. UNRWA brings in the most basic foodstuffs and distributes them to the refugees, who are the majority of the inhabitants.
IS THERE another way out besides a massive invasion? Of course there is. But it requires imagination, boldness and a readiness to act contrary to established patterns.
An immediate cease-fire can be achieved. According to all the indications,
Hamas, too, is ready for it, provided that it is general:
both sides must stop all military actions, including "targeted liquidations"
and the launching of Qassams and mortar shells. The
crossings must be opened for free movement of goods in both directions. The
passage between the Strip and the West Bank must be opened, as well as the
border between the Strip and
Such a calming of the situation may encourage the two competing
Palestinian governments - Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in
In place of the cry "Let me die with the Philistines", let us take the words of Dylan Thomas: "And death shall have no dominion!"