Thursday, September 11, 2014

Israeli mistakes

What have been the worst mistakes in Israeli foreign policy?  There were two, the first was the decision by PM Rabin in 1994 to allow Yasir Arafat, Chairman of the PLO, to return from exile in Tunisia to Gaza, with his supporters.  The PLO had been expelled from Lebanon where they had established a state within a state in southern Lebanon, and had been attacking Israel across the Lebanese border.  In the First Lebanon War of 1982, Defense Minister Sharon chased the PLO to Beirut, but they were allowed to survive and escape under American protection to Tunisia, the only Arab country that would take them. 
After 10 years the PLO was in decline, there were internal conflicts and the Tunisians were fed up with them.  But, Rabin, under the influence of Shimon Peres and his assistant Yossi Beilin, agreed as part of the Oslo Accords (1993) to allow Arafat to return to "Palestine" as Head of the Palestine Authority.  Rabin saved Arafat from obscurity and extinction.  Instead of showing his gratitude, Arafat began immediately to enforce his authority by organizing a terrorist campaign against Israel that became the second intifada (2000-2005).  In this way, Rabin, Peres and Beilin were responsible for the deaths of at least 1,200 Israelis. Rabin had hoped that Arafat would suppress Hamas, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza.  But he did not, Arafat collaborated with Hamas in their terrorist campaign against Israel. 
The second major mistake in Israeli foreign policy was the unilateral withdrawal carried out under PM Sharon in 2005, the so-called disengagement from Gaza.  The rationale behind this move was that Israel was taking casualties all the time from the Israeli presence in Gaza and it was costing a lot financially as well as in lives to protect the few settlements there.  But, this unilateral decision resulted in a great expansion of Hamas in Gaza, they not only won the only PA election held in Gaza, but they then staged a coup in 2007 and murdered hundreds of Fatah/PLO operatives in Gaza.  With Iranian backing they managed to smuggle thousands of missiles and other weapons in through the tunnels from Egypt, thus leading to the periodic Israeli clashes in 2009, 2012 (Operation Cast Lead) and 2014 (Operation Protective Edge).
In retrospect, one can see these mistakes as attempts by right wing leaders, Rabin and Sharon, under pressure from the US and others, to implement essentially left-wing solutions in order to placate the Palestinians as a possible route towards accomodation.  In neither case did this work, on the contrary, these concessions to the Palestinians appeared to them as weakness, which they quickly proceeded to exploit.  We hope that PM Netanyahu will not make a similar mistake at this juncture.  Making any major concessions to Hamas now, such as not insisting on demilitarization of Gaza (ensuring that no missiles can be imported) would be a major error that would come back to haunt us in the future. Only those who survive have learned from their mistakes.


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