Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Gaza-Egypt Smuggling Tunnels Must Be Closed


When Israelis look back on what caused the current conflict in Gaza, they point to their government's decision in September 2005 to leave the narrow "Philadelphi Route" that runs along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. More than Israel's disengagement from the Strip as a whole, the abandonment of this strategic area made full-scale war inevitable.

The 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization placed this 100-meter wide corridor, which separated the Egyptian side of the town of Rafah from the Palestinian side in Gaza, under Israeli military control. (The Israeli army gave it the code name "Philadelphi.") By 2000, local Palestinians, many of whom worked with Hamas, dug underground tunnels between the two halves of Rafah. The tunnels allowed for a lucrative smuggling trade that included weapons.

Admittedly, there were rocket attacks on Israel before the Gaza pullout (the first Qassam rocket was fired in 2001). However, the scale of the attacks totally changed after the withdrawal. Rocket attacks increased by 500% (from 179 in 2005 to 946 in 2006). The range of Hamas's rockets also increased following the withdrawal. Locally manufactured Qassams, which could reach targets seven kilometers away, gave way to Grad/Katyusha rockets supplied by Iran that can hit as far as 20 kilometers. These were first used in 2006. During 2008, rockets with a 40-kilometer range came through the Gaza tunnels and into Hamas's weapons cache.

At the same time that the tunnels facilitated weapons smuggling, they also allowed hundreds of Hamas operatives to leave Gaza for Egypt, where they caught planes to Iran and underwent military training with the Revolutionary Guards at a base outside of Tehran. When Israel controlled the Philadelphi Route, its special forces waged a constant battle and kept the number of tunnels low. But by 2008, with Israeli access to the Philadelphi route cut off and measures against the tunnels halted, the number of tunnels proliferated into the hundreds.

Today, Israelis are concerned that even if Hamas is defeated militarily, its stocks of rockets will be fully replenished by Iran in a matter of months unless the tunnels under the Philadelphi Route are addressed. That is precisely what happened with Hezbollah after the 2006 Lebanon War. The United Nations Security Council cease-fire, Resolution 1701, failed to deal adequately with the rearming of the Lebanese Shiite group. Today, Hezbollah has more rockets threatening Israel than it had prior to the 2006 war. In the case of Hamas, there is an added concern that Iran will supply rockets that reach well beyond the 40-kilometer range. In the next war, Hamas could strike Tel Aviv from inside the Gaza Strip.

How can Israel cut off the smuggling routes? In 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice proposed border controls for the Rafah area. This completely failed because the European Union monitors deployed in Rafah ran away the moment there was an escalation of violence. Today the idea of a new EU monitoring force -- a proposal Western diplomats are discussing -- does not engender much confidence on the Israeli side. Others are hoping that Egypt will take seriously its obligations to close off the smuggling routes from its side. Egypt has failed to do so since 2005. Why should we expect a change now?

If these options fail, Israel may be left with no choice but to enter the Philadelphi Route and continue to destroy these tunnels in the future. Anticipating the end of the Gaza war, there is already talk about the next stage of the Arab-Israeli peace process. Some hope that the peace process can simply be picked up where it was left off and pursued with new determination. But the crisis over the Philadelphi Route has taught Israel a bitter lesson about relinquishing critical territory: It was a cardinal error to leave this strategic zone at the perimeter of Gaza, even if Israel wanted to get out of the Strip in its entirety. Israeli leaders including Yitzhak Rabin have warned that Israel must never leave the Jordan Valley, the equivalent perimeter zone in the West Bank.

Ariel Sharon saw the Jordan Valley as an integral part of Israel's claim to "defensible borders," a term used by President Bush in an April 2004 letter to Israel, that was overwhelmingly backed in special legislation by bipartisan majorities in both houses of U.S. Congress during June 2004. President-elect Barack Obama publicly recognized Israel's right to "defensible borders" at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference last year.

The strategic stakes involved in this issue are enormous. Were Israel to be stripped of the Jordan Valley, it would undoubtedly face a massive escalation of weapons smuggling into the West Bank. Should the scale of the smuggling reach the same proportions as in Gaza, it is doubtful that even the Jordanians, motivated by the best of intentions, could bring it to a halt. Moreover, a steady stream of weapons smugglers and Islamist volunteers crossing the kingdom would undermine Jordanian security.

Diplomats are working feverishly to seal off the Philadelphi Route and bring an end to the current Gaza conflict. Let's hope they remember the critical importance of securing Israel's other borders -- for the sake of Israel's security, and for the stability of its neighbors.



United under the swastika in Canada

Critics of Israel are often quick to insist that they're not anti-Semitic-just anti-Zionist, anti-"occupation," or something along those lines. But not these guys: at a protest against Israel in downtown Calgary on the weekend, the Nazi group, the Aryan Guard, showed up to march alongside the Muslims. Of course, the Aryan Guard is honest enough to admit they just plain hate Jews, not bothering to strain themselves with arguments of nuance. They fit right in on Saturday with their posters of Israeli flags defaced with the accusation "Terror State." As Darcey at Dust My Broom notes, the 150 "anti-racists" who came out in force to protest an Aryan Guard march in downtown Calgary last year didn't complain this time. In fact, they marched right along with the Aryans, united under the swastika: the Arabs and Communists labeling the Jewish State a "Nazi" regime; the skinheads hoping to resurrect the Real McCoy.

Event organizer Shadi Abuid-who last made news a few years back as a university student when he brought to Calgary Norman Finkelstein, the popular anti-Israel author of "The Holocaust Industry"-told Canwest Global he was impressed with the "various groups uniting under one voice." He explained that he had "directly told" the neo-Nazis that he'd prefer they didn't join the march. "But in these demonstrations you can control the crowd but you can't control the emotions . . . you can't deny people's right to walk," he shrugged.

That's true. Except, many of the same organizers behind Saturday's march attempted to deny the freedom-to-demonstrate of an Israeli supporter just the other week. At a protest in front of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's constituency office in southwest Calgary January 2nd, Gazan supporters called the cops to complain when one man showed up waving an Israeli flag. There were 150 pro-Palestinian protestors, but the single Israeli supporter was told by police that he must leave or be charged with "inciting civil disorder," according to this account (with photos). Protestors reportedly cursed at and threw shoes at the man.

The anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, anti-whatever protestors should indeed get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to accusations of being Jew-haters. But attempting to suppress the rights of Israel's supporters, while standing up for the rights of Nazis to march alongside them arm-in-arm, can only make drawing that distinction a lot more difficult.




Punditarian and I are still having an enjoyable debate about Jewish questions -- but on his blog rather than here. He shows a surprising depth of interest in the Christian scriptures and, like me, takes that all the way back to the original Greek. We are both language freaks, basically. It's something to think about that one of the NY Ashkenazim and an atheist of Scottish Protestant background in a backwater on the opposite side of the globe actually get on very well. I am glad to have made his acquaintance. We don't entirely agree, of course, but it would be boring if we did. From Hegel on, only Leftists glorify marching along in lockstep. Conservatives value the individual.

There is a new rather intellectual blog up called Symbol Pond that readers who have time to spare may enjoy.

Dick McDonald is back online, fighting the good fight against America's corrupt Social Security system. The time will come under the present arrangements when even the elderly will have to work -- with only the sick and the disabled excused.

German police chief apologizes over flag incident: "After the Duisburg police removed an Israeli flag during a demonstration against Israel, there was an uproar. The Duisburg police chief has described the action as wrong. On Sunday the action was brought up in the State parliament. Duisburg's Police chief Rolf Cebin apologized on Sunday for the removal of an Israeli flag in the context of a demonstration against the Gaza war. "I deeply regret that the feelings -- particularly of Jewish citizens -- were hurt". Several police officers broke down a door in Duisburg on Saturday in order to access a dwelling where several Israeli flags were hanging out the window. The house was on the route of a demonstration against the military action of Israel. The demonstrators felt provoked by the flag and threw stones and lumps of ice at the building, said the police. In order to prevent property damage and the escalation of the situation, the police leadership present decided to remove the flag" [Translation by JR. An original report of the action is here]

Obama's Recession Remedy: Tax the Poor! : "Everybody's going to have to give," President-elect Barack Obama warned over the weekend. And some people will have to give more than others -- starting with low-income smokers. Democrats are rushing this week to impose massive tax hikes of at least 61 cents on every cigarette pack sold in America, in addition to new increases on other tobacco products. The money will fund a long-plotted federal expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Yes, this is Dr. Big Nanny's prescription for recession: punitive tax increases on the poor to feed a universal health care Trojan horse. Obama and his liberal Democratic colleagues sure have a funny way of demonstrating "progressive" values, don't they? Health surveys show that smokers are more likely to be blue-collar workers, minorities and have less than a high-school education

Regulation gives people a false sense of security: "The $50-billion investment scam allegedly pulled off by Wall Street insider Bernard Madoff has ignited predictable calls for more regulation. The "massive fraud ... was made possible in part because the regulators who were assigned to oversee Wall Street dropped the ball," said President-elect Obama. Notice the disconnect. Regulation failed, so we need more regulation. I see it differently. Regulation failed, so let's try free markets. That would be a change. Regulation did indeed fail. "An executive in the securities industry, Harry Markopolos, contacted the SEC's Boston office in May 1999, urging regulators to investigate Mr. Madoff. Mr. Markopolos continued to pursue his accusations over the past nine years," The Wall Street Journal reported. We've always been told that regulation of financial markets protects the least knowledgeable investors. Sophisticated people know what they are doing and can fend for themselves. But Madoff's alleged Ponzi scheme is fascinating precisely because it caught some very knowledgeable people. They knew Madoff. Everyone trusted him, including the regulators.

Netanyahu: Hamas must be toppled: Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel must remove Gaza's Hamas rulers from power to ensure victory over "terror." He expressed full support for his country's punishing, 18-day offensive against the militants _ even though it is being conducted by politicians who are running against him in Feb. 10 elections. "At the end of the day there will be no alternative but to bring down the regime of Hamas, a terrorist organization pledged to our destruction," Netanyahu told foreign reporters in Jerusalem. Netanyahu, a top contender to become prime minister in next month's vote, said toppling Hamas would not necessarily have to be part of the current offensive, but would eventually have to happen.

Obama's Math Doesn't Add Up : "Even economists who agree with Barack Obama that we need another stimulus are questioning his exuberant predictions that his spending plan will produce or save 3.7 million jobs. That number was contained in the upwardly revised job-creation figures that economic advisers Jared Bernstein and Christina Romer came out with this week in an effort to boost congressional support for Obama's costly stimulus package amid growing skepticism that it will work.

Obama's death tax deadly for jobs: "The news today that Obama and Senate Democrats will move to block the death tax from phasing out as scheduled under current law flies in the face of everything they've been saying about not raising taxes during an economic crisis. It also will undermine their promise to help create jobs, because the death tax destroys as many as 250,000 jobs every year by forcing family businesses to liquidate their assets to pay the tax. These forced liquidations also contribute to the decline in asset values. When we should be lowering barriers to capital formation to cushion the blow of the credit liquidation cycle, it looks like Obama and Senate Democrats are doing the opposite, because they just can't let go of their anti-growth, anti-jobs, tax-the-rich impulse when it comes to the death tax.


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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