The Palestinians have moved towards a path of potential self-destruction. What is it that drives the Palestinians into a situation that will not achieve anything – not independence, not peace and peaceful coexistence, recognition of Israel and the improvement of their socio-economic situation? Perhaps one can view this problem from a number of aspects. The main aspect is the failure of the Palestinian leadership to come to terms with Israel’s existence. This has now received a fundamentalist Islamic slant with extremism and hate for Israel taking the upper hand. The moment Israel disengaged from Gaza unilaterally in August 2005; this resulted in a power vacuum with many opposing terrorist militias running wild. There are so many of these terrorist para-military militias fighting amongst themselves and uniting when it comes to the common enemy – Israel. They all seem to operate under the Hamas umbrella. The building of the Security Fence on the Gaza Strip border has created new Palestinian tactics. The Palestinian terror groups have now built tunnels under the fence that allows infiltration into Israel. Who knows how many of these tunnels exist undiscovered? The object is to kidnap Israelis – soldiers and civilians. Suicide terrorism has decreased because the Israeli Security forces are successful in curtailing these attacks. The terrorists are seeking other means to achieve their goal of liberation from the “Israeli occupation” that means destruction of Israel. These extremists are not interested in a two state solution.
The Hamas terrorist organizations (Izzadin al Qassam, the Popular Resistance Committees, and a group calling itself the Army of Islam), kidnapped the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on 26 June 2006. The well-coordinated attack on Kibbutz Kerem Shalom, where the kidnapping occurred, proves the capability of Hamas’s military (terrorist) wing to carry our successful attacks. The whereabouts of Gilad Shalit is unknown and surrounded by much speculation.
The use of the kidnapping tactic seems to be rather successful in the short run. It gives the terrorists breathing space to seek the upper hand by trying to bargain for the release of female Palestinian security prisoners including those who are under 18 years of age in Israeli prisons. It is doubtful if Israel will succumb to this kind of blackmail. Any military move on Israel’s side to gain the release of Gilad Shalit could result in a terrible tragedy. Meanwhile there has been another kidnapping in the occupied territories. The youngster is Eliyahu Yitschak Asheri of Ittamar. The kidnappers have threatened to kill him if the Israeli Army goes into Gaza to liberate the soldier.
The situation is becoming more complex. The Hamas leadership under Ismail Haniya has no control over the release of the soldier. Mahmoud Abbas has even less influence over the captors. Gaza is in a state of total anarchy.This means that the Hamas military wing operates very much on its own and receives order from other sources. There are reports that Khaled Mashal, the Hamas leader resident in Damascus Syria, issued orders for the kidnapping operation. This individual is uncompromising in his attitude towards Israel. He wields much influence on Hamas terrorists. There seems to be a similarity in his methods of operation and that of Osama bin Laden of Al Qaeda. Both leaders are in exile and pull the strings on the terrorist cells under their direct or indirect control.
Israel is on the horns of a dilemma. The Israeli Defense Forces have entered the Gaza Strip in order to pressure the Hamas leadership to release Gilad. The military operation “Summer Rain” is under way. The Hamas led Palestinian Authority is impotent in its influence on their ultra extremist hate-filled terrorist militias. Had they had influence, the scenario would have ceased by now. Now that military operations have started, it remains to be seen as to whether it will achieve their objective. It could force the Hamas militias into taking desperate steps to save face. A tragedy could occur because of this operation.
The Palestinian terror groups have changed tactics. They are now using the “kidnapping weapon” increasingly instead of the “suicide-bombing weapon”. We can expect kidnappings to become more commonplace in the Palestinian terrorist lexicon. This tactic will gain more popularity because it will invite Israeli retaliation in populated Palestinian areas where the kidnappers hide their victims. Loss of innocent Palestinian lives in Israeli rescue operations will be difficult to avoid. This will add grist to the Palestinian terrorist propaganda machine to portray for the umpteenth time how the cruel Israeli Army kills innocent Palestinians intentionally. Palestinian sympathizers and ultra-left wing groups will swallow the bait and condemn Israel in every world forum possible including the United Nations. The rescue operations will cause havoc amongst innocent Palestinians and increased suffering.
Despite all these misgivings about the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip, Israel really has no alternative. The terrorists are not prepared to enter negotiations to release the kidnapped soldier or at the least, negotiate impossible conditions that Israel will never accept.
No country in the world would allow terrorists to kidnap their citizens. They would also attempt to rescue their captured citizens if negotiations fail. Israel is now exercising that right as difficult as it is. Many innocent people are going to lose their lives. A successful outcome to this military operation is far from clear at this stage let alone achieving the release of Gilad Shalit.