When the blood-curdling battle cry exhorting the masses to slaughter the Jews, “Itbach al-Yahud,” was first shouted on April 4, 1920, by Arab marauders rampaging through the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, it was accompanied by another mantra: “A-Dawla ma’ana” – the government is with us.
That was the first brazen reverberation of the trust that Jews can be attacked with impunity, that no deterrence exists. It was since oft-chanted during the perpetration of other atrocities during the British Mandate era masterminded by infamous Jerusalem mufti Haj Amin el-Husseini, most notably the hideous Hebron massacre of 1929.
In a broad sense, that same premise endures and it has spurred Hamas and its assorted Gazan cohorts – all Husseini’s avid torchbearers – to escalate their rocket fire, ambushes and other assorted provocations.
Their confidence was buoyed by a confluence of conditions. Foremost was the seeming Israeli toleration for the random rocketing of an ever-expanding sphere of population centers. Our prolonged inaction had lent the impression of powerlessness and, in our region apparent weakness only invites intensifying aggression.
But there was much more than the Arab misinterpretation of our Western-minded moderation and inclination to delude ourselves that if we overlook sporadic barrages from Gaza, its homicidal ardor will somehow dissipate.
Added to the Gazan perception that Israel has lost its mojo, is the rise of Muslim Brotherhood hegemony in Egypt. For Hamas this means that the biggest Arab state has its back. Hamas is itself a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot, boasting the identical ideological DNA as the new Cairo regime.
There is no underestimating the boost afforded Hamas by the conviction that it has whom to rely on, that it can always expect reinforcement via its border with Egypt and that Israel will fear upsetting its rickety peace with the transformed Egypt.That means a freer hand for Gaza to indulge in mischief.
The upheaval in Cairo, moreover, didn’t spring spontaneously in a vacuum. Not only did US President Barack Obama not maintain so much as an aloof detachment, but he to a great measure enabled the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, no bedfellow of Hamas.
Obama’s reelection is grasped throughout the Arab world as Israel’s misfortune. Freed from the fear of the voter, last-term president Obama will be tougher on Israel, Hamas believes, and concurrently the softest-ever in his attitude to Islamist radicals. Such readings of the situation crucially raised Gaza’s chutzpah quotient.
The upshot is a latter-day version of a-Dawla ma’ana. Gaza felt that no restrictive authority stood in its way. The proverbial Dawla – the powers which didn’t hamper Hamas – included the newly fraternal Egypt, the presumably pliant Washington and, up until recently, a hesitant Israel.
Israeli timidity is the most vital element of the above three. Indeed it constituted the fundamental instigation to Hamas’s ascendancy and audacity. Hamas wouldn’t be where it is – in position to threaten central Israel, benefit from Egyptian patronage and expect American lenience – were it not for Israel’s seminal Oslo folly and its derivative disengagement dementia.
Every single warning desperately voiced back in the day against naïve territorial surrenders has been far more than fully vindicated. Reality has mercilessly exceeded even the direst of predictions. As it turned out, our greatest pessimists failed to anticipate the full horror of the consequences of Israeli concessions. It all went far more dreadfully wrong than anyone could remotely envisage.
Oslo’s first sucker was prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was railroaded by his then-foreign minister Shimon Peres into accepting a deal concocted illicitly behind the scenes. Thoroughly hoodwinked, Rabin delivered a glowing sales pitch on the White House lawn: “In the alleys of Khan Yunis and the streets of Ramat Gan, in Gaza, Hadera, Rafah and Afula, a new reality is born. The hundred-year-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict is ending.”
How Peres’s dupes roared with derision when warned that their subterfuge will result in Katyushas raining down on Ashkelon. Political critics were pronounced unadulterated anathema and denigrated as “Hamas collaborators.”
“Where are those Katyushas?” Rabin sardonically teased.
He surpassed even his own considerable capacity for contempt when marking Oslo’s first anniversary in 1994. Here is a verbatim translation of what he had to say on that occasion: “The Likud’s nightmare tales are familiar. Did they not even promise us Katyushas from Gaza? For already a year the Gaza Strip is under the control of the Palestinian Authority and there wasn’t a single Katyusha and there will not be one single Katyusha. All that talk is just empty talk. The Likud has a deathly fear of peace. They are the cowards of peace!”
As more and more political fortunes were sunk into the Osloite pit and as more and more intoxicating fumes were inhaled by more and more gullible and/or opportunistic junkies, so it became harder to kick the addiction. How unremitting were their efforts to hook others. No ploy was too objectionable.
For the sake of restraint, we won’t even dwell on the fact that forecasts that Ashkelon would come under fire were painted in 1993 as unbelievably insane and outrightly malicious scare-mongering. Yesteryear’s worst worrywarts didn’t dare conjure up scenarios of Tel Aviv, Rishon Lezion, Holon, Bat Yam and other Dan region safe-havens being in Gaza’s rocket range. We have already long accepted that Ashdod, Yavne and Beersheba are.
It shouldn’t take an Einstein to work out that something in the grand Oslo design didn’t quite go to plan – not that this would be remotely admitted by Peres, his agenda-pushing sidekicks and the whole weird gamut of farsighted creative omniscients who gravitate to the left wing of our political arena.
But it didn’t end there. The nature of downward slides is that things go from bad to worse and then to lots worse.
On October 25, 2004, as he urged the Knesset to approve his reckless withdrawal from Gaza, prime minister Ariel Sharon assured the nation that “this disengagement will strengthen Israel’s hold on the territory essential to our existence and will win the blessing and gratitude of those near and far, will lessen enmity, will break besiegement and boycotts and will further us on the path of peace with the Palestinians and with all our other neighbors.”
In the same vein, Sharon’s deputy Ehud Olmert also energetically peddled the same dodgy merchandise: “Disengagement will bring better defense, greater security, significantly more prosperity and much joy to all who live in the Mideast…. Together we will move forward in the direction of forging new relationships, improved mutual understanding and enhanced trust. We will sit with our neighbors, talk to them, help them, cooperate with them, become their partners, so that the Middle East will indeed transform into what it was supposed to be to begin with – the Garden of Eden upon this earth.”
As the shattered shards of these sham inducements tumbled menacingly all around us, not only wasn’t Olmert the least bit contrite, but he vigorously concocted a disengagement sequel for Judea and Samaria, which he dubbed “realignment.” It was to bring the dubious bounties of Gaza’s disengagement to the elongated eastern flank of our densest population concentrations.
This is what we must be forever wary of. Flare-ups and ensuing military operations come and go but our collective memories soon fade away, overtaken by the inexorable march of fresh news superimposed on yesterday’s banner headlines. As the current fighting in Gaza recedes into the past, new schemes will be spawned for more giveaways of strategic holdings.
To this day our political arena bristles with know-it-alls who adamantly refuse to connect cause and effect, who deny the direct link between the evacuation of Gush Katif, along with the north Gaza buffer settlements, and the emergence of Hamastan, armed to the teeth with all manner of flying projectiles, capable not only of harassing the Negev but of reaching Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
It wasn’t coincidence that propelled an emboldened Hamas to power hot on the heels of our withdrawal and that freed it to fire at will on us from the very Jewish settlements we razed. It was Israel that gave Hamas the capacity of deciding how and when it might arbitrarily disrupt the lives of Israeli civilians. Gaza’s monstrous gunrunning was likewise plainly facilitated by the IDF’s absence.
There’s no getting away from one underlying and incontrovertible fact – any territory Israel relinquishes is soon converted into a full-blown threat.
We had to reenter Lebanon in 2006 subsequent to Ehud Barak’s brilliant unilateral disengagement of 2000. Because we returned so clumsily and because of Tzipi Livni’s diplomatic fiasco, Hezbollah’s menace has magnified threefold.
We had to regain control of the PA’s Samarian cities in 2002 to halt the slaughter on the streets of central Israel. It’s a surefire bet that things will get horribly bloodier if we stupidly surrender more control in Judea and Samaria again.
Four years ago we were forced back into the very Gaza from which we disengaged. We patently reengaged during Operation Cast Lead four years ago. We are now reengaged yet again in Operation Pillar of Defense, having had to reappear on Gaza’s scene, much as we sacrificed to disengage from it.
Disengagement’s most elementary definition is to free or detach oneself from a given association. It’s a disconnection, a separation. Yet Gaza tenaciously dogs us and won’t let us disengage.
Our successive confrontations with Gaza are as explicit an acknowledgement as can be that disengagement has failed, that we are not disengaged, that disengagement doesn’t hinge on our wishful thinking, that disengagement is as much a chimera as truce, peace and all gradations in between.
Moreover, any future ill-conceived “disengagement” will necessitate further reengagement. Our recurrent reluctance to reengage will unquestionably awaken anew the Arab a-Dawla ma’ana arrogance. The only antidote is not to disengage.