Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The running sore of Gush Katif is a reminder that Israel's great leaders also made great mistakes

Jerusalem's Old city was lost in 1948 after Ben-Gurion bombed the Altalena bringing weapons to be shared between the Irgun and Hagana
Mistakes are part of life, and jewish and zionist leaders made their fair share of major mistakes whilst trying to represent their people. Sometimes the dilemma was an impossible one, such as that of the Judenrat in a ghetto under nazi occupation. If the jewish leadership did not represent their community they were afraid the germans would liquidate the whole community overnight. Yet if they co-operated in selecting jews to be sent east to 'labor camps', they then became complicit in their deaths. May we never have to make such awful decisions.

Then there was Weizman who loved the British almost as much as his own people, who let his love of Britain cloud his desire for an Independent Israel (He was ready to accept a rump of territory on the coast, a mere autonomy to be granted by Britain which had abrogated its duties to establish a jewish state under the League of Nations Mandate 1922. This brought about the split between him and Ben-Gurion).

Ben-Gurion lost Jerusalem after picking a murderous and unnecessary fight with Begin and the already disbanding Irgun (the Altalena 'incident'). Before that BG had collaborated with the British during the 'season' in 1945 whereby the Hagana and Palmach were ordered to hand over Irgun fighters to the British occupiers.
The only reason why a terrible civil war did not ensue with the resulting possible defeat of jewish forces by arabs at a critical point in time, was that Menahem Begin was determined that nothing would convince him to take up arms against other jews. 

 Moshe Dayan who organised the 'season', the brutal crackdown on the Irgun and Stern Group (known as a 'gang' by the British was a great general who defeated arab attempts to divert the headwaters of the Jordan, and was architect of the 1956 rout of the  Egyptian army. But Dayan's impressive credentials and public persona belied a twisted and even sadistic personality, a cruelty to his wife and towards his troops. Despite Dayan's unequaled personal bravery he was a moral coward unable to speak up for his ideas even when he knew he was right. He failed to assert his opposition to the building and then maintaining of the disastrous white elephant of the Bar-Lev line. It is forgotten now that from 1968-1970 the Bar Lev line cost a thousand israeli lines.
Dayan also failed when he allowed inexperienced generals to mount disastrous and suicidal attacks unsupported by infantry in the Sinai in the early days of the 1973 War [Dayan who was officially retired from the army but as Defence Minister and still with a colossal stature could then effectively appoint and remove the commanders. He felt that Israel was doomed in the first days when Egypt and Syria were both advancing. Seeing Israeli forces being unable to stop their enemies Dayan had a 'Rabin' moment, being caught sobbing uncontrollably on the Golan heights by one of the commanders]).

Sharon also had his share of mistakes, such as sacrificing the paratroopers in 1956 in an unnecessary action against the egyptians, against orders.The troops fell into a carefully laid ambush. Then there was his leading of Begin by the nose ever deeper into Lebanon, and of Sabra & Shatila massacre by the phalangists. The phalangists 'owed' the palestinians a massacre or two after their people had been previously humiliated and massacred and Bashir Gemayel the Lebanese president was assassinated. Sharon should have realised what the phalangists were about, but as they had been until then useless as fighters, it was thought they could clean out stay-behind PLO terrorists in the camp. And when Sharon was informed by a sniper that he had Arafat in his sights, Sharon refused to give the order to shoot as he had agreed with the americans not to harm the mass murderer during his cruise to Tunis. True to form, Arafat was later to repay this mercy after Oslo by unleashing the suicide bombers against Israel, with over a thousand israelis killed and 10,000 wounded from 2001-4.

If Sharon had not been so determined to remove the PLO from Beirut (not a wholly bad idea as the PLO had been committing constant terror against Israel ever since King Hussein had thrown them out of Jordan in 1970) and had satisfied himself with Israel's taking only southern Lebanon up to the Litani river, arab and islamic terror would have been defeated, and Israel would have had a very secure border at relatively low cost in dead and wounded ( this mistake of withdrawing from Lebanon will need to be rectified at a future date, unless Hezbollah implodes and a peaceful Lebanon arises. Hezbollah might indeed fall apart at some future date owing to the new sunni-shia fault line running through Syria but no arab government will make a durable peace with Israel).

But Sharon's greatest mistake was in withdrawing from Gaza, from Gush Katif, from the 'Philadelphia' buffer between Gaza and Egypt which prevented armaments getting to Hamas. Sharon who above all people knew the importance of land in ensuring the security of Israel, understood that the settlements of Gush Katif were the trip wire against the threat from the south. The Gush Katif settlements broke up the Gaza strip and held the major road junctions. The Gush made it difficult for the Hamas terrorists to organize the terror, to move munitions around, to bombard Israel proper. The settlements took the missile barrages that afterwards were sent directly into israeli towns and cities.

Sharon tried to come to a peace agreement with Hamas but to no avail. They weren't interested in anything but a 10 year truce, as per koranic precepts. The Koran does not allow full peace with non muslims. Non muslims must either pay the jizya (the racist poll tax) or be killed, if weaker. When the 'infidel' enemy is stronger than muslims, peace may reign until they are strong enough to overcome the 'kufar' enemy.

Hamas can not sign a peace, and will never do so. Sharon surrounded with some very able advisers such as Dore Gold must have known this fact. Yet in desperation to have quiet from the palestinian arabs always complaining about 'occupation' Sharon withdrew from Gaza (the 'resisting occupation' phrase arabs never explain in english but when speaking in arabic they make no secret of the fact that 'occupation' refers to all the territory of Israel. 'Removing the occupation' is thus a euphemism for the destruction of Israel). Even before the dust had settled on destroyed Gush Katif, the missiles and mortars began to pound Israel by the hundreds.

Shifra Shomron who was a teenager when Gush Katif was destroyed in 2005 talks about her fictionalized account of the people of Gush Katif, the life they built in the face of constant terror attacks, and the ultimate destruction:

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