Rockets, mortar bombs, incendiary balloons, and explosive kites have been the horrifying fate of hundreds of thousands of the South’s residents in recent months, and the interminable problem of terror from Gaza has become one of the greatest challenges facing the country.
The Jerusalem Post asked MKs from both sides of the political aisle how they intend to deal with the daily reality of life under fire from Gaza’s terrorist organizations after the elections.
MK Moti Yogev of Bayit Yehudi is a former IDF colonel and member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and he, along with other members of the committee, visited the Gaza border region on Thursday.
Yogev told the Post that the only solution to the security threat posed by Gazan terror organizations was for Israel to reconquer the territory.
He added that from his own ideological perspective, settlements should be established in the territory and he said that more need to be invested in trauma centers for southern residents, bomb-proofing public buildings in the South and similar such measures.
“Without doubt we need to reconquer Gaza. We are going to be forced and required to reconquer Gaza in order to destroy the terror organizations,” Yogev asserted.
The MK argued that the root cause of the terror is the fact that the IDF no longer has a permanent presence and that this state of affairs began not with the disengagement from Gaza in 2005 but when Israel withdrew its armed forces, under the terms of the Oslo II interim agreements in 1995, from Gaza’s urban centers.
“We have seen that it is impossible to disengage [from Gaza]… we fled from Gaza to escape terrorism and the terror nevertheless chased after us while we fled from responsibility,” he said, comparing the military strength of terror groups in the territory to the vastly lesser means they possess in the West Bank.
Yogev said this situation was brought about by the IDF’s Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 when it destroyed terror networks in the main Palestinian cities in the West Bank and restored its presence in, or near to, them and its ability to operate freely there.
He said only a similar operation and similar policies in Gaza would restore quiet to the southern border region.
Asked if soldiers would not need to deal daily with improvised explosive devices, sniper attacks and other forms of urban warfare after reconquering Gaza, Yogev acknowledged that this would be the case in the short term during the conquest and what he described as the “mopping-up” process.
He said the conquest would take several weeks and the mopping-up process would take several months, and that after this period the level of violence would be greatly reduced and resemble that of the West Bank.
Asked how many soldiers might be killed in the operation he said there would be “several hundred casualties,” arguing however that it was the army’s duty to defend the citizens.
Yogev acknowledged that there would likely be international repercussions to reconquering and occupying Gaza, but that Israel “first needs to do what needs to be done” and then worry about the consequences.
And he rejected the idea of easing conditions in Gaza and agreeing to a long-term ceasefire with Hamas, saying Hamas would simply use the new resources afforded to it to further entrench itself and expand its terror infrastructure and arsenal.
Asked if he and Bayit Yehudi would advocate for the reconquest of Gaza in the next government, Yogev said merely that the necessity of this action was “something clear to the large majority of the Israeli public,” but that there were “different opinions” on the timing of such an operation.
MK ORNA BARBIVAI of the Blue and White Party and an IDF major-general outright rejected the reconquest and military reoccupation of Gaza as a realistic option.
She said however that there was indeed a strong need to take decisive military action against Hamas and the various terror organizations and networks in Gaza, but insisted that after any such action, efforts be made to improve the circumstances in the territory for Gaza’s citizens.
“Anyone who expresses a populist notion such as reconquering Gaza doesn’t understand the consequences of what he is saying and does not understand the situation,” Barbivai told the Post. “We don’t need to resettle Gaza. We need a security solution.
“We need to act with an iron fist against anyone who threatens Israeli citizens, and we need to create a situation in Gaza in which the population understands that it is not right to support a terror organization because this harms their own lives.
“We have to make them understand that they cannot mess with us. That it is forbidden for them to violate our sovereignty and to harm Israeli citizens.”
But she said that after such an operation it was imperative to act on the “diplomatic level and the economic level,” so as to provide an economic incentive to Gaza’s civilians for opposing violence against Israel.
Barbivai argued that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had failed to exploit the military advantages Israel obtained through the 2014 Operation Protective Edge in Gaza by taking the initiative on a diplomatic level and by easing Gaza’s economic conditions, which, she alleged, had simply caused the resumption of the daily terror attacks witnessed before that conflict.
The MK panned Netanyahu as “a leader who is afraid to take [military] action” but who had also failed to offer any other alternative.
Pressed as to what diplomatic and economic arrangements, or long term calm, could be offered to Hamas, Barbivai declined to elaborate, saying that such matters should not be discussed before the necessary military action has been taken, in order to restore Israel’s deterrence.
“After Hamas is deterred [militarily] then we can talk about other solutions and look at it from a broad perspective,” she said.
Asked if this meant that should Blue and White form the next government it would immediately embark on a military operation in Gaza, Barbivai was evasive, saying simply that “we will not shrink from doing what is expected of us as leaders.”
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