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The Philadelphi Story

November 18th, 2012 - 8:12 pm
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What can be brought into Gaza? “Import of goods into the Gaza Strip is limited as part of the 2007–present blockade of the Gaza Strip imposed by Israel and Egypt. Israel allows limited humanitarian supplies from aid organizations into the Gaza Strip. Humanitarian organizations, including UN agencies, bring goods into Gaza. As of May 2010, they have brought in, according to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories of the Israel Defense Forces, 1.5 million liters of diesel fuel and gasoline, fruits and vegetables, wheat, sugar, meat, chicken and fish products, dairy products, animal feed, hygiene products, clothing and shoes.”

Other stuffs are brought in by tunnel.

Gaza Strip smuggling tunnels are smuggling tunnels that have been dug under the Egypt-Gaza Strip separation barrier which separates Egypt from the Gaza Strip. The barrier runs along the international border along the Philadelphi corridor, which is a buffer zone along the border created by the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. …

The tunnels are run as businesses, mainly by the Abu Samhadana and Abu Rish families, both of Bedouin origin. Smuggling provides tens of thousands of US dollars in profits for each delivery. Some sources have also reported financial links to the Arafat family. Some of the tunnels were allegedly controlled by one of the Palestinian Authority security services under the command of Moussa Arafat, cousin of Yasser Arafat. Until his assassination at the hands of a rival Palestinian faction in 2005, Moussa Arafat was believed to receive a portion of the profits derived from the smuggling tunnels.

2010 estimates say that approximately 7,000 people work on over 1,000 tunnels. The tunnels are reportedly of a generally high quality of engineering and construction—with some including electricity, ventilation, intercoms, and a rail system. The openings to many tunnels are found within buildings in or around Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah.

Thus is can be readily understood that rocket fire from Gaza can neither be wholly suppressed by airstrikes nor even by a ground operation unless Gaza itself is limited or Hamas decides to stop firing rockets.

The premier weapons system employed by Hamas is Fajr-5 rocket, probably supplied by Iran. “With its 75 km (46 mile) range and a 175 kg (385 pound) warhead – powerful enough to shear through a concrete apartment block – the Fajr is a prestige weapon for Hamas.

Bill Clinton remarked “[I]t’s only a question of time until [these rockets] are de facto outfitted with GPS positioning systems. And when that happens and the casualty rates start to really mount, will that make it more difficult for the Palestinians to make peace instead of less?” His argument is simple. Surrender now while the surrendering is good.

The other option Israel has of course, is simply to cut off Gaza by severing the link to Egypt. But Clinton didn’t mention that.  The assumption that there is “no military solution to the Gaza problem” is not quite correct. The more accurate formulation is that “there is no military solution within the current international diplomatic framework.” Redraw the map and solution to Gaza appears immediately. This is exactly what happened to the German 6th Army in 1942. The ‘clean’ military solution to an city fortress is simply to cut it off.

But more to the point the same unthinkable fate was handed to the Egyptian 3rd Army in 1973 by the IDF. With national survival at stake the Israelis thought “outside of the box” in 1973 and crossed the Suez canal, trapping the entire Egyptian army on the other side by cutting them off from the rear. It would be the equivalent of Rommel invading England and leaving the US expeditionary force stuck in France with the Channel behind them. Interestingly enough the Israelis violated the UN ceasefire to complete the encirclement. IDF units kept going until all of the Egyptian forces were completely trapped.

The weakness in assuming that the diplomatic framework is inviolable is that faced with an supreme danger to their populations, history shows that nations tear up diplomatic arrangements and rearrange the map.  What Clinton should have realized is that if diplomats want to preserve the existing arrangements they must never allow the combatants to push too far  and pose an existential threat to each other. Otherwise all the bets are off.

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