Iranian Fajr 5 missiles hit Jerusalem as tensions escalate;
it is not inconceivable that Israel will have to re-occupy the Sinai
Eric LaMont Gregory
There is no justification for the existence of offensive weapons in Gaza
Most headlines concerning the escalating tensions between Israel and the Hamas controlled government of Gaza begin with the words - Hamas rockets hit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
In fact, there is no such thing as a Hamas rocket. And, the Hamas government of Gaza cannot curtail other factions that have located themselves in Gaza that are launching rockets attacks against Israel.
The current government of Gaza has shown little interest in developing its manufacturing sector or any other truly creative way of transforming the economy of Gaza for the betterment of its people.
The rockets that fell upon Jerusalem and Tel Aviv originate in Libya, Iran, Egypt, and Syria as well as from the Sudan, and are transported along routes in the smugglers paradise that is the Egyptian controlled Sinai. The Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, has boasted responsibility for the most recent rocket attacks on Israel.
And, the Hamas government of Gaza cannot curtail other factions that have located themselves in Gaza that are launching rockets attacks against Israel. Further complicating the issue is the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt cannot control the groups who seek to attack Israel from the Sinai. Some of these groups and their battle-hardened soldiers fought in Libya, Syria, and recently toppled the government of Mali.
The Israel Defense Force has engaged some 75,000 Israeli reservists to the border that Israel shares with Gaza. Israeli forces have also been deployed to its Lebanese and Syrian frontier regions. The southern third of Syria is now largely under the control of the rebels fighting against the Assad regime, and Israel is concerned not only about attacks on its territory from rebels located there, but also about the control of the Syrian chemical and other weapon arsenals if, more correctly, when the Assad government falls.
All military interventions, if properly thought out, have specific objectives and an end game in mind from the onset.
If nothing else about the nature of the conflict between Hamas, other factions in its territory but not under its control, and Israel that should be evident is that there is no justification for the government of Gaza to be in possession of offensive weapons such as rockets with a range of 5 to 50 kilometers.
There is no justification whatsoever for the existence of offensive weapons of any kind in Gaza, or in the Sinai.
The removal of all offensive weapons from Gaza, and imposing a - quarantine - on arms movements in the Egyptian Sinai must be the foremost objectives of the Israel Defense Force in relation to Gaza and the Sinai.
President John F Kennedy chose to quarantine and not to blockade shipping en route to Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis, because a quarantine is a legal act in peacetime, whereas a blockade is an act of war.
The new Egyptian president has a responsibility to re-double his efforts to cut off the Egyptian Sinai smuggling routes for arms into Gaza. Although, the Egyptian security forces destroyed some 120 smuggling tunnels in the Sinai Peninsula in August, which were being used to smuggle people and goods to and from Gaza, nevertheless these kinds of efforts need to be on-going.
The new Egyptian administration is still coming to grips with the fact that militants, some of whom may be his own supporters, killed 20 of the Egyptian forces that were involved in the effort to cut off the arms smuggling routes in the Sinai.
It is not inconceivable that Israel will have to, at least temporarily, re-occupy the Sinai because of the threat that the array of radicals who now occupy that territory pose to its security.
If, Egyptian President Morsi, intends to honor his promise to protect the people of Gaza, he has chosen the most difficult task that any leader can ever undertake, because he would have to protect the people of Gaza from their own leaders, and themselves.
For all practical purposes the Sinai has become a lawless land and is a smugglers paradise. The ability to control the flow of contraband weapons as well as those being introduced into the Sinai by Iran which are capable of striking Israel is a matter that cannot go unadressed.
The Fajr 5 missiles that hit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were manufactured in Iran, and it would be a mistake for the United States to believe that the Teran regime was not sending a message, given that these attacks came on the same day that Iran announced its intention to complete its nuclear facilities. That message is that you hit us, we hit your ally Israel, or one or more of your own cities from a ship moored off your Atlantic, Pacific, or Gulf coast.
Perhaps, it is time for the United States to act, and act decisively.
Iran has promised bigger suprises, not that the introduction of missels into Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula was not in itself destabilizing. But the introduction of even longer range missles into the area would leave Israel vulnerable to attack from Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and the Sinai.
The inescapable conclusion is that the Sinai must be brought under control. The question then becomes, how and by whom?
In recent times, when the idea of assisting in a policing action was raised someone would inevitably suggest the possibility of a UN force. That contingency in this case should be rejected out of hand. The second notion often discussed is the wisdom of creating a multilateral force to do the job, well, yes and no.
No, if one contemplates the usual mix of supporting nations working together under a command structure similar to the one operating in Afghanistan. There was a time in the not too distant past when that sort of arrangement was workable, however, it is not workable today.
What could work is for those nations willing and capable of undertaking the role of a Sinai police force to do so under a rotation system, with each nation's forces assuming the role for a period of, for example, two years.
Why is the control of the Sinai so important? The straightforward answer is that the Sinai is the key to Peace in the Middle East. And, it must be acknowledged that the current Egyptian government is incapable of adminstering the Sinai Peninsula, and there is no conceivable way that the Muslim Brotherhood government can control the array of radical and battle-hardened Islamists that now control the Sinai.
If the international community does not act now the threat that the Sinai poses to regional security will continue to grow in size and its magnitude.
In 1981, at the conclusion of the Land for Peace Agreement between Egypt and Israel, a process which began between Sadat, Begin and Carter, but which concluded between Mubarak, Begin and Reagan, thinking was that real progress had been made. Sadat had been slain by the Muslim Brotherhood for entering into the Peace Agreement with Israel; this author postulated the following proposition to all the principals.
Let us look forward 20 to thirty years, the proposal began, and imagine pouring all of the billions of dollars into developing the Sinai that would otherwise be spent on fighting wars. Those billions would turn the Sinai into Southern California and prosperity, the missing ingredient in Palestinian affairs, would tend to ameliorate the poverty driven hatred that is so prevalent in the region.
There was a small city in the Sinai that was occupied roughly by an equal number of Arabs and Jews. As the date approached for the turn over of the Sinai to Egypt the residents expressed the wish to remain where they were. In what was at the time, the best example of peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews in the entire Middle East.
The residents of this small city knew full well that there were those who would not look favorably upon Arabs and Jews living together in harmony, but they also realised the kernel truth of what must exist to acheive peace in the Middle East. Peace will come when an Arab can live under Israeli civil administrative authority, and a Jew can live under Arab civil administrative authority. Until then, as I suggested to the principals in the land for peace deal, let those who are working towards that future live their dream, and do not place security above liberty.
Begin's decisions were driven by security concerns, Reagan thought it was a matter for the people of Egypt and Israel to decide, Thatcher would not go against the wishes of Reagan, and Mubarak put the final nail in the negotiations with a statement that 'Egypt was for Egyptians'. Mitchell the envoy who began the peace process in the Carter administration, found himself at the end of process working with the Republican Reagan in whose administration he yielded little moral authority.
Begin ordered the removal of all Jews from the city, Mubarak forcibly removed all others, and this golden example of what could be was bulldozed to the ground.
We are now thirty years from those events and the Sinai is not an example of peaceful coexistence or prosperity, but a lawless wasteland, and of course, the billion dollar wars continue.