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Sol Salbe Translation: It's All About Talking

Sol Salbe: It's All About Talking

Middle East News Service

[Middle East News Service comments: Sometimes the messenger is as important as the message. Shlomo Gazit is not the first who says that says that the Gaza siege, the military operations and the rocket firings into southern Israel need to stop by Israel blinking first. But it is his credentials that give added weight to his comments. Ma’ariv provides a potted CV for their columnists; this is what they say about him: A reserve general and former head of Military Intelligence, a fighter in the Palmach during the War of Independence and one of the founders of the IDF National Security Academy; former chancellor of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Director-General of the Jewish Agency. Currently Chairperson of the Israeli Galili Centre for Defence Studies; author of The Carrot and the Stick.

Gazit message is simple: stop it -- you are going the wrong way, lives are more important than anyone’s ego; here are alternative paths, take any one of them. While there is anecdotal evidence that there is strong support in the Australian Jewish community for the Gaza siege and the associated humanitarian crisis there are many who must have their inner doubts about the morality and wisdom of Israel’s approach. If you know such people, they will probably benefit in discovering that there are others in Israel who think the same way –Sol Salbe.]

Hebrew original: http://www.nrg.coil/online/1/ART1/686/095.html

It’s all about talking

Shlomo Gazit

thinks we ought to talk to Hamas in every way we can, even if it hurts our ego

Everyone acknowledges that the combination of the military measures and the siege that we are imposing on the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip are simply not delivering the goods. The barrage of Qassam rockets on Sderot and the other Gaza enveloping townships is steadily intensifying. The captains of our ship of state continue to boast of our impressive achievements, but nevertheless, they too are aware that we cannot go on like this and that a different policy is required.

The Hamas leadership openly proclaims its willingness to enter into a long-term hudna, or truce. Israel says it is also willing to do so. So how come we are in no way achieving it? The stumbling block is on the Israeli side – Israel is unwilling to talk to Hamas.

During my childhood, when we had a fight with a friend he became a chilbe (dog) [from the fellahin Arabic vernacular -Tr]. A typical feature of such an altercation is that you are forbidden to talk to a chilbe. But we always needed to communicate something to the chilbe. So how did we solve the problem? We got smart – with the chilbe present and listening, we addressed a third party – tell the chilbe such and such. And instantly the chilbe would respond, using exactly the same method.

This strange and grave situation between the Hamas leadership and Israel reminds me of those childhood days. Israel is correctly reluctant to undertake a massive military operation in the Gaza strip. Those operations conducted hitherto, which were limited in both time and scope, have reached the end of their effectiveness. Despite the impressive results, they have hardly scratched the Gazan potential to do harm. I doubt if anyone had considered the possibility that they have the potential to launch dozens of rockets daily.

All the ways to talk to the chilbe
It seems to me that in these circumstances, Israel should consider talking to the chilbe that one cannot talk to directly. There are several ways of doing so. The first is dealing directly. Some of our leaders have already stated that “they would talk to the Devil himself to release Gilad Shalit”. I propose a minor change to that proposition: “It is OK to talk to the Devil himself if this ensures that the children of Sderot can resume sleeping soundly and safely in their beds.”

I’d be the first to admit that obviously, such direct negotiations would dent the national ego of our leaders. There will be those who would argue that such a step would weaken [Palestinian President] Abu Mazen, or possibly encourage him to renew negotiations with Hamas, possibly re-forming the national unity government. It would also constitute a slap in the face of the US President, who only a few days ago supported our resolute determination to fight Hamas.

In that case we can choose the second option: use an intermediary who would conciliate as well as act as our go-between. I am certain that the Egyptians would love to get that role. We would approach President Mubarak, and ask him to approach the chilbe to pass on our proposals. The advantage of using this method is that we do not grant Hamas recognition, we don’t talk to them directly and so our policy remains unaltered.

Legitimising a military operation
There is a third way to achieve precisely the same aim without any negotiations. The message can be conveyed through a gesture. Again and again our leaders are repeating the mantra that, if Hamas wants to stop the IDF attacks, all it needs to do is stop all attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip by all [Palestinian] organisations. If that is really our intention, Israel can go first.

Israel can announce that on such and such a day, at such and such an hour, Israel will cease all air, sea and ground operations against the residents of Gaza. Israel will be putting the Hamas leadership to the test by giving it a specified number of days for a total cessation of attacks.

The disadvantage of this method is that even if we establish calm, there will be no negotiations and it would difficult to obtain Gilad Shalit’s release, but above all our ego will be severely dented. Everyone would be able to see that we blinked first. Its advantage is that we don’t talk to the chilbe and what is more valuable than anything else, if, heaven forbid, our initiative fails we would have absolute legitimacy – internal and external – for a major military operation in Gaza.

[Translated by Sol Salbe.]


[The independent Middle East News Service concentrates on providing alternative information chiefly from Israeli sources. It is sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the AJDS. These are expressed in its own statements
Please note that while our own comments are not copyrighted we do appreciate acknowledgement. Items forwarded may be copyrighted and are forwarded to alert you of their existence.]

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