For some time now,
I've been watching with astonishment the occasional cat and mouse game of
"find the arms smuggling tunnel" in Gaza. I'm not astonished that the Israelis
keep finding them. I'm not astonished either, that the Palestinians keep
digging them. And, I'm certainly not astonished that the Palestinian Authority
doesn't try to stop them. They probably have gotten their best weaponry via
the tunnels. What astonishes me is that with all the media coverage about
arms smuggling, drug smuggling, and prostitute smuggling from Egypt; the
Israeli government and media have yet to place the blame squarely where it
belongs. On Egypt!
So, recently Israel went on another search and destroy mission in Rafiach/Rafah,
code named "Operation Root Canal." After a few of days of house-to-house
searches, they destroyed three large tunnels, then pulled out their troops
and went home. The Israeli Army believes that there are at least another
10 tunnels operating in the area. These tunnels are 12-14 meters deep (more
than 35 feet) and in some cases hundreds of meters (yards) long.
Senior Israel Defense Force officials said they would continue to operate
against the tunnels, until the PA makes a strategic decision and does so
itself. Government spokesman Dore Gold said Israel was forced to go after
the terrorist groups and their infrastructure because the Palestinian leadership
had not done so. "In uncovering the vast network of arms smuggling tunnels
in the area of Rafah, Israel is compelled again to do the work that the Palestinian
Authority is supposed to do," Gold said.
Israeli military officials said Israel had intelligence warnings that Palestinians
were planning to use the tunnels to smuggle in anti-aircraft missiles, weapons
that could have a strategic impact on the three-year conflict. They said
Palestinians were trying to get shoulder-held Stinger missiles that could
shoot down attack helicopters Israel often uses in Gaza, and could also threaten
Israeli Air Force planes or civilian aircraft flying close to the coastal
strip. They also said the Palestinians were trying to smuggle in Katyusha
rockets, which would have the range to hit Israeli cities near Gaza. The
officials said Egypt was not taking steps to stop the smuggling. So far this
year, the military said it has destroyed 33 smuggling tunnels in the area.
IDF officers reported that the significant resistance they encountered on
the Palestinian side surprised them; the Arabs used automatic weapons, grenades,
anti-tank rockets, and bombs. Sure the fighting was stiff. First, weapons
smuggling is the lifeline of the Palestinian "armed struggle." Without an
influx of more and better weapons, how can they aspire to "conquer" Israel,
or at least drive out the "occupation" -- i.e. carry out more terrorism.
Now read that first sentence again, "...the Arabs used automatic weapons,
grenades, anti-tank rockets, and bombs." Second, they are using -- and will
continue to use -- stronger, better, more sophisticated weaponry, until the
smuggling is stopped.
Should that astonish anybody?
About grenades, for example, in an interview of April 27, 1982 with Israeli
Army Radio, then Prime Minister Menachem Begin spoke of such serious violations
-- of the Peace Agreement -- by the Egyptians, that he had threatened to
postpone the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai. The violations included,
"the smuggling of weapons and explosives originating in Lebanon from El-Arish,
and we caught more than 500 hand grenades. You can imagine how many people
could have been killed or wounded by such a quantity of grenades," Begin
said. "We also demanded of the Egyptians that they end this smuggling, and
indeed, President Mubarak, in his letter to me of April 16, made a commitment
to prevent the smuggling and combat it," Begin promised. So, Egypt is on
record "to prevent the smuggling" of weaponry from its territory into Gaza.
But Israel has never made a serious effort to "enforce" the Peace Agreement
commitment by Egypt, to stop the smuggling. Or for that matter any other
commitment by Egypt.
Violations of the treaty abound, such as Egyptian troop movements into demilitarized
areas. Egypt has put a division into Sinai, which is really a skeleton of
four divisions that could be inflated quickly if they decided to attack.
Or, bridgeheads constructed on the east bank of the canal, for quick entry
into Sinai. All of Egypt's military planning and exercises have presumed
a war to their east. Who else if not with Israel? Israeli military intelligence
has noted an increasingly aggressive military posture in the last 4-5 years
and has voiced, "quiet concern." Why be quiet about it?
Weapons smuggled into Gaza -- as already noted -- through tunnels that begin
near Egyptian military positions in Sinai, end up in the hands of Palestinian
terrorists. It has reached epidemic proportions. When Israeli Defenses Forces
blew up tunnels in a past effort not long ago, they saw the smoke rise at
the other end, next to the Egyptian positions.
The withdrawal of the Egyptian Ambassador from Israel just after the outbreak
of the current Oslo War is also a clear violation of the treaty. As is the
ongoing calls for professional and economic boycotts of contacts with Israelis.
Finally, there is continuing Anti-Semitism and incitement against Israel
in Egyptian textbooks and in the Egyptian media. For example, a recent hit
song played on the radio, entitled, "I Hate Israel," political cartoons in
newspapers reminiscent of the Nazi era, and a recent TV series based on The
Protocols of the Elders of Zion. There seems to be no effort on the part
of the Egyptian government to educate its people toward peace, or ban incitement
to hatred against Jews and Israel.
Yet, according to the Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt of March 26, 1979:
III 2. Each Party undertakes to ensure that acts or threats of belligerency,
hostility, or violence do not originate from and are not committed from within
its territory, or by any forces subject to its control or by any other forces
stationed on its territory, against the population, citizens or property
of the other Party. Each Party also undertakes to refrain from organizing,
instigating, inciting, assisting or participating in acts or threats of belligerency,
hostility, subversion or violence against the other Party, anywhere, and
undertakes to ensure that perpetrators of such acts are brought to justice.
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Egypt generally hides behind the mask of "free speech" or "academic freedom"
when Anti-Semitic and inciteful behavior is addressed. But just as Israel
has laws against racial incitement against Arabs, Egypt is treaty bound to
legislate and enforce laws against hostile activities and incitement against
Jews and Israel. One can measure how "successful" the Peace Treaty with Egypt
has been over the last 25 years, by the lack of this enforcement on the part
of the Egyptian government.
But more importantly, the Egyptian government is directly responsible for
the military violations of the treaty, and their turning of a "blind eye"
on arms smuggling from the Sinai -- now their sovereign territory -- into
Gaza. Is that "woeful ignorance," "passive acceptance," or "deliberate assistance,"
on Egypt's part, in this arms smuggling adventure?
In a recent expose entitled "The Case Against Jordan," Alan Dershowitz reminds
us that "Jordan has a law on its books explicitly prohibiting any Jew from
becoming a citizen, or any Jordanian from selling land to a Jew. It has refused
to amend this law despite repeated demands." That, "Jordan has perfected
the art of torture and uses it routinely against dissidents, suspected terrorists
and perceived opponents of the monarchy." And that, "Jordan killed more Palestinians
in one month, September 1970, known as Black September than Israel has killed
during the three years of suicide bombings that began in the fall of 2000.
The brutality of the Jordanian Army toward Palestinian dissidents and terrorists
was far more egregious than anything Israel has ever done." And Dershowitz
reminds us of much more.
Yet by contrast -- and I'm no fan of Jordan -- at the same time that Israel
is fighting arms smuggling from Egypt, without any help from their side;
the Jordanian Information Minister, Nabil Sharif, announced that the Jordanian
Army killed two armed men and injured two others as they attempted to infiltrate
into Israel. He said that Jordanian security forces searched the area and
discovered machine guns and ammunition, Israel Radio reported. There is much
lacking in the Peace Treaty with Jordan -- for example, the level of incitement
against Israel by Jordanian professional associations -- but at least they
are taking "real combat" seriously. What about Egypt?
Israel needs to publicly and loudly protest Egypt's treaty violations in
the UN, to the Americans and Europeans, and in the courtroom of international
public opinion. Ditto with Jordan. But with Egypt, unlike Jordan, Israel
also has to take specific actions to stop the arms smuggling into Gaza; "quiet
concern" isn't good enough.
Since the Egyptian and Jordanian "Peace Treaties" are held up as models for
future agreements with the Palestinians, Syrians, and others in the Arab
world; Israel needs to be honest about how "successful" they've been, and
how to prevent future failures as well. Israeli leaders have perfected the
questionable art of "serial ignoring." Ignoring the treaty violations
of the Egyptians; ignoring the treaty violations of the Jordanians; and yes
-- that's what got us into this recent mess -- ignoring the agreement violations
of Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.
It's about time Israel either insist on complete adherence to agreements,
or not bother signing or upholding them, itself. There is a military solution,
if "peace treaties" don't work. Let's not be astonished anymore. Rather than
"Operation Root Canal," Israel should just pull the tooth!
Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst & consultant. His articles can be read at: www.geocities.com/ariel_natan_pasko.
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