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Reader comment on item: "Today Gaza, Tomorrow Jerusalem"

Submitted by Jack Still (United States), Aug 14, 2005 at 17:48

Al-Qaeda Comes to Gaza By P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | May 25, 2005

In an article published last November, Israeli Major-General (res.) Yaakov Amidror and David Keyes argued there was a strong possibility that after Israeli disengagement, Gaza would become not just "Hamastan" but an Al-Qaeda sanctuary. They cited the facts that in the past "Al-Qaeda sought to establish itself wherever there was a security vacuum—in remote mountain areas or in economically weak, failed states"; that Hamas has an "affinity for groups that are part of the Al-Qaeda network"; that Hamas and Al-Qaeda have the same funding sources; and that they invoke the same religious authorities to legitimize suicide bombing.

"Al-Qaeda-Linked Terrorists in Gaza" was the title of a Jerusalem Post report last Friday by Khaled Abu Toameh. It cites Palestinian Authority security officials saying that a new terrorist group called Jundallah, or "Allah's Brigades," composed mostly of former Hamas and Islamic Jihad members, has already started operating in Gaza and launched its first attack there on Israeli soldiers, wounding four of them, last week. One of the officials said Jundallah "has close ties with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq."

Abu Abdallah al-Khattab, identified as the spokesman for Jundallah in Gaza, denied the group was part of Al-Qaeda or any other international terror organization. At the same time, he implied that Jundallah has plans to target U.S. interests in the region: "Our people will not remain idle in the face of American crimes in Muslim countries."

The story was picked up on Sunday by Annette Young of The Scotsman. Ra'anan Gissin, an aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, told her that "There is some evidence of links between militants in Gaza and al-Qaeda. We are watching . . . such developments very closely but for us, local terrorist groups are just as dangerous."

That view, though, is not shared by Dr. Ely Karmon, a senior researcher at Israel's International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism. While noting that "this information about Jundallah has yet to be confirmed," Karmon told The Scotsman that "It is a great concern for Israel if al-Qaeda does get a foothold in the Palestinian territories since with al-Qaeda, all bets are off. Unlike Hamas and other local groups who face direct consequences once they carry out a terrorist operation, al-Qaeda are ready to sacrifice many Muslims to further their cause."

He seemed to be saying that whereas Hamas could be fought and deterred with retaliation, Israeli counterstrikes would be close to meaningless with the externally directed, mass-suicidal al-Qaeda.

Meanwhile, powered by Sharon's whirlwind visit to the United States, a coalition of mainstream American Jewish organizations led by Abe Foxman's Anti-Defamation League has started a campaign to boost support for disengagement. The ADL's mission statement says its purpose is "to stop the defamation of the Jewish people, to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike." It is hard to see how this squares with taking sides in an internal Israeli debate, unless Foxman believes opposing disengagement is a form of defamation. "Fair treatment" is also not the best description for the planned fate of the eight thousand Israelis still living in Gaza. Some say the mass eviction is a necessary sacrifice that will pay off in gains for Israel; it is not clear what in its mission or expertise qualifies the ADL to make or advocate that judgment.

As reported by the Hebrew daily Ma'ariv on Sunday, it is a judgment not shared, at least in the short term, by top Israeli commanders directly involved with the withdrawal. "The closer the date of the disengagement," writes Amiram Rapaport, "the stronger the voices calling to delay it because of the Hamas buildup and the lack of preparedness of the civilian actors [responsible for housing solutions for the evacuees]. Security sources: ‘Evacuation on August 15 is very bad for Israel.'"

The article goes on to say that "these senior figures are afraid to express this position publicly and so far it has not been officially submitted for a decision to the political echelon. This is because of an assessment that the United States will not in any case allow any further delay of the date of implementing the plan."

These officers are calling for a delay of four to six months, apparently on the assumption that the Hamas (or Al-Qaeda) threat could somehow be nullified in that time. Even if so, no one explains what will stop terrorist forces in Gaza from regrouping and rebuilding, and posing and executing any threat they want, once Israeli forces have left the area—whether three months or nine months from now.

Proponents of disengagement do say that at that point, Israel will have a freer hand to act because "the world" will recognize that it has done its best for peace. The trouble with that claim is that in similar cases it turned out to be hollow. Israel's initial withdrawal from much of the West Bank and Gaza in the mid-1990s did not create tolerance and understanding for retaliatory measures after these areas became launching pads for terror; indeed, what measures Israel did take sparked worldwide vilification of unprecedented levels—including a tribunal in The Hague for the building of a fence. Similarly, Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000 has not created concern or "understanding" for the grave threat Israel now faces from thousands of Hizbullah missiles along that border—a threat about which Israel, in half a decade, has done nothing at all.

To cap off the unfolding security nightmare, a report in Haaretz on Sunday quotes Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a staunch supporter of disengagement, saying that "Israel is willing to gradually give up control of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, handing it over to the Egyptians within a few months of . . . disengagement."

Egypt's Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit added that "Egypt plans to deploy 1,500 to 2,000 troops along its border with Israel to ensure ‘orderly' Israeli withdrawal."

"We hope the Egyptians will take it over," Olmert emphasized. "We are negotiating with the Egyptians. They will take it over."

According to the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, Egypt was only allowed to deploy lightly-armed civilian police along its border with Israel. The newly planned contingent, however, is supposed to consist of border guards or, as Gheit put it, "strong enough forces to control that part of the border."

In other words, it sounds as if the sole lasting achievement of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty—the demilitarization of Sinai—is well on the way to unraveling. It sounds, that is, like territorial continuity for jihad from Cairo to the Negev.
Egypt has fought Islamic terrorists on its own turf. But when there is a common enemy, it will cooperate with them quite smoothly--as it has been for a decade in facilitating arms smuggling through Sinai to Gaza.

Egypt itself, with its massive army and constant anti-Jewish hatemongering, is enough of a threat. And once Israel has vacated Gaza—amid showers of praise for its PM's sagacity—there will be nothing to stop ever more lethal weapons from reaching ever more lethal hands.

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