Responding to a wave of criticism toward Netanyahu and his handling of the war against Hamas, the Israeli Prime Minister responded saying that his government acted responsibly and that he didn’t want a “Fallujah” in Gaza. He was referring to the iconic war torn, IED riddled Iraqi city who made international headlines in 2004 after its insurgents ambushed and killed four Blackwater contractors Scott Helvenston, Jerko Zovko, Wesley Batalona and Michael Teaguand. The insurgents machine gunned their humvee, setting it ablaze. They then dragged their corpses through the streets eventually hanging them over a bridge. It was the bloodiest war encountered by US troops since Vietnam eventually claiming the lives of 48 Marines, two soldiers, and one Navy corpsman. The battle also left 412 Marines, 43 U.S. soldiers, and 21 U.S. sailors injured. Sounds like the kind of battle Israel should avoid right? There’s just one teeny tiny difference between Gaza City and Fallujah. Fallujah doesn’t border the United States, but Gaza does border Israel.
If Gaza were some far off city halfway across the globe, no one would disagree with Netanyahu’s assessment. But it’s not. It’s on Israel’s Southwest border and Hamas terrorists never let us forget it by firing thousands of rockets into Israel in the span of several months and successfully digging tunnels into Israel which have cost the lives of many soldiers. Gaza is a ticking time bomb and unlike Americans in Fallujah, Israel doesn’t have the geographic luxury of simply cutting its losses and heading home. And it’s likely that if the city of Fallujah was carved out and airlifted to the US/Canadian border, the US wouldn’t try to avoid the aggression the way Netanyahu does.
What’s even more heartbreaking is that Gaza wasn’t always a “Fallujah”. Following the Six day war in 1967 (when Israel liberated Gaza) and up until the Oslo Accords in 1993, there were no IEDs, rockets, and certainly no terror tunnels in Gaza. At worst, there were a few illegal guns here and there which was the main focus of the IDF presence.
Albeit it wasn’t the safest region in Israel, but just to give you an idea of what Gaza used to look like, during my army service I distinctly recall reserve soldiers who were several decades older than myself bragging to me about how back in the early eighties, they would eat falafel in restaurants in Gaza City between patrols. “Falafel in Gaza City!?!” I gasped. “Are you freaking kidding me!?! You mean to tell me you just pulled your IDF jeep over to a Falafel restaurant in the middle of Gaza City, popped in and signaled the waiter to take your order?!… in the middle of Gaza!?” For a soldier on tour in 2002 it seemed completely surreal But that was the way it was before Gaza became ‘Fallujah’. Gaza was under the sovereign control of Israel. Outlying kibbutzim like Nahal Oz (whose population voluntarily evacuated this summer because they couldn’t handle the stress of the rocket fire) barely even felt Gaza’s existence.
But almost immediately following the Oslo accords in 1993, Israel deferred sovereignty to Yasser Arafat and his thugs. This was the beginning of Gaza’s evolution into ‘Fallujah’, allowing the virtual free flow of arms and explosives into the hands of terrorists in the Gaza strip and marked the beginning of the end of a relatively stable Gaza. Once Israel unilaterally pulled out of Gaza in 2005 leaving the coastal region to Hamas, things really spiraled out of control. Gaza’s virtually non-stop shelling of Israeli villages was a new phenomenon to most Israelis. And the same naive Israelis who thought that deferring our God given land to our enemy would somehow bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict, instead watched the deadly metamorphosis unfold in shocking bewilderment. All this was because in 1993, the Israeli government thought it would be a good idea to defer its sovereignty to terrorists and most Israeli people believed them. (Many still do). Israel created this mess. Now Israel has to get itself out of it.
But as the late great Albert Einstein said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” This means that if the Israeli government will try to solve the Gaza problem within the framework of the failed Oslo accords, they will encounter dead end after dead end. Israel’s ‘Fallujah’ will only become more venomous and deadly. The only way to ensure stability in Gaza is if Israel reconquers it, liberates it, and establishes sovereignty. Anything less is a short term solution that will eventually enable ‘Fallujah’ to rise again. Once Israel reestablishes sovereignty in Gaza, then and only then can we go back to calling “Falujah” ‘Gaza’.
David Sidman is Shoebat.com’s Israeli correspondent.