Knesset Defense Committee head: Gaza offensive coming

In a wide-ranging interview with Israel Hayom, Likud MK Avi Dichter explained how he views the threat to Israel from Gaza and how to deal with it.  

By Jack Gold, World Israel News

Sooner or later Israel will have no choice but to carry out a large-scale counter-terrorism operation in the Gaza Strip against Hamas and the Islamic Jihad’s terror infrastructure, said Likud MK Avi Dichter to Israel Hayom Monday.

Dichter, who chairs the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and is former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency, pointed to 2002’s Operation Defensive Shield as a model of what Israel should do.

In that operation, five IDF divisions attacked all the Palestinian cities of Judea and Samaria, inflicted numerous casualties on the terrorist organizations and caused extensive damage to the Palestinian Authority’s Muqata headquarters.

Dichter was Shin Bet chief at the time.

“In Gaza, there are about 40,000 terrorists, of whom 30,000 are Hamas members and 10,000 are members of the Islamic Jihad, equipped with many rockets that can reach the center of the country,” he said.

Israel will have to arrest about 10,000 to 20,000 terrorists, while others will flee. “The detainees will provide information that will enable the prevention of additional terror attacks.

“This needs to be done with cunning and patience,” he underscored to Israel Hayom. “This will not be a quick fix, it may take three or for years.”

Asked about the possibility of a diplomatic solution for Gaza, Dichter said he would be happy to see a political solution that separates Hamas and the Jihad from their military infrastructure, but there can be no arrangement in which their military capabilities remain intact.

A diplomatic solution will be achieved only if Egypt finds the formula to organize a coalition of Arab states that succeed in forcing Hamas to disarm itself. “The chances of that are very slim,” he said.

‘Hezbollah south’

Relating to Hamas’ military build-up and firepower, which enabled it to launch some 500 rockets at Israel in one day, Dichter said that it was during the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule in Egypt that “terrorist organizations upgraded their rocket capabilities and smuggled into Gaza rocket production equipment through the Sinai Peninsula.

“Look at Hezbollah in Lebanon and you see how the terrorist organizations in Gaza will look in a decade,” he said in the Israel Hayom interview.

After painting a grim picture of the threat on Israel from Gaza, Dichter said ultimately Israel’s political echelon to decide how to handle it.

“A strategic military move in Gaza has different rules than tactical moves because it has to be planned, and it has to be decided when and how to do it and for how long,” he said.

“The threat Gaza poses to Israel is not an existential threat, but it is a threat that Israel can not live with forever,” he said.

When to strike is crucial. Timing will be key to its success, he says. “The defense establishment can define for itself the ideal timing is, and the political system must make the final decision.”

More serious threats

Dichter told Israel Hayom that greater threats on other fronts affect Israel’s approach to Gaza.

“The Gaza front is not our main front, it is problematic and irritating and creates a daily threat because of the burning kites, the burning of the fields and the demonstrations on the fence,” he said.

“But we also have a front in Lebanon and Syria against Hezbollah and the Islamic State (ISIS) and a front inside Syria because of arms transfers from Iran.

“There is also a front in Judea and Samaria. Therefore, when there is such an accumulation of threats, it is impossible to deal with Gaza as if there are no other arenas,” he said.

Further complicating things are heightened tensions with Russia after the Syrians downed a Russian plane, but which Russia blamed on Israel. It “requires us to redeploy and act more carefully,” Dichter said.

Israel has dealt simultaneously with multiple fronts in the past, but “did not have an arena like Gaza because it is hundreds of meters from Israeli towns, 10 kilometers from Ashkelon and not far from Ashdod and Beersheba. Gaza is an abscess that if it explodes on us, it will contaminate us and therefore we must uproot it.”

The fact that so many women and children live in Gaza affects the planning of a broad operation there, and Dichter says that the terrorists rely on the population to serve as human shields, but to counter this, the IDF has “the tools and the forces to do the job properly.”

In the long term, Dichter believes that Gaza can be brought to a state in which Palestinians will work in Israel.

“Israel has no intention to conquer Gaza, control it or place a military governor there, he said.