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IDF Major: A Full-Scale Operation Into Gaza's Just a 'Matter of Time'

January 31, 2008 By:
Jared Shelly, JE Feature
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Elliot Chodoff saw a more pessimistic side to recent events in Gaza. Photo courtesy of Richard Chaitt
Israel will launch a "full-scale military operation" to stop cross-border rocket attacks from Gaza by late March or early April, an active reserve officer with the Israel Defense Force predicted.

Elliot Chodoff, 52, an IDF major who deals with strategy and tactics, estimated that the Jewish state would not attempt to occupy Gaza during such a future operation, but instead strive to "break up the infrastructure and kill a lot of terrorists." Such a military strike could, in Chodoff's view, set Palestinian terrorists back a few years and put them on notice that rocket attacks won't be tolerated.

"Because of the weather, an operation of that type requires very close and very predictable air capabilities," said Chodoff, speaking to a crowd of around 50 people at Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley. "It's [currently] winter. If the weather turns, the last thing you want is to have troops on the ground and not be able to call in air support."

Chodoff's Jan. 24 talk was titled "Threats to Israel: Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran." Just that morning, the media was filled with stories about Israeli strikes against targets in Gaza, and Palestinians tearing down a border fence that connects to Egypt and pouring in to the neighboring country.

Israel's current policy on the Gaza Strip -- which entails closing border crossings, reducing diesel-fuel supplies, targeting armed militants and performing selected air strikes -- is simply not working, said Chodoff.

"This is the worst of all possible kinds of policies," he said in an interview after his formal remarks. "Doing something and not doing enough -- you get all the criticism and don't get any of the benefits."

While the current situation in Gaza is far from ideal for Israel, Chodoff still believed that the 2005 withdrawal was a "military necessity."

"A country that's at war on multiple fronts cannot afford to tie down a third of its army protecting 8,000 of its citizens," he explained.

Israel leaving Gaza also provided the Palestinians with a chance to show Israel and the world that they were interested in their own state, something they've clearly squandered.

"This was an opportunity to show us what you can do," he said. "Take the opportunity, take the money that you're pulling in and build something. So they did -- rockets."

Israel's big mistake, according to Chodoff, was allowing the situation to deteriorate for so long without taking action.

"There's a point at which, two years ago, Israel should've said, 'Enough is enough,' and take forceful action," said the major. "The army was basically told not to really respond to anything -- there were a couple of minor attempts here and minor attempts there -- but it was basically left to become what it is today."

But what if Israel works to empower Fatah -- often called the more moderate Palestinian group -- which could then fight against Hamas?

Despite Hamas' hostile takeover of Gaza last summer, Chodoff said that any rift between Fatah and Hamas is greatly exaggerated in the press.

"It's not like he's Hamas, he's Fatah," he said, and "if you put them in the same room, they're going to kill each other. It's a lot more complex than that."

Chodoff also noted that Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas said that, if the Israelis invade Gaza, then Fatah will fight alongside Hamas.

"This doesn't really make sense if your paradigm is Fatah and Hamas are at each other's throats," he explained, adding that it was the wrong idea to give arms to Fatah on the "false premise" that it really wants to stand up to Hamas.

About All Those Weapons

A bit later in his talk, Chodoff touched on something that's been a contentious issue in U.S. politics: whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Chodoff claimed that not only did Saddam Hussein's government have WMDs, but that they are now housed in Syria.

With those weapons in the hands of the Syrians rather than Saddam Hussein, said Chodoff, the concern for Israel actually decreased.

"Iraqis have used chemical weapons; Syria hasn't," he said.

He also claimed that the Israeli attack on a Syrian target in September probably had nothing to do with the addition of Iraqi weapons into the Syrian arsenal, because Syria already had chemical weapons of its own.

But if the Israelis -- and, in turn, the Americans who openly share information with them -- know about Iraqi WMDs, why not release it to the public, and thus silence critics who claim that the United States invaded Iraq under false pretenses?

Chodoff said that he believes that the Americans might not want to give away valuable intelligence capabilities.

"My guess is that, what they have, the press wouldn't accept it as proof," he said, "and they'd be right back where they started from, [and] they'd have given away intelligence."


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