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A View From Israel: Dilemmas of a protracted conflict

There is no need to wait for terrorist groups to build up their weapons supply and start firing long-range, accurate missiles on Israel.

March 16, 2012 16:50
4 minute read.
Iron dome battery protects city

Iron dome battery protects city_370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

The false sense of quiet citizens have gotten acclimated to in recent months has once again been shattered by rockets slamming into Israel’s towns and cities. Over one million citizens are at immediate risk of losing their lives every time terrorists launch a rocket. And given that over 300 rockets were fired in the last few days alone, the potential casualty count is horrifying.

Israel must obliterate Hamas’s capabilities to harm civilians, whether Israeli or Palestinian.

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The same goes for the Popular Resistance Committee and Islamic Jihad, the two groups actually behind the rocket and mortar attacks in the last week.

Israel’s seemingly muted response has been met with varying degrees of condemnation.

Some government officials, including Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee head Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), have called for a more heavy-handed approach than Israel has so far employed.

Arab MKs Taleb e-Sanaa, Muhammad Barakei and Jamal Zahalka all slammed the government for “pouring oil on the fire.”

Amusingly, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has referred to IDF activity in Gaza as a “massacre” and even human rights champion Syria condemned Israeli “aggression.”

It is likely that an all-out war in Gaza at this point could result in a high casualty count on both sides, and it is doubtful that anyone could stomach such a scenario.

Also, the UN is looking for a distraction from the government massacre in Syria and it makes no sense to offer it such an opportunity.

AND YET, Israel is caught up in a tit-for-tat, low-level war with Hamas as it has been for years, and now Islamic Jihad and the PRC, and there comes a point when decisive action must be taken to eradicate persistent threats.

In the larger context of Israel’s threats, if our leaders truly believe that Iran is close to achieving nuclear capability and that they will employ Hamas to hammer Israel on its western flank, it would make sense that now is the time to weaken Hamas before it can serve Iran’s interests.

The question is whether targeted assassinations are the way to achieve this.

Admittedly, killing Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his successor Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi did not reduce Hamas’s capabilities to strike Israel, and going after its top leaders today may not necessarily result in a decimated Hamas, either. But it may be worth the try.

So far, Israel has shown it can manage a conflict with an enemy that has the clear disadvantage of relative immobility, but terrorist groups employ collective punishment as a means to secure their goals. They terrorize the Palestinian population by firing from within civilian areas, assassinate those suspected of collaboration with Israel and cynically use the civilian population as a human shield.

Additionally, terrorists use collective punishment by firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli population centers, thereby placing over one million men, women and children at immediate risk.

The collective punishment argument against Israel often used by those “concerned” with human rights simply does not hold up in this case.

Further dilemmas facing Israel include the fact that terrorists blur the line between combatants and noncombatants and any Israeli targeted strike or ground operation will include some degree of collateral damage.

Israel can weaken terrorists through means other than targeted assassinations and a full-scale ground operation.

It can destroy smuggling tunnels that run between Egypt and Gaza, reduce the electricity supply and cut off funding.

IF ISRAEL’S leaders are forced to manage the conflict with the Palestinian Authority in lieu of resolving it in the immediate future, its implications are significantly different than the decision to manage the conflict with Hamas.

Twenty-first century warfare has taught us that groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PRC must be destroyed – not engaged in negotiation.

There is no need to wait for terrorist groups to build up their weapons supply and start firing long-range, accurate missiles on Israel. Israel needs to move from appearing complacent to demonstrating resolve.

Israel has long been a leader in the fight against terrorism, with foreign militaries looking to it for guidance and instruction.

But Hamas is incredibly resourceful. It has outmaneuvered the IDF on numerous occasions and it is now expanding its global influence.

Its former inability to reach much of Israel’s population with inaccurate but deadly Kassam rockets is gone.

Today, Hamas has in its possession Grad and Fajr rockets that have longer range and the capability to reach hundreds of thousands more citizens.

The placement of more Iron Dome anti-missile systems does not solve the dilemma of how to defeat an enemy that is bent on destroying Israel. Iron Dome must not be viewed as a fallback plan. Rather, it must be seen as the first step in the decisive war against all terrorist groups in Gaza.

While continuing precision targeted assassinations against terrorists, Israel should implement economic sanctions and reduce the electricity supply. It should target as many tunnels as possible and obliterate all weapons factories.

Israel may not deliver a mortal blow against terrorists on the first day, but a sustained operation of this kind could eventually reduce their capability to attack Israel.

With a turbulent Sinai in the south, a strengthened Hezbollah in the north and a shaky Syrian regime to the east, Israel cannot afford to allow Hamas and other terrorist groups time to further build up their deadly capabilities.

Israel must take decisive action and decimate Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PRC.

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