Connecting to the South
Regardless of the strategy or strategies implemented by the government, it is imperative that the residents of the South know that they have not been abandoned.
A house that suffered a direct hit Photo: Ben Hartman
Since the latest escalation in southern Israel began a little over a week ago,
hundreds of mortar shells and rockets have been fired at cities and towns there.
Hamas and the myriad Salafist and jihadist organizations operating inside Gaza
that are launching their ballistic attacks on Israel have disrupted the lives of
hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children in places like Sderot,
Kibbutz Nirim and Beersheba.
Schools have been closed down, families have
been forced to spend hours locked up in bomb shelters and the regular pace of
life has been underscored by the constant fear of the next mortar shell or
rocket falling from the sky.
Israel’s options for stopping the barrage of
fire from Gaza are limited. Diplomatically, Jerusalem might succeed – with
American help – in putting pressure on Cairo to use its influence with Hamas to
stop the shooting. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi might be interested in
preventing further escalation between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza in order
to avoid getting dragged into a direct conflict with Jerusalem and
But even if Morsi agrees to attempt to put pressure on the
Hamas leadership, it is not at all clear that Hamas is fully capable of bringing
about a cease-fire.
Firstly, many of the terrorist groups operating
inside Gaza are not fully under Hamas’s control. Secondly, in the world of
fundamentalist Islamic politics that aggrandizes death and destruction, Hamas
does not want to be perceived as conciliatory and weak vis-à-vis
Israel’s military options are likewise limited. It could continue
the present tactic of launching either a preemptive attack or retaliation –
either by air or on the ground – for each attempt by Hamas or other terrorist
organizations to strike against Israel. Our armed forces could supplement this
ongoing military response with targeted killings directed at the upper echelon
of the various terrorist organizations operating in Gaza.
The IDF could
also initiate a escalation from the air, the sea and the ground aimed at drawing
out and eliminating additional terrorists operating in Gaza and destroying their
infrastructure. Though such an initiated escalation could strengthen Israel’s
deterrence, it could also lead to a full-fledged war, complete with unintended
civilian casualties and international condemnation.
However, in the short
run, none of these tactics will enable Israelis living in the South to return to
normalcy and end the terror of living under the constant threat of rockets and
mortar fire. In fact, an initiated escalation or stepping up targeted killings
would only result in an increased barrage of fire from Gaza – at least in the
short-term – and more suffering for the South’s residents.
the strategy or strategies implemented by the government, it is imperative that
the residents of the South know that they have not been abandoned.
Israeli citizens living in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and other locations that
are – for the time being – safely out of range of the mortar shells and rockets
shot from Gaza should show their solidarity with the South’s
The cabinet, which on Sunday approved a three-year, NIS 270
million plan for the building of 1,700 bomb shelters in towns and cities located
three to seven kilometers from the border with Gaza, should also consider
holding one of its upcoming weekly meetings in the South.
television news programs should make an effort to broadcast from the South. And
if, due to the security risk, it is too much to ask for more fortunate Israelis
to actually visit the South, schools, youth groups, synagogues and even sports
clubs should make an effort to remember the plight of their brothers and
Above all, we must avoid a situation in which large segments of
society go about their business as though all is well. We must not be
disconnected from what is happening in the South.