A View from Israel: Israeli deja vu
It’s election season and there’s talk of a ground operation in Gaza. Haven’t we been here before?
Still from Hamas video of rocket fire. Photo: YouTube Screenshot
It’s 2008 all over again. It’s election season and incessant rocket fire from
Gaza has prompted calls for a military operation beyond the usual tit-for-tat
exchanges that have been taking place. The differences are that Gilad Schalit is
now home and there is a different government in charge.
It was an
Olmert-led government that couldn’t make peace with the Palestinians, and the
same government launched a major ground operation in Gaza. The world condemned
Israel’s actions then and the result was a nowdebunked and disproven Goldstone
Report – by Richard Goldstone himself.
The million dollar question, of
course, is what can Israel do to completely eradicate missile fire stemming from
Gaza? The answer: not much. That is, as long as international law does not
recognize the need for nations to fight modern warfare – war that is wholly
different than the type fought in the era in which those chapters of
international law were created.
The only options that exist at this point
are to maintain the tit-for-tat exchanges or resort to a full-scale invasion of
Gaza – both of which, based on past experience, have proven
Clearly, both tactics have failed to deter terrorists and
rockets have continued to rain down, ultimately achieving, in part, perhaps,
their desired effect of terrorizing the civilian population.
now? Should the army kill off a few top Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders? This
won’t result in anything concrete. The IDF assassinated Hamas leaders Sheikh
Ahmed Yassin and Abd al-Aziz Rantisi within a month of each other in 2004 and
still failed to achieve the desired result.
Should the army retake
control of the Philadelphi Corridor, the narrow strip of land between Gaza and
Egypt? It was then-secretary of state Condoleeza Rice who pushed Israel to leave
the Philadelphi Corridor in 2005. Since then, Hamas has managed to bring in
thousands of rockets through tunnels connecting to Egypt. An Israeli presence
might help stem the tide of rockets, but would also place the lives of many
soldiers in danger.
A boots-on-the-ground approach won’t offer any gains,
as there never appears to be any true objective. Create deterrence? Not
happening at this point. The chance of achieving this grows slimmer by the day.
Short of obliterating Hamas, which would no doubt be coupled with a high
civilian casualty rate, there seems to be no concrete solution in
If the government does decide to enter Gaza, there needs to be a
solid and clear objective.
What would be the goal and how would it be
defined? Israel has a list of hundreds of targets and it seems logical that if
and when a ground operation takes place, the IDF will locate and destroy those
We often hear of air force strikes on weapons factories. Well,
if we already know they exist, and we’re trying to eliminate their ability to
produce rockets, then why aren’t we hitting these factories a lot sooner and
more frequently? Some people have suggested the idea of collective punishment by
cutting off food, supplies, fuel, water and electricity. While this may put
pressure on Hamas and perhaps even lead to a concrete cease-fire and restored
deterrence, Israel does not wish to cause the suffering of so many innocent
civilians in the process.
AS PART of the planning for a ground or air
offensive, the IDF, the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry should put
together a solid, well-planned and highly coordinated public relations campaign,
packaged and ready to hit the airwaves at any moment.
Units should be
equipped with video cameras to record what takes place in the battle zone and to
help refute future and inevitable allegations of war crimes committed by Israeli
On the legal front, each unit should have an embedded
international law expert to determine, in real time, whether a certain course of
action is or isn’t permissible.
The IDF Spokesman’s unit should line up
legal experts for interviews to defend Israel’s actions if
Realistically speaking, there is no end in sight to Hamas’s
reign of terror. Israel’s immediate concern should be how to protect the one
million citizens who are vulnerable and how to ensure that those who are
suffering from shock receive the proper treatment.
The situation in the
South is unacceptable, but unless Israel wants to make millions of Gazans suffer
through collective punishment, there are few, if any, alternative courses of
action worth pursuing.
It’s time for Israel’s strategists to gather and
come up with a feasible plan to restore deterrence and stop rocket rocket fire
once and for all.
But that’s the million dollar question.