Deputy DM Dichter to 'Post': We need war to wipe out Gaza terror

Dichter declared Operation Black Belt a success, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, but warned there will likely be more terrorist attacks from Gaza in the near future.

Deputy Defense Minister Avi Dichter with Ashkelon Mayor Tomer Galam, November 14, 2019 (photo credit: OFFICE OF AVI DICHTER)
Deputy Defense Minister Avi Dichter with Ashkelon Mayor Tomer Galam, November 14, 2019
(photo credit: OFFICE OF AVI DICHTER)
The only way to put an end to the repeated rounds of rocket fire and IDF retaliation is to go to war in Gaza, and that would be impossible with a government dependent on Arab MKs, Deputy Defense Minister Avi Dichter said on Thursday.
Dichter declared Operation Black Belt a success, but warned in an interview with The Jerusalem Post that there will likely be more terrorist attacks from Gaza in the near future.
Dichter said assassinations like the targeted killing of senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander Bahaa Abu al-Ata are a means, not an end, because there are thousands of terrorists in Gaza and possibly hundreds of officers.
“When you’re dealing with terrorism at such a large scope, you have to think what will bring quiet and what will bring more violence,” he explained.
To bring quiet, Dichter said, there is no realistic diplomatic solution on the horizon.
“Israel’s political and military leadership need to decide at a certain point to launch a campaign that will destroy the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza,” he said. “That won’t take a week or a month. That will be a long time. We saw in Operation Defensive Shield” – which started in 2002 in response to the Second Intifada – “that it took three years. When it is the optimal time, we will embark on such a campaign that will be the First Gaza War – and the last one.”
The optimal time, according to Dichter, is when there is a stable government that can look ahead to the coming years.
“I hope there will be a unity government,” he said. “God forbid that we have a minority government leaning on the Arab List. Then we won’t be able to do almost anything.”
One of the options Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has in trying to form a governing coalition is a minority government, with outside support from the Joint List. Such a government would be hard-pressed to last past March, the last deadline to pass a budget, because it would not have a majority in the Knesset. There is strong opposition to a minority government within Blue and White, and the Joint List’s rhetoric against the IDF and Gantz, who supported Operation Black Belt, may have killed the option.
The operation had narrower aims than eradicating all terrorism from Gaza, Dichter explained.
“We judge an operation based on the goals at the start,” he said. “Ours were clear. The first was to kill al-Ata, an arch-terrorist. After that, we thought there would be an exchange of fire between Israel and Gaza – maybe not only Gaza – so we wanted to make it as short as possible and not let it develop into a campaign. And [the third goal was] to isolate Hamas, so that they will not enter the fray as well. These three were achieved.”
At the same time, Dichter said he realizes that for Israelis, especially residents of the South like himself, the two days of the operation were very difficult.
Al-Ata’s assassination was necessary in order to create a deterrent against PIJ attacking Israel, Dichter explained, because the deterrence had weakened. The PIJ commander had a “volatile policy” that neither Israel nor Hamas was able to understand, but Israel was the one paying the price in rocket attacks.
“Al-Ata planned rocket attacks and all the attempts to prevent them didn’t succeed, so we had to take them out,” Dichter said. “We had to make sure PIJ would understand that they can’t shoot at Israel whenever they want.”
Israel shifted from its usual policy of holding Hamas responsible for any terrorist activity in Gaza because security officials determined that PIJ was not deterred by Israel attacking Hamas targets. That Hamas stayed out of the fighting this week shows that Israel has strongly deterred the terrorist organization controlling Gaza, he added.
Dichter contrasted Israel’s efforts to avoid civilian populations with PIJ, which specifically targets civilians.
“We finished this round with zero killed and very few lightly injured…but when you look at the expectations of the other side, what PIJ wanted, they wanted blood and death here in Israel. They shot over 400 rockets to kill Israelis,” he said.
Unlike the IDF, PIJ did not have specific targets; they sought to strike cities and people randomly, Dichter explained, whereas the IDF and Shin Bet hit al-Ata “right in the head of the terrorist, with zero harm to anyone uninvolved.”
Confronted with al-Ata’s wife also being killed – something that Joint List MKs have brought up in their criticism of the operation – Dichter said the wife aided him in his terrorism, and the IDF and Shin Bet knew she would be there.
“We shoot very heavy artillery,” he said. “It is deadly, but accurate. Our pilots and others shoot only at terrorists. Those are their orders. No one thinks to give a pilot an order to bomb a city. There never was and never will be an order like this.”
Asked if there is any hope for the residents of Israel’s south, the Ashkelon resident said he would like them to be able to live with a sense of security, but people must also be realistic about the Middle East.
“Sometimes the threat is in the South, sometimes it is in Judea and Samaria, sometimes there are rockets, sometimes there are suicide bombers,” Dichter said. “We live in an area with a variety of threats in different places each time. We need a different strategy on every front…When we’re talking about Gaza, it requires us to create a deterrence against those who can shoot rockets and carry out other terrorist attacks on Israel and Israelis, and make them realize it doesn’t pay off,” he stated, saying the last phrase in English.
Still, Dichter said, “We can’t fool ourselves and say after a two-day round, that’s the end of it, Gaza will be peaceful for 40 years. We can’t say that to the residents.”
Added the deputy defense minister: “I tip my hat to the residents” who followed the Home Front Command’s instructions and stayed relatively safe.