Clarity and courage

Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip left no doubt as to the courage of Israel’s civilians and soldiers. Israel’s counter-terrorism policy, however, remains ambiguous.

September 22, 2014 22:14
3 minute read.
gaza rocket

Rocket fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel. [File]. (photo credit: REUTERS)

In a keynote address that closed an important counter-terrorism conference symbolically held in Herzliya on September 11, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu proclaimed that the cruelty of terrorism can only be confronted with “clarity and courage,” and guaranteed his avid audience that Israel has an abundance of both.

It must be made clear, he said, that when it comes to combating terrorism there is a distinct moral divide between those in the right and those in the wrong. Between those protecting civilians and those that target them. There is no real difference, the prime minister emphasized, between al-Qaida, Islamic State (IS), Hamas, Hezbollah and other similar Sunni or Shi’ite Islamic terrorist organizations – they all have the same ultimate goals and use similar tactics in their efforts to obtain their abysmal objectives.

Indeed, this summer’s 50-day Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip left no doubt as to the courage of Israel’s civilians and soldiers. Israel’s counter-terrorism policy, however, remains ambiguous.

Too ambiguous. Israel’s strategic objective concerning Hamas requires clarification. Does Israel desire to dismantle Hamas by military and or diplomatic means or does it simply want to contain it? Will Israel insist on the demise of Hamas in exchange for Gaza’s reconstruction, which has de facto already begun, or will the IDF’s military achievements simply delay Hamas’s rearmament and resurrection? It seems that the senseless dogma of “silence will be met with silence” and “Hamas strikes will be met with stronger strikes” implies that Israel’s decision makers currently seek to contain Hamas rather than to bring about its collapse. If true, this would be unfortunate. This dogma is certainly not in line with one of the core guidelines pledged by the current Israeli government upon its establishment: that Hamas’ removal is a strategic goal. In fact, the prime minister reiterated as recently as August 28 that, “the fall of Hamas is a goal that will be achieved with its disarmament, which remains the long-term goal.”

“Silence will be met with silence” cannot serve as a counter-terrorism doctrine.

Hamas cannot be contained, and it certainly hasn’t been silent. Not for one second. The decrease in rocket-fire frequency is a deceptive tactic intended to allow continued tunnel digging and rearmament.

That is clear. The “trickle” of missile-fire has re-emerged, and hideous incitement never stopped. To the contrary, it’s at full force, with Gazan school children being taught that Judaism and Nazism are synonymous.

Israel has nevertheless remained silent.

Such complacency leaves the 18th century words of Edmund Burke, “For evil to triumph the good need only to remain silent,” echoing aloud, and the words of Zionism’s founding father and the prime minister’s prime role model, Ze’ev Jabotinski, more relevant than ever: “Silence is filth!” Countries like Canada have been clear as to their stance on terrorism and the backing of Israel’s right to defend itself. And after a six-year search for a sensible strategy against militant Islam, US President Barack Obama has finally found one, declaring that the US will “degrade and destroy” IS.

His secretary of state has quickly followed suit. Testifying last week to the Senate, John Kerry declared that the Islamic State “must be defeated. Period. End of story.”

Now, Prime Minister Netanyahu, perhaps the greatest political communicator since Ronald Reagan, needs to clarify – does he want Hamas contained or collapsed? Once the issue is clarified, the IDF and the diplomatic core will surely have the capability and courage to carry the charge out with conviction.

The author is a lecturer and research fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.

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