Shelter in Sderot.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The mortar attack on Sderot last week was followed by a military response which IDF commanders and the defense minister’s spokesmen called the creation of a new “mathematical equation.”
Hamas spokesmen also made use of this well-used term when they claimed that Israel was using disproportional force in response to the rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. How is it that Hamas’s reporting used very similar wording to the defense minister’s? And how is it possible to say that Israel Air Force planes destroying 20 abandoned buildings is disproportional?
The main question is, when did Israel’s war against terrorism turn into a mathematical equation? If we take a look at the details, we can understand just how absurd this situation is. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland wrote this week in his Yediot Aharonot column that Israel and Hamas share an interest in keeping the flames in check, and as a result, it’s possible to create a situation that is beneficial to both sides.
In Eiland’s opinion, Israel must recognize Hamas as the official ruler in Gaza and stop complaining to the UN about its illegality. Eiland believes that it is in Hamas’s best interest to keep calm and not let the situation escalate, and so Israel should pull back and refrain from any activity. He argues that Israel needs to accept the fact that Gaza is an independent country that is ruled by evil men.
Eiland goes further and states that Israel should make an effort to encourage Hamas to retain the “calm” status quo. Eiland believes that Operation Protective Edge two years ago took place not because Israel’s deterrence had become eroded, but because Israel only offered Hamas the stick, without the option of choosing a carrot instead.
It’s incredible that these words came out of the mouth of an IDF major-general (res.), and therefore we shouldn’t be surprised that the battles between Hamas and Israel have been reduced to mathematical equations. Over the years, IDF officials have often used civil administration and international relations terminology to assess and give their recommendations regarding the conflict with Palestinian terrorist organizations. It is common to ignore the nature of the enemy we face.
But if we want to focus on the reality, we must first deal with the facts and then afterward take a look at strategies.
The facts are simple and straightforward. Contrary to what Eiland claims, Operation Protective Edge and all the other operations that came before and those that will probably take place in the future, took place in part as a result of the IDF’s complete loss of deterrence over Hamas. This was not due to lack of military capability, but to weak policies and indecisiveness, that dragged out for years and years. Instead of responding to Hamas’s constant rocket fire with a courageous and determined response, we retaliated with “proportional” reactions.
Another disappointment is that the Israel Air Force once again targeted meaningless, empty buildings the destruction of which does not harm Hamas is any way.
Every time we react with a “proportionate” response that fails to incur any real damage, we show them that we’re not serious about getting the job done.
The Hamas leadership has not been damaged in the least. In fact, funding is still streaming into the Gaza Strip, and the terrorist group is busily building huge quantities of tunnels and procuring weapons. And the most important fact of all is that Hamas is not a legitimate government of an independent country. The State of Israel does not and should not be expected to hold diplomatic relations with this entity.
Hamas is a murderous, blood-thirsty terrorist organization that is led by a fanatic religious Salafist ideology, whose goal is the destruction of the State of Israel. It is not interested in any compromises or arrangements, and so neither should we. Every action Hamas takes is a tactical measure carried out in an effort to bring it closer to its ultimate goal: our destruction.
Hamas has zero interest in keeping the peace or trying to achieve legitimate international support for its regime, since it is already successful in receiving funding to purchase arms and otherwise prepare itself to annihilate Israel. Every sensible person knows that the next war depends on the will and initiative of Hamas. Everyone knows that Hamas has no intention of ever staying quiet, since that is contrary to its purpose. Hamas is not interested in creating a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people and it has no desire to create a nation. Hamas’s goal is in line with that of ISIS: to rid Israel and the entire Middle East of Jews and create an Islamic caliphate.
Hamas has an interest to express its relationship with us as a mathematical equation, because this lends it legitimacy, as if it were a valid government. The defense minister also benefits from using this type of language, because it gives the appearance that our situation vis-àvis Hamas has changed recently even though it hasn’t.
The Turks like talking in mathematical terms because it allows them to continue making outrageous proclamations about how Israel is committing war crimes. But if we ignore all of these spins and slogans, and look at the situation as it really is, then we see that Hamas is not completely deterred from attacking us.
Although Operation Protective Edge caused considerable damage to the Gaza Strip and damaged a large proportion of infrastructure, it did not touch Hamas’s headquarters or its ability to continue ruling, produce weapons, and build tunnels. And all Israel is doing is retaliating with proportional responses and making idle threats.
The world continues to contribute millions of dollars to rebuild Gaza, refusing to believe that this money is being used to build tunnels instead of homes for people.
There’s a famous halachic imperative that says we must stand up to defend ourselves if someone has come to kill us. When someone threatens our existence, it is our right to defend ourselves. We have the necessary intelligence, accurate weapons that can carry out targeted killings and the ability to formulate strategies that will deal with the threat Hamas presents us with. And so it is up to us to reset the balance and react disproportionately.The writer is a former brigadier-general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Translated by Hannah Hochner.