Battle for Sderot (Extract)

The Battle for Sderot is no minor campaign, and neither is it just a tolerable security headache. This is real war. The real thing!

23ehud (do not publish again) (photo credit: Avi Katz)
23ehud (do not publish again)
(photo credit: Avi Katz)
Extract from an article in Issue 23, March 3, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. The government of Israel - and most of the opposition - refuse to acknowledge the fact of the war around Sderot, as does the entire media, with almost no exceptions. No one relates to the hail of Qassam rockets as warfare; it is seen instead as a new peak of what is termed in Israeli military jargon as "current security." The only politician who speaks as if he understands the truth is Avi Dichter, the minister for internal security and a former head of the Shin Bet internal security agency, who spent most of his career in Gaza and whose home town, Ashkelon, is now also under rocket fire. For speaking out, he was scolded by both Ehuds, Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Barak. The stubborn refusal to recognize the reality that a fateful war is under way over Sderot and not just another round in the ongoing battle against Arab terror springs from a fundamental misapprehension of the strategy that the enemy, in this case Hamas, has adopted. Their explicit doctrine is to do everything to avoid a general head-on confrontation and to continue waging prolonged low-intensity warfare and to use only parts of their arsenal so as to prevent the Israeli military from throwing everything it has at them. The idea is not to press urgently for an immediate knock-out decision, but to do everything they can to prolong the fight and put off the decision for as long as poissible, indefinitely perhaps. This is the essence of the doctrine of the muqawama, resistance (detailed in this column in the issue of November 13, 2006). Hamas has no illusions about the Battle for Sderot. For them, it is a matter of life or death, and this is why they are waging it stubbornly and relentlessly, even when other Arabs, among them Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu al-Gheit, mock them for this "childish firing." For Hamas, the dye will be cast in Sderot - whether Israel grits its teeth and reconciles with their domination of Gaza and the intensive arms buildup there, or whether they will be pushed into a corner and forced to humble themselves and accept some sort of a "national unity" according to the dictates of Abbas. What they are seeking is Israeli capitulation - in the form of a cease-fire, albeit unwritten or even undeclared - to the fait accompli that they have created in the Gaza Strip. Thus will Sderot be spared the torment of the Qassams - but remain hostage - and Hamas will gain immunity from the attentions of the Israel Defense Force and the Shin Bet. The challenge facing Israel at this time is therefore harsh in its simplicity: To wage war for Gaza or to defend Sderot. So far, it has been starkly clear that being on the defensive has not succeeded. The rockets continue to fall despite the Air Force's sometimes amazingly accurate efforts to stop them. Protective measures have been improved, but they are insufficient and about a fifth of the small town's population has already left it. An attack on Gaza would not yield any facile solution: It would be long, complicated, and costly in terms of Israeli casualties. And when it is over, no one would want to leave our soldiers in the Gaza quagmire. It is therefore necessary to apply some other formula, one that would confront Hamas with a cruel dilemma of its own, with each volley of rockets eliciting a response that would be so painful that it would not want to carry on with them. Israel must both maintain military pressure on Hamas and silence the rockets by extracting a special price for them. Extract from an article in Issue 23, March 3, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.