burning issues 33

Question #31
If you were Olmert's advisor, would you recommended a large-scale Gaza incursion at this time? Contributers: (read it all or click on name to read post; link to writer's most recent column follows entry)
  • Michael Freund
  • MJ Rosenberg
  • Daniel Doron
  • Calev Ben-David Michael Freund: The ongoing daily spate of rocket attacks on Sderot and the Negev underlines the government's failure to confront the threat posed by Palestinian terror. The fact that hundreds of residents of Sderot are being forced to evacuate their homes because of the political echelon's unwillingness to tackle the problem head-on is nothing less than a disgrace. A government's primary responsibility - above all others - is to protect the safety and security of its citizens, and a massive incursion into Gaza is long overdue. As Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi recently pointed out, the only way to stop the rocket attacks from Gaza is through the use of ground forces. Israel has thus far refrained from going back in to Gaza, perhaps because doing so would constitute an implicit admission that withdrawing from the area two years ago was a mistake. But the bottom line is that Israel has no choice but to go back in and uproot the terrorist infrastructure, which is wreaking havoc on the lives of thousands of innocent Israelis. It may prove difficult and even costly to do so, but the price of sitting back passively with folded hands is far too damaging to contemplate. Right On: Evil and the passage of time MJ Rosenberg: This is not a question that it is really possible for those of us not privy to the facts to respond to. The prime minister - with input from the IDF, other cabinet ministers and the intelligence community - is the only person who can make this determination. For the rest of us, all we can do is offer opinions based on previous experience. And that experience does not lead to the conclusion that another invasion of Palestinian territory will solve anything. The story of the past 40 years of occupation is that Israel keeps making the mistake of viewing military operations as a cure all. But, here is Israel, 40 years after the Six Day War, in the same difficult situation it has been in ever since occupied Palestinians began resisting. Why would anyone believe that an invasion would change anything, except perhaps for a few days or weeks? The problem is the occupation itself. True, Gaza is no longer officially occupied although it enjoys no control over its own destiny (as the debate over an invasion demonstrates). Israel does not need to risk its soldiers in an invasion, at least not before it fully explores what it can gain through immediate unconditional negotiations with the Palestinians. That is something that was last attempted in 2000. Maybe, after seven years, it's worth another try. The last three years of Oslo - the years of American-brokered security cooperation - were among the safest, and most prosperous years in Israel's history. That is the model Israel should look to, not a military solution, especially after the limitations of Israel's capabilities were exposed in south Lebanon. How high a price is in young Israeli lives is the temporary subduing of Gaza worth? In Washington: Winograd cracks the ice Daniel Doron: No need to launch a large-scale incursion into Gaza to stop Kassam terrorism or win the terror war with Hamas and its allies. All that is necessary is to convince the very top terrorist leadership, including the so-called PA "ministers" - those who continue to threaten Israel with a relentless terror campaign with impunity while they enjoy virtual immunity - that any additional Kassams shot into Israel may cost them and their closest aides their lives and the destruction of their personal property. You can bet that they will see to it that the Kassam terror campaign stops immediately. Israel pretends to fight terrorism but insists on having a "low intensity fight" that is a clear and proven failure. It exacts too low a cost from the terrorist organizations and their leadership. So we "eliminate" one or two second layer leaders per month, in dribs and drabs. What does that accomplish? They are simply replaced by others. If however we would threaten to cut the snakes' head and give one or two good examples that will convince the terrorists that unlike the assassination of Sheikh Yassin we are not going to continue with one of a kind spectacular operations, but are going to relentlessly pursue them to their graves, the whole equation will change. Germany eliminated the Bader Meinhoff group, Italy the Red Brigades, The Turks the Kurdish PKK, the Peruvian their Shining Path, The Japanese their Red Army, The British the Arab revolt in Palestine or the Communist insurgency in Malaya. They did it because they did not buy the nonsense that you cannot defeat terrorists unless you offer them a "political horizon" namely you show your willingness to reward them for using terrorism by offering them concession, which they will seek to broaden, as Arafat did, by using further the successful weapon of terrorism after they have digested what you just gave them. The government of Israel owes us to protect its citizens in the North and in the Negev by getting serious about fighting terrorism, and not by trying to mollify them and cover up its impotence by false and pathetic though talk that is not backed - like most politicians' talk - by any real action. Fix the system, and morality will follow Calev Ben-David: If the point of a large-scale invasion is simply to stop the firing of the Kassams, than the easy answer is: No. Keep in mind that even BEFORE the disengagement in August 2005, Kassam and mortar fire launched from within Gaza had killed 14 people (Israelis and foreign workers). At best, reoccupying parts of Gaza would only temporarily slow down the launch rates of the Kassams; even permanently retaking parts of the Strip is no answer to the problem. More aggressive use of pinpoint helicopter attacks is probably a better partial solution than a full-scale operation. However, if the goal of a Gaza operation is larger than just dealing with the Kassams - if, for example, the IDF has solid information on the locations of heavy weapon caches held by the Al Aksa Martyrs' Brigades, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades or Palestinian Islamic Jihad - than a Gaza incursion may well be justified. The key, as we learned all too well in Lebanon, is having good intelligence before undertaking a risky and complicated military operation; as we know Hamas has been building up defenses in Gaza with mines and bunkers, we must have this kind of information before moving in. The best thing to do at this time, if possible, is to let the current political/military situation unfolding in Gaza proceed without direct Israeli involvement. If Hamas and Fatah are really moving to a shooting war, we shouldn't put our soldiers in the crossfire unless there's an absolute and immediate need to do otherwise. Snap Judgment: Media attention deficit disorder