burning issues 39

Question #39
As Kassam rockets continue to pound Sderot, Minister Haim Ramon has suggested responding to the salvos by cutting off vital infrastructure such as water, electricity and gasoline to Gaza for a specific time frame, while the 'price' of such measures will be "determined by Hamas and its actions". What is your opinion of this proposition? Contributors (read it all or click on name to read post; link to writer's most recent column follows entry)
  • Elliot Jager
  • Isi Leibler
  • Jonathan Rosenblum
  • MJ Rosenberg
  • Michael Freund
  • Barbara Sofer Elliot Jager: Turning off electrical power is a tactic - it is not a strategy. And we need a strategy. Of course, before we have a strategy, we need a goal or mission: Mission defines strategy. To say we want to "stop Kassams from landing on Sderot" isn't really a mission because it isn't achievable on a permanent basis. Kassams are a symptom. You might say that the mission needs to be destroying Hamas and Islamic Jihad politically and militarily. But if that's the mission, let's ask: toward what goal? Re-implanting the ineffective, corrupt, but charming Abu Mazen and the folks from Fatah? Re-occupying the Strip permanently? So I don't see a "slam dunk" mission to embark upon. The only course of action - and it won't bring permanent relief - is to badly hurt the enemy leadership since they really don't care if their people suffer. That means targeting the Hamas and Islamic chieftains without distinguishing between the political and "military." That generally gets their attention for a while. If the best thinking inside the IDF argues that a major incursion on the order of Operation Defense Shield would bring a respite to the Kassams - I have no objection. And, if they think, in that context, that cutting off electricity and gas for a while would facilitate our campaign, let's go for it. But let's also be prepared for Israeli casualties, and for noise from the "international community." Moreover, let's understand that until Palestinian society is re-socialized (a sort of messianic goal) to the idea of coexistence, there can be no permanent fix. Lights on or lights off - the war will go on. Jager is Deputy Editorial Page Editor at the Post. His personal Web site is elliotjager.com Isi Leibler: For years the world has become accustomed to Kassam rockets raining down on the citizens of Sderot and its environs. Initially the government understated the Kassam threat, dismissing it as a primitive low grade weapon. "Kassams Shmassams" was how one prominent official referred to them. Yet the attacks increased, civilians were killed and injured, and Sderot citizens became transformed into refugees in their own country. But Prime Minister Olmert urged them to stand firm and stoically adjust to a daily regime of "Russian roulette" missile strikes. In fact for a time when the fake cease fire with the PA applied, the Prime Minister even denied the IDF the right to attack terrorists in the process of launching missiles, claiming Israel was strong enough to absorb such attacks and alleging that restraint was earning the nation enormous "global diplomatic benefits". No other nation would conceivably act with such restraint whilst its civilians were being targeted especially by a neighbor proudly announcing its determination to wipe them out. On the other hand, had the government faced a similar situation, in a more affluent center like Ramat Aviv, there is no doubt that they would have responded differently. Otherwise there would have been street riots and marches to the Knesset calling on them to resign. We are also aware that even this dysfunctional government would be obliged to act if God forbid, a school, a hospital, or major infrastructure were struck That this has not yet happened is a miracle. By denying the IDF the right to fulfill its principal duty - the protection of the life and limb of its civilians - the government is sacrificing lives to score public relations points. It is applying the flawed morality of prioritizing the well being of human shields above those of its own civilians. This is simply untenable. So when Haim Ramon finally endorses the countless appeals previously made to cut off electricity, fuel, and water in a calibrated manner in response to continued missile attacks from Gaza, one is entitled to say to him "Better later than never. But could you please explain why your government has hitherto continued to provide services to neighbors whose leaders orchestrate missile attacks on us and reiterate their determination to continue killing "the descendants of apes and pigs?" Our message to Hamas and Gaza should not be motivated by concerns about proportionality or public relations. We must simply protect our civilians. We should say to them; "Stop directing missiles at us or bear the inevitable consequences". That would neither be brutal nor inconsistent with international law. It would be commonsense. Jonathan Rosenblum: Why not? The only argument against doing so is that we will find ourselves condemned internationally. But that condemnation will surely be far less than that if Israel undertakes a large-scale ground operation, which it would have had no choice but to do, had a Kassam landed on the child care center in Sderot yesterday. If such retaliation succeeds, it will prove the cheapest deterrent. MJ Rosenberg: This proposal is barbaric and is all too reminiscent of the horrors inflicted on innocent Jews throughout the centuries. Children, nursing mothers, the elderly and the sick would suffer so that Israel can deal with the Hamas problem without dealing with Hamas. It is especially revolting to consider the option of punishing innocents as we enter the High Holiday season. The list of sins for which we all must repent is specifically delineated in the holiday prayer book. All too many of them have been committed by the Israeli government in the course of the 40 year occupation (and, yes, by any realistic standard Gaza is still occupied). Ramon's idea will not be accepted by the Olmert government because, with all its faults, the Israeli government understands that there are limits on what civilized human beings can do. As for Jews, this proposal is antithetical to our law, ethics, history and traditions. I especially would recommend against it while the Book of Life is open and the fates of us all for the new year are being determined. Michael Freund: The proposal made by certain Israeli government ministers to cut off utilities for Gaza such as power and water for a few hours at a time as a means of responding to Palestinian rocket attacks is both inadequate and ineffective, and it underlines just how much our decision-makers are simply not up to the task at hand. The Palestinian assaults on Israeli towns and villages, which culminated this past Monday with a rocket barrage on a Sderot day-care center, have been going on for more than two years. On various occasions during that time period, Israel has threatened, cajoled, urged and pleaded for an end to the attacks - all to no avail. We have done just about everything possible, except of course for the one thing that can truly stop these assaults - which is to launch a full-scale military offensive in Gaza. If Minister Haim Ramon, or Minister Gideon Ezra, really think that preventing Palestinians from flushing their toilets for two or three hours at a time will stop Hamas and Islamic Jihad from firing rockets, they are sadly misguided and mistaken. These attacks must at last be brought to an end, and the only way to do so is for Israel to go in to Gaza and clean out the hornets' nest of terror once and for all. It is completely intolerable that this situation has been allowed to fester as long as it has, and it must be brought to a swift and conclusive ending. As the past two years of empty Israeli threats have shown, anything less than a decisive military strike against the terrorists is doomed to fail. By now, one might have hoped, that should be obvious. Barbara Sofer: It's about time that we started to take the situation in Sderot seriously. If we don't, how can we expect the world to? I agree that electricity and gasoline should be cut off. Not water. Let the citizens sit in the dark until they stop the missiles from targeting our children.