Editor's Notes: Israel’s Pillar of Defense

The primary purpose of Operation Pillar of Defense is to restore Israel’s deterrent capability.

IDF soldiers patrol during a raid 390 (R) (photo credit: Abed Omar Qusini / Reuters)
IDF soldiers patrol during a raid 390 (R)
(photo credit: Abed Omar Qusini / Reuters)
The primary purpose of Operation Pillar of Defense is to restore Israel’s deterrent capability. The message to Hamas, to the world, and ultimately to ourselves is that terrorist groups can no longer attack us with impunity. The constant firing of thousands of rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip over the past 11 years must finally come to a halt.
It was no coincidence that the IDF chose the biblical term Amud Anan for the military operation that began on Wednesday with the targeted killing of Ahmed Jabari, the arch-terrorist who served as Hamas’s military chief.
It literally means “Pillar of Cloud,” but the army called it “Pillar of Defense” in English to convey the notion that Israel is simply exercising its right of self-defense.
A pillar of cloud served as a divine daytime compass for the Children of Israel during their exodus from Egypt.
At night, a pillar of fire provided them with light.
Jabari’s rocket crews, bombers, gunmen and kidnappers have left thousands of clouds of smoke in Israel over the years. The toll and trauma they have caused are immeasurable.
But today, when the Israel Air Force hits a terrorist target in Gaza or the Iron Dome defense system intercepts a rocket, all that remains is a pillar of cloud.
Rather than Hamas’s signature, it has become the IDF’s.
This is the time for Israelis to rally together behind our true pillar of strength – the IDF – with the support of our many friends around the globe.
It is a time to help the residents of the South under attack, and urge them to stay in sheltered rooms.
It is a time to sympathize with the families and friends of those who have been killed or wounded in rocket attacks.
It is a time to pray for the brave men and women in uniform fighting for Israel.
It is a time to put politics aside, and to stand together proudly as one nation.
And it is payback time for the Gaza terrorists who have been firing indiscriminately at southern Israel.
As the famous line from Ecclesiastes goes, there is “a time for war and a time for peace.” And this, unfortunately, is a time for war.
More than a million Israelis living in the South have suffered from rocket and mortar attacks for too long. The government has been patient for too long, hoping beyond hope that the fire would stop, and repeatedly offering Hamas “quiet for quiet.”
But this policy was not effective, and the firing continued unabated, escalating to 170 rockets in the few days before the current offensive. It was only a matter of time before Israel’s luck ran out, and the rockets exacted a fatal price.
The time had come to hit back, and hit back hard. This, after all, is the Middle East, where the lingua franca is military might.
The Arab world, led by Egypt, is charging Israel with war crimes. Yet it is Hamas, which has launched rocket attacks from civilian areas in Gaza and targeted civilians in Israel, that is doubly guilty of war crimes.
It is sadly ironic that Iran, the world’s prime sponsor of terror, and Syria, whose regime is massacring its own people, have condemned Israel for its “terrorism” and “barbarism” against the Palestinians in Gaza.
Israel, for the record, has been as careful as it can to carry out accurate air strikes against terrorists and to avoid civilian casualties.
When the US assassinated Osama bin Laden, the world applauded. When Iraq executed Saddam Hussein and Libyan rebels killed Muammar Gaddafi, no one shed a tear. But the IDF’s pinpoint strike of Ahmed Jabari has been reported by the world’s media as if Israel is the bad guy.
As UK columnist Melanie Phillips wrote, “Rocket attacks on Israelis are not news; Israeli military action to defend Israel against such attacks is.
Suddenly, media indifference has been transformed into media hyperactivity.
And in the eyes of the British media and Foreign Office, Israel is at fault; astoundingly, it is apparently Israel which is responsible for inflaming the situation, not the Palestinians.”
The international community, of course, issued its traditional appeals to both sides to prevent a further escalation of the violence. Drawing an unjustified moral equivalence between Hamas terrorist attacks and Israel’s killing of a Hamas terror chief, UN chief Ban Ki-moon voiced concern over “the alarming escalation of indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into Israel and the targeted killing by Israel of a Hamas military operative in Gaza.”
The US and several of Israel’s allies balanced their support for its right of self-defense by also calling for restraint.
They forget how restrained Israel has been. What other country would have gritted its teeth for so long? The response from the Carter Center in Atlanta was particularly unsympathetic.
“Both sides should cease all hostilities,” declared former US president Jimmy Carter. “Israel should end its blockade of Gaza, and Western countries should work to facilitate reconciliation between Hamas and their Palestinian rival, Fatah. As long as Gaza remains isolated, the situation in and around Gaza will remain volatile.”
One of the few sympathetic voices among world leaders was John Baird, the Canadian foreign minister, who stated clearly that “Canada condemns the Hamas terrorist organization and stands at Israel’s side.”
“We believe that Israel has the right to protect itself and its citizens from terrorist threats. Too often, the Jewish people finds itself on the front line of the war on terror,” Baird said.
In this regard, the statement put out by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is particularly pertinent.
“The international community must speak up forcefully and stand by Israel’s right to defend itself and protect its citizens,” it urged. “Israel is on the front lines of the war on terrorism, but it is a threat faced by the entire world.”
It is a message the world might bear in mind when the clouds lift and history passes judgment on Operation Pillar of Defense.