Rattling the Cage: The just war and the unjust war

If we can have a long-term cease-fire with Hizbullah, I don't see why we can't have one with Hamas as well.

larry derfner 88 (photo credit: )
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
In the summer of 2006, I thought Israel was right to fight the Second Lebanon War. Although I believed the government should have accepted a cease-fire with Hizbullah after about the first week of fighting, I agreed with the decision to go to war - to punish Hizbullah harshly for kidnapping two IDF soldiers (and, as was later learned, killing them). In contrast, I do not think Israel should be fighting Operation Cast Lead, as this war with Gaza is being called. I think there are things we could have done that might have prevented it - not that such steps would have been guaranteed to work, but they might have worked, and so I think we had the responsibility to try them. War, after all, is supposed to be the last option. WHAT'S THE difference between the two wars? Why, in my opinion, was the one with Lebanon justified and the current one with Gaza not? Because Lebanon and Hizbullah had no legitimate gripe against Israel, while Gaza and Hamas certainly do - just as we certainly have legitimate gripes against Gaza and its leadership. So there was - and still is - a fair deal for a cease-fire to be broached with Hamas: We don't bother you, you don't bother us. With Hizbullah, that was already the deal. That was the status quo. Then Hizbullah attacked, and there was nothing to do but hit back to teach Hizbullah a lesson (which, judging by the absolute quiet on the northern border for the last 21⁄2 years, seems to have been learned). Before Hizbullah's attack, Israel wasn't laying siege to Lebanon. It wasn't stopping the delivery of supplies. It wasn't blockading Lebanon's seacoast. It wasn't blockading Lebanon's airspace. It wasn't hindering national or personal life in Lebanon in any way. Hizbullah's claim to the Shaba Farms didn't hold water, and it certainly wasn't a justification for crossing the border and kidnapping (and at some point killing) Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. And while Hizbullah could claim that Israel's imprisonment of Samir Kuntar justified its attack, no decent-minded person could have agreed. WHEN ISRAEL withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, it washed its hands of that country and its people completely. Not so with the disengagement from Gaza in 2005. Right away, we blockaded Gaza's coast. We blockaded Gaza's airspace. We choked off the delivery of supplies to Gaza by land. We never ended the occupation - we just do it now by remote control. We still make the lives of the 1.5 million people there into hell. Between the siege and our military reprisals for the Kassams, which have killed about 1,000 Palestinians since disengagement, we are bothering the hell out of Gaza - much more, incomparably more, than they have been bothering us. So there was - there is - a deal to be made with Hamas: no siege in return for no more rockets. This is the deal Hamas was offering. Was it sincere? Would it honor such an agreement? I don't know. Hamas would not be my first choice as a partner to a cease-fire. Hamas, more than anybody else, destroyed the chance for Israeli-Palestinian peace by responding to the first Oslo Accord, immediately after its signing, by stepping up the murder of Israelis. However, Hamas is not self-destructive. It has, in the past, held its fire for long periods of time in the face of Israeli military power. And its demand for an end to the siege isn't just a Hamas demand, it's a demand of all Palestinians no matter what their politics; it's a demand any sane human being, any nation, would make - to be allowed to live as free people. The demand for an end to the siege is an absolutely legitimate one - so long as Gaza is prepared, in return, to let Israelis live as free people, too, without being terrorized, and at times wounded or killed, by rockets falling out of the sky. That deal, I believe, is still on the table, and that's the deal Israel should take. If Hamas breaks such a cease-fire, we can reimpose the siege, and if Hamas still doesn't see reason, we can unleash our military power again. As Ehud Barak said in the days when he was still counseling restraint, Gaza isn't going anywhere. IF WE can have a long-term cease-fire with Hizbullah, I don't see why we can't have one with Hamas as well. If we leave Gaza alone like we've left Lebanon alone, I don't see why we can't have quiet in the South like we do in the North. And if the argument is made that we had to bang the hell out of Hamas to teach it a lesson, and only now can we lift the siege and expect it to abide by a cease-fire - then I accept. Then I was wrong to oppose Operation Cast Lead, because that was the stick Israel had to apply in order to get Hamas to take the carrot. But if we're just going to keep banging away until, as some Israelis seem to envision, the Palestinians fall on their knees and say, "Okay, we surrender. You were right all along, we won't touch you anymore, we don't need an airport, we don't need a seaport, we would just like a little more humanitarian aid and we'll be eternally grateful" - then forget it. Then Operation Cast Lead is utterly reckless, futile and immoral. Then we're leaving the Palestinians with nothing to lose, and we're fighting a war that has no logical end, a war that could expand in all sorts of directions. Tzipi Livni said it better than she knew: Enough is enough.