Connecting to the South

Regardless of the strategy or strategies implemented by the government, it is imperative that the residents of the South know that they have not been abandoned.

Rockets damage 2 390 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Rockets damage 2 390
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Since the latest escalation in southern Israel began a little over a week ago, hundreds of mortar shells and rockets have been fired at cities and towns there. Hamas and the myriad Salafist and jihadist organizations operating inside Gaza that are launching their ballistic attacks on Israel have disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children in places like Sderot, Kibbutz Nirim and Beersheba.
Schools have been closed down, families have been forced to spend hours locked up in bomb shelters and the regular pace of life has been underscored by the constant fear of the next mortar shell or rocket falling from the sky.
Israel’s options for stopping the barrage of fire from Gaza are limited. Diplomatically, Jerusalem might succeed – with American help – in putting pressure on Cairo to use its influence with Hamas to stop the shooting. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi might be interested in preventing further escalation between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza in order to avoid getting dragged into a direct conflict with Jerusalem and Washington.
But even if Morsi agrees to attempt to put pressure on the Hamas leadership, it is not at all clear that Hamas is fully capable of bringing about a cease-fire.
Firstly, many of the terrorist groups operating inside Gaza are not fully under Hamas’s control. Secondly, in the world of fundamentalist Islamic politics that aggrandizes death and destruction, Hamas does not want to be perceived as conciliatory and weak vis-à-vis Israel.
Israel’s military options are likewise limited. It could continue the present tactic of launching either a preemptive attack or retaliation – either by air or on the ground – for each attempt by Hamas or other terrorist organizations to strike against Israel. Our armed forces could supplement this ongoing military response with targeted killings directed at the upper echelon of the various terrorist organizations operating in Gaza.
The IDF could also initiate a escalation from the air, the sea and the ground aimed at drawing out and eliminating additional terrorists operating in Gaza and destroying their infrastructure. Though such an initiated escalation could strengthen Israel’s deterrence, it could also lead to a full-fledged war, complete with unintended civilian casualties and international condemnation.
However, in the short run, none of these tactics will enable Israelis living in the South to return to normalcy and end the terror of living under the constant threat of rockets and mortar fire. In fact, an initiated escalation or stepping up targeted killings would only result in an increased barrage of fire from Gaza – at least in the short-term – and more suffering for the South’s residents.
Regardless of the strategy or strategies implemented by the government, it is imperative that the residents of the South know that they have not been abandoned.
Fellow Israeli citizens living in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and other locations that are – for the time being – safely out of range of the mortar shells and rockets shot from Gaza should show their solidarity with the South’s residents.
The cabinet, which on Sunday approved a three-year, NIS 270 million plan for the building of 1,700 bomb shelters in towns and cities located three to seven kilometers from the border with Gaza, should also consider holding one of its upcoming weekly meetings in the South.
Radio and television news programs should make an effort to broadcast from the South. And if, due to the security risk, it is too much to ask for more fortunate Israelis to actually visit the South, schools, youth groups, synagogues and even sports clubs should make an effort to remember the plight of their brothers and sisters.
Above all, we must avoid a situation in which large segments of society go about their business as though all is well. We must not be disconnected from what is happening in the South.