Gaza's power line

Those who consider cutting Gaza's power an extreme tactic should consider the alternatives.

gaza utility 88 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
gaza utility 88 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The only response to the continued rocketing of Sderot and its environs, as of this writing, has been to summon a special session of the security cabinet today to review the situation - yet again - as if the escalated Kassam attacks were unexpected. If anything were predictable it was that Kassam downpours would intensify once the school year reopened. This is terrorist homicidal logic at its crudest and most barbaric: more youngsters would be out unprotected, constituting an easier and more vulnerable target. That's why most rockets are fired between 7:30 and 8:15 a.m. - to hit school-bound youngsters when they are particularly exposed to injury. Those government spokespersons who congratulated themselves on the lower summertime Kassam statistics were either being disingenuous or laboring under dangerous delusions. It should have been clear that the situation would deteriorate as soon as terrorists could inflict greater casualties. Hence the cabinet session should have taken place last week, prior to the beginning of the new school year and not after foreseeable incidents occurred. Scheduling a cabinet session, moreover, is hardly what can comfort Sderot residents. Likewise, they can derive only partial relief from the continuation of targeted killings, which have proved of some effect in achieving a degree of respite from relentless terror but whose effectiveness against Kassams has been anything but decisive. The only warnings that carry clout are those followed by deeds. Islamic Jihad has already mocked Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who declared Monday that Israeli troops have been given the green light "to destroy every rocket launcher and to kill anyone involved in firing rockets." Presumably these were the standing orders before the return to school of Sderot's pupils, and yet the rockets keep coming. Perhaps Vice Premier Haim Ramon is on the more effective track when proposing that Israel draw up "a price list" for every Gaza-generated outrage. "We cannot continue to supply water, fuel and electricity when they are trying to kill our children," he explained. The idea is that Israel would inflict pre-announced punitive measures for each given Gazan infraction. Thus, for every Kassam that lands in Sderot, or near the Ashkelon power station that supplies Gaza's electricity, the current to the Strip would be immediately switched off for a few hours. The idea is to create an unambiguous correlation between terror and the hardship it imposes on Gaza's populace. This is an approach that the cabinet must seriously ponder, and not only because of our resentment of the fact that Gazans brazenly bite the Israeli hand that helps feeds them. The Palestinian Authority has split into two competing entities, controlled by Fatah and Hamas, respectively, each eager to win wider support. To succeed in Gaza, Hamas must prove itself capable of looking after the pragmatic day-to-day needs of the masses. If failure to rein in Islamic Jihad means water shortages or no fuel, the Hamas regime might be induced to enforce order in its bailiwick. Hamas is not entirely bereft of practical consideration, a fact that should all the more recommend the Ramon scheme. This possibly is what Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had in mind when she advised "using additional means apart from military ones to clarify to Gaza residents that their way of life is dependent on Israel." Those who consider this an extreme tactic should consider the alternatives. If all else fails, Israel may have little choice but to subscribe to the rationale of former defense minister Moshe Arens, who argues that the only way to safeguard Sderot's children is to move the Kassam launchers out of range. That would mandate taking over the three-to-five kilometer strip from which these rockets are launched. Arens maintains that it's the IDF's duty to do so, and not of Sderot's children to reconcile themselves to their lot. This is what the gathered ministers must weigh today. They need to set aside political face-saving, mindful of the facts that their task isn't to administer a palliative to Sderot's residents but to free them from danger. No other country would stand for the rocketing of its citizens for so long, let alone supply the offending area with the electricity to produce the rockets.