My Word: It’s not rocket science

Thousands of miles and tons of hypocrisy separate those who call for Israeli restraint while ignoring the fact that security depends on deterrence.

THE IRON DOME anti-missile system intercepts rockets fired from Gaza toward Israel in November 2019. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
THE IRON DOME anti-missile system intercepts rockets fired from Gaza toward Israel in November 2019.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
As news stories go, it was small – almost under the radar – but the implications were great.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, two rockets were fired from Gaza on Israel. Sadly, this is barely news. Every now and again Palestinians from this or that terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip – Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad or one of their splinter groups – fire a volley of missiles on Israelis, who have seconds to rush for shelter as the sirens wail.
That this should be considered normal is one of the most disturbing aspects of these attacks. Where else would regular rocket fire be considered acceptable, rather than a war crime?
None of the Palestinian groups claimed responsibility for the attack at the beginning of the week. On the contrary, Palestinian media suggested that the rockets had been accidentally launched when lightning struck in the stormy weather. Lightning, like rockets, can strike more than once it seems. The same claim that the weather was responsible was heard in a similar incident almost two years ago when rockets fell on the center of the country.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist – or a political scientist – to know that something is wrong with this picture. Just as soldiers don’t leave bullets in the barrel of their weapons, one can surmise that a rocket-launcher that can be triggered by bad weather was ready and waiting for something else. Ultimately, this had more to do with the political climate than meteorological conditions.
The IDF was expecting trouble because it was the anniversary of the targeted killing of PIJ leader Bahaa Abu al-Ata – another reason the rockets might not have been accidental.
David Ben-Gurion is quoted as saying: “In the land of Israel anyone who doesn’t believe in miracles is not a realist.” But it is not realistic to rely on miracles.
The difference between war and peace – or at least, a period of extended calm – should not come down to a stroke of lightning and a stroke of luck.
If the rocket fire had ended with fatalities, obviously the Israeli response would have been harsher and the situation could have swiftly escalated to the sort of two-day mini-war that took place in November 2018.
As I noted then, Israel, the undisputed regional military and technological giant, has become to a certain extent the victim of its own success. It is not only Israel that relies on the relative protection afforded by the Iron Dome and other anti-rocket defense systems, Hamas does too. It takes a calculated risk with every rocket fired. Hamas trusts that the Iron Dome will prevent the sort of fatalities or damage that will lead to a major Israeli retaliation. (They also trust that such an Israeli response will be condemned around the world while the Palestinians can get away with murder.)
Thousands of miles and tons of hypocrisy separate those who call for Israeli restraint while ignoring the fact that security depends on deterrence.
This week’s rocket fire from Gaza also brought to mind the split-screens on Israeli TVs during the signing of the Abraham Accords in September. As the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates stood outside the White House and delivered their speeches of a vision for a new future, the Palestinians in Gaza launched a barrage of rockets on southern Israel – an unequivocal rejection of the ways of peace.
That’s why the visit by Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani to Jerusalem on Wednesday was so welcome. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have shown with the Abraham Accords that there is a regional shift – a recognition that Israel is here to stay and that the true threat is the ugly twins of Islamist extremism and Iran with nuclear weapons.
ANOTHER NEWS story illustrates these double dangers. According to a report in The New York Times last weekend, Mossad agents acting on behalf of the US killed Abu Muhammad al-Masri, al-Qaeda’s second in command, in an August operation in Tehran.
Masri is believed to be one of those behind the deadly bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in which more than 200 people were killed. According to the report, Masri was gunned down by two men on a motorcycle on August 7, 2020, exactly 22 years after the simultaneous embassy attacks.
Iran immediately issued a response saying there were no al-Qaeda “terrorists” on its soil. The response was understandable. Al-Qaeda is a fundamentalist Sunni terrorist organization and Masri’s presence in the Shi’ite Islamic Republic of Iran is another sign that terrorist networks are willing to overlook their profound religious differences when united in their hatred of the US, Israel and the Western world.
Iran, of course, is a significant backer of Hamas, an offshoot of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the PIJ and the main supporter of Hezbollah. Hezbollah’s lethal bombings have left their mark in place as diverse as Argentina and Burgas, Bulgaria, and Iranian-backed Houthis regularly hit targets in Saudi Arabia. In short, it puts the global in jihad.
Israel did not made any official comment regarding the targeted killing of Masri. It didn’t have to. The Times story sent a strong message to Iran that Israel knows what goes on there and is able to take action – especially following the series of mysterious fires and explosions at Iran’s nuclear facilities earlier this year and the Mossad’s heist of its nuclear archives from a Tehran warehouse in 2018.
Iran’s nuclear aspirations and its backing of global terrorism – a deadly combination –  remain high on Israel’s agenda, and that of many of other countries in the region. Israel is not alone in its concerns that US President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration will roll back US policy on Iran formed under President Donald Trump.
The Abraham Accords provide opportunities for cooperation in a large number of fields including health, environment, agriculture, education and tourism “for all the children of Abraham” – as Al Zayani stressed in his speech in Jerusalem this week. Left unspoken – at least in public – is the fact that apart from the common interests, there is also a common enemy. The crescent of terrorism created by the Islamic Republic extends from Tehran to Beirut and as far south as Yemen.
Another story this week demonstrated that Iran stops at nothing – at least, it doesn’t stop at borders. On Tuesday, the IDF announced that it had uncovered and neutralized several improvised explosive devices on the Israeli side of the border with Syria in the southern Golan Heights. The IEDs apparently had been planted a few weeks ago in the area which serves as a buffer zone along the border. They were near the old site of a military field hospital the IDF had set up to treat Syrians injured during the civil war as part of Operation Good Neighbors.
The Iranians aren’t good neighbors – they aren’t really Israel’s neighbors, at all – but they are trying to establish a military presence on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.
Following the discovery of the IEDs, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Israel had hit “significant Iranian Quds Force targets, and Syrian military targets, in Syria... We will not allow Iranian military entrenchment against us in Syria and we will not tolerate any attempt to attack us from Syrian territory,” he declared in an oft-repeated statement.
Here, too, deterrence is essential. And so is international support.
That Iran is serving as a safe haven for al-Qaeda and supporting other terrorist organizations is not Israel’s problem to deal with alone. When Iran receives funds through the lifting of sanctions, the world must ask where this money is going and what it is supporting.
Hamas’s rockets – triggered by lightning or otherwise – did not come out of the blue. And Iran and al-Qaeda are not strange bedfellows, but partners in crime – the crime of global terrorism. The world ignores them at its peril. Literally.
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