Only tough military action can bring Palestinians to realization their lives will improve only if they rid themselves of leaders who believe terror will destroy us
One of the principal objectives of creating a Jewish state was to bring an end to 2000 years of Jewish powerlessness.
Indeed, Israel today is recognized as a Middle East superpower. Yet our government stands impotent as missiles rain down on its territory and a border town is in the process of being evacuated, its inhabitants being transformed into refugees in their own land.
The die was cast when our government initially failed to take resolute deterrent action when the first Qassams were launched from the Gaza Strip. The world, and much of Israel too, became conditioned to the routine of missiles crashing down on Israeli citizens. In fact, until recently, our leaders had a habit of downplaying the Qassams as a “low-grade” threat, exemplified by the cynical Shimon Peres retort “Qassams Shmassam’s” in response to appeals for action from Sderot residents.
Clearly the government would never have so casually dismissed complaints and displayed such restraint had the missiles had been targeted towards Ramat Aviv. Yet there is every probability that in the near future the range of the missiles will be extended, and Ashkelon and other more centrally located cities will become targets. And who knows, Rabin Square might one day also be within range.
It is immoral and even obscene for our government to consciously delay tough responses against such aggression. What will it take to compel it to go over to the offensive – a missile strike on a kindergarten, on a hospital or a key infrastructure? Only a miracle has averted a calamity to date.
It is even more outrageous when we hear the mantra “There is no answer to Qassam attacks”. The long-suffering citizens in Sderot are effectively being told by their government to stoically adjust their lifestyles to a regime of daily “Russian roulette” missile attacks or get out.
In the absence of a more potent pre emptive action, our emboldened enemies are gearing themselves to intensify their onslaughts as soon as they are satisfied that their offensive and defensive infrastructure has reached its peak. Last summer’s Hezbollah imbroglio also demonstrated that the longer we wait, the worse the ultimate confrontation is likely to be, especially if future battles take place simultaneously on three fronts: Gaza, West Bank, South Lebanon (and possibly also Syria).
It is not surprising then, that for the first time, some Israelis have begun asking themselves painful questions about the long – term future of the country.
Before considering the various options that a responsible government should have implemented long ago, we should note that four axioms of classic Israeli strategy are currently being breached.
1. The IDF responsibility to protect its civilians, even at the price of painful casualties.
2. The strategy to confront the enemy on his own territory, not ours.
3. When necessary, defying America – even while seeking to maintain the alliance intact – when Israeli civilian lives are endangered or our security is compromised.
4. Never placating international public opinion when Israeli lives are endangered.
What should now be done?
Clearly a full-scale ground invasion of Gaza may ultimately be deemed necessary as a last option. But in the interim, there are calibrated responses that should be implemented immediately.
We must proclaim to the world that as of now we intend to respond as would any other nation whose citizens are under missile attack. We will endeavor to continue minimizing innocent civilian loss of life but we have resolved that if terrorists oblige us to choose between the lives of our citizens and those of Palestinians we will defend our own, irrespective of the consequences.
Netanyahu is correct in urging that in the wake of each individual missile attack, we should increasingly cut off electricity, fuel and water to the Palestinians and close border crossings. Will this harm innocent civilians? Yes. But it is surely high time for us to cease supplying services to neighbors whose leaders authorize missile attacks against us.
We may also be obliged to temporarily occupy slabs of Gaza territory to foil rocket attacks on border areas, including locations formerly inhabited by settlers before the disastrous unilateral disengagement. In all likelihood we would also need to regain control of the Philadelphi corridor in order to contain the flow of lethal Iranian armaments pouring across the border.
Targeted assassinations should be intensified against those orchestrating the attacks including political leaders. We must even reconsider renewing artillery bombardment of locations from which missile attacks are initiated. As in all likelihood this will again incur civilian casualties and impact on the Palestinian infrastructure, we will undoubtedly be accused of responding “disproportionately”.
However proportionality is a philosophical concept and cannot be a prime consideration when endeavoring to create deterrence to offset unprovoked military attacks on civilians which are effectively acts of war.
As to morality, even setting aside comparisons to the behavior of other countries, there comes a point in a confrontation where one says “Enough is enough”. That point has now been passed. In war a government must be motivated by one objective: to protect its civilians and minimize its military casualties. That must override public relations images. It would be consistent with international law, common sense, and morality.
The message to the Palestinians is neither brutal nor heartless. It is very simple and constructive: Stop directing missiles on our civilians or your civilians may also be harmed. In fact, a tough Israeli response could actually encourage Palestinians to bring pressure to bear on their leaders and may in the long run even save Palestinian lives.
We should avoid entering into any new fake truces which merely enable our enemies to regroup and prepare themselves for more intensive attacks at a time of their choosing. That applies especially when the Palestinian leaders openly boast that their non-negotiable objective remains to kill “the descendants of apes and pigs”, and they constantly renew their irrevocable determination never to deviate from their commitment to destroy the Jewish state.
We must also dispel the illusion that negotiations with Jihadists can bear fruit. There has never been a single example of Islamic fundamentalists reaching an accord on the basis of negotiations or concessions. Likewise retreats and withdrawals under fire have consistently emboldened Jihadists into intensifying violence and have merely served as a prescription for greater future conflagrations.
Only tough military action can deter the terrorists and hopefully bring Palestinians to the realization that their bitter lives will only improve if they rid themselves of leaders who remain obsessed with the belief that violence and terror will destroy us.
The writer chairs the Diaspora-Israel relations committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and is a veteran international Jewish leader and can be reached on [email protected]
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