The Jewish state was created to overcome powerlessness and provide a haven for Jews – not to have them cringing in shelters. There had previously been considerable criticism of the government for its failure to adequately respond to the ongoing toll inflicted on over a million Israeli citizens obliged to endure thousands of missiles launched against them at the whim of a loathsome neighboring terrorist state. We had tired of hearing successive Israeli leaders repeatedly expressing empty threats and chanting the mantra “this is intolerable and unacceptable and must stop”.
Hamas is no longer a terrorist faction. It is in every respect an independent state the majority of whose citizens enthusiastically support the terrorist initiatives and missile launches initiated by its evil leaders committed to our annihilation.
The situation deteriorated with the advent to power in Egypt of the Moslem Brotherhood, the creators of Hamas. Since then, the Egyptian authorities stood by as Hamas accumulated vast quantities of sophisticated missiles and other lethal weapons including guided antitank missiles and shoulder mounted antiaircraft weapons from Iran, Libya, Sudan and other states.
That explains why despite awareness that Operation Amud Annan – “Pillar of Defense” may escalate into full-scale war, all sections of Israeli society fervently support the IDF operation. It is also gratifying that Jews throughout the world are actively demonstrating solidarity with Israel.
Hamas was emboldened into testing our resolve, believing that Israel would be fearful of confronting the new Egyptian regime and also encouraged by the active support from the Turkish government and the recent visit to Gaza of the emir of Qatar who contributed $400 million to their coffers.
Israel was indeed sensitive to these issues as well as the effect of a military conflict diverting attention from Iran – especially now as it proceeds with its uranium enrichment. There was also concern at the civil war in Syria and the dramatic rise of Islamic extremism throughout the region. To top it off there were inhibitions because of the US presidential elections.
Nevertheless, Hamas miscalculated. By intensifying the bombardment of the South, it obliged the state of Israel to respond harshly or forfeit any modicum of deterrence.
The initial outcome was good. The IDF had clearly learned from the lessons of previous wars; intelligence was impeccable; action was systematic and rational with to date, minimal civilian casualties.
It must be stressed that the targeted killings of terrorist leaders are not acts of revenge or a display of showmanship. They are logical military actions which can be rationally justified in moral terms. The killing of Al Ja’abari, regarded as the Palestinian counterpart of Bin Laden, is a prime example. Unlike US drone attacks on Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the IDF succeeded in avoiding collateral casualties.
The global response from most Western countries which followed President Obama’s lead condemning the rocket attacks and endorsing Israel’s right to self-defense, was until now satisfactory, despite the usual calls for restraint and for Israel to act in a “proportionate” manner.
But these are early days. Initially, we are unlikely to face problems at the UN Security Council. However, the General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council, controlled by Islamic and other anti-Israeli coalitions, have consistently viewed Israel as the aggressor and never the victim. Neither of these bodies has even once condemned the Hamas missile attacks and there is little doubt that they and NGO bodies such as Amnesty International will blame Israel exclusively for reigniting the armed conflict.
In addition, whilst the IDF is taking extraordinary precautions to minimize civilian casualties, there will invariably, as in any military conflict, be mishaps – especially in Gaza where Hamas ruthlessly employ human shields by locating armaments and launching missiles in civilian residential areas. In addition, our enemies have already circulated bogus images of Palestinian civilian casualties, highlighting infants allegedly killed by Israel. As in the past, these gruesome images will be exploited to pressure Israel to back down.
And whilst the Iron Dome anti-rocket shield has been highly successful in largely protecting the major Israeli cities, there have already been tragic casualties and regrettably more are likely if hostilities continue to escalate and impact on the home front.
Clearly, the IDF would prefer to limit the conflict to pinpointed aerial strikes. However, if Hamas continue raining rockets against Israeli civilians, Israel will be forced into a ground offensive in which greater casualties are inevitable.
The main challenge for the government is to devise an end strategy to achieve long term deterrence as well as a strategy to be implemented instantly should Hamas become sufficiently re-emboldened to recommence missile launches.
Israel has no desire to return to the era of the tit-for-tat war of attrition whereby we respond to missile launches by bombing rocket launching sites, and empty buildings.
Although some of our allies are already urging us not to respond “disproportionately”, such a concept has absolutely no relevance to the threat facing Israel. Whilst still seeking to minimize civilian casualties, we must create genuine deterrence in order to avoid future full-scale conflicts of ever increasing magnitude. In fact, a disproportionate response to aggression is fully consistent with international law in which the prime obligation of the state is to protect its civilians. Those seeking to deny us this basic right are maliciously hypocritical.
The issue of Israel continuing to provide Hamas-controlled Gaza with services is another bizarre anomaly. It is one thing to be sensitive to the humanitarian needs of civilian noncombatants, but to continue providing electricity and other utilities to a neighboring state raining missiles against us is utterly perverse. If the lights went out automatically every time a rocket was dispatched, the inconvenienced Gaza residents might even influence their leaders to hesitate before launching missiles.
An intensive government campaign must be implemented to counter the impact of successive years of the world having become conditioned to regarding Israel under missile attacks as a normative way of life. We must highlight the fact that such attacks against civilians are unequivocally war crimes. Would the US respond “proportionately” if 50 million Americans were under missile attack from Mexico or Canada for a decade? Or if France faced such bombardment from Belgium or Luxemburg? No other state in the world would tolerate this and we must demonstrate that a policy of “restraint”, far from reflecting strength, displays weakness and emboldens our evil neighbors to intensify their attacks.
We must recognize that in future conflicts, the terrorists will continue accumulating more effective and lethal weapons to employ against us. We must therefore endeavor to resist calls for a cease-fire until such time as Hamas, in conjunction with the Egyptians, undertake to cease their aggression. There must be a clear understanding that any breach would result in harsh “disproportionate” Israeli responses including the targeted killings of those responsible for initiating attacks. In the absence of such an agreement an enforced cease fire will be perceived as a major victory for Hamas and our citizens will simply return to the life of terror they endured since the first Kassams were launched a decade ago.
The writer may be contacted at [email protected]
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom