Ami Isseroff, the meticulously sober and ethical analyst blogger at "Zionnation" has posted three articles about Israel's plight vis-a-vis Gaza.
Try to imagine a Gaza operation in concrete terms, and you will understand the actual dilemmas of the government and the IDF. A "small" operation may result in a dozen dead Israeli soldiers and a hundred Arab casualties. Since Israel has had "only" four fatalities this year, the battle cry of "proportionate response" would be raised. Israel would withdraw, and the Hamas would claim victory. No matter what "guarantees" would be given, and no matter what UN resolutions might be passed, the situation would be worse for Israel. Worst of all might be placement of a UN force in Gaza that would allow the Hamas to accumulate weapons and gather strength as the Hezbollah is doing in Lebanon. A large operation would end in Israeli reconquest of Gaza. It might cost a hundred Israeli dead and a couple of thousand Palestinian dead. Depending on whether or not it is your son who gets killed, "only" a hundred fatalities can be a reasonable price to pay. It also depends on what you get.
In hindsight, it is easy to see what should have been done. Israel should have made it clear that our soldiers would return to Gaza immediately if the rocket fire continues, and IDF should have reoccupied Gaza in 2006 - before the Hamas victory, before Schalit was captured, before the Hamas coup. By tolerating continued rocket fire, Israel allowed the Hamas to establish a "fact on the ground" - an "acceptable level of violence" that was unacceptable. Israel should also have begun procurement of a defense for Qassam rockets. We still don't have one, and the one that was selected, Iron Dome, is likely to be costly and ineffective. It would be a lot easier to decide on a large scale military operation if the government could be sure that civilians would not be subject to large scale bombardment for many months.
A wise Zionist leadership was able to beat the British empire because the anti-Jewish policies of the British in mandatory Palestine were obnoxious. They aroused the Jewish people, and they aroused the world. For Israel, the Second Lebanon war can serve as a model of what not to do - widespread destruction of civilian targets turned Lebanese and the world against Israel, just as the Sabra and Shatila massacre, not committed by Israel, was nonetheless used to turn Lebanese and world opinion against Israel. In Iraq, the Americans have been lucky enough to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq. Their atrocities have slowly turned the Iraqi people solidly against "the resistance." If the Arabs of Palestine have slowly turned away from suicide bombing (there are still attempts) it is not because of any great moral scruples, but because they finally understood that the suicide bombings were hurting their cause rather than helping it, and turning world public opinion against them.
Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, which effectively eventually ended the wave of Palestinian terror that was instigated in 2000, was a spectacular and still under-appreciated success. It succeeded not because there was a massacre in Jenin or anywhere else, but because there were no massacres. There was a relatively precise plan for the attack, there was good intelligence and there was an excellent and well coordinated follow-up strategy. Palestinian propaganda tried in vain to invent a massacre story that would have destroyed the effectiveness of Defensive Shield, but even the UN and Human Rights Watch could not buy the fabricated massacre. The Palestinian population could not be mobilized for "resistance" either, because they understood that only those who continued terror attacks were threatened. In Gaza, we don't have such a clean option.
"Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done." (Ortega y Gasset)
Saturday, June 14, 2008