Monday, November 19, 2012

Restraints on Israel

In response to my recent blog posting entitled "Shock and awe in Gaza," I received several replies;  Here's one: Damn right, Jack! Your every word right on the nail.   Here's another: There is a problem with pinpoint targeting. In a way this insulates the general population from hardship. I think this is a mistake. What if many intersections, gas stations, bridges or overpasses (if present) and other possible targets etc. were severely damaged. The people of Sderot and others face terror and upset on a regular basis. Why not give the people of Gaza a regular tit for tat for each rocket fired the targeting of service or infrastructure. Tit for Tat is an established game theory strategy. Telephone poles, water treatment plant distribution maybe even an accidental hit to the physical power grid (but not the actual power plant). Make the population feel the pain.
I discussed this issue with a friend and this was his response.  Yes, that's the proper way to deal with the situation, the US could do that, or Britain or France, but not Israel.  During the NATO attacks on Serbia, a British pilot hit a train full of passengers and the US destroyed the Chinese Embassy with the Chinese staff inside.  Net result, a few condemnations.  As soon as Israel kills one Palestinian civilian there is an outcry and media liberals are waiting to pounce. Unfortunately a family of 11 were killed when an apartment building in which a Hamas military leader was believed to be living was blown up, one of the many where Hamas operatives have in fact been killed.  This is part of the inevitability of warfare, termed "collateral damage."  There are western BDS liberals who are looking for any excuse to attack Israel and then the Arab countries get involved and the UN issues threats ("both sides must show restraint") and the Western countries back-off ("de-escalation" in Obama-speak) and give Israel a week at most to finish off the job and stop firing. 
Hamas and all the other Palestinian groups know the drill, they wait for the UN to force Israel to withdraw and then we are back to square one, the status quo ante, as we were in 2004 after Operation Cast Lead.  Then again it becomes a never-ending cycle of Hamas missiles and Israeli counter-attacks.  In order to get out of this cycle there is only one way, since Hamas is never going to give up its embittered enmity towards Israel.  That way is to destroy Hamas completely, its personnel, its facilities and its means of governance.  Israel is partially doing this, but it never gets to complete the job because of restraints upon Israel that are not put on other nations in similar circumstances.   
Things could be a lot worse.  Israel has complete control of the skies and since Hamas has no effective aerial defence they are literally defenceless to our air force.  Clearly it is irrational for them to continually fire rockets at us to elicit an armed response, but they do.  Also, Israel has excellent intelligence, from collaborators on the ground, bugging calls and listening devices and from satellite surveillance.  This is borne out by the pinpoint hits on military leaders that have been successsfully carried out. 
People prefer to forget that Israel is supplying Gaza with electricity (for which they are not paying), water, oil and food (delivered by hundreds of trucks a day).  Why is this?  Because Israel does not want to be responsible for a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  But, during actual hostilities these supplies are interrupted, not because Israel cuts off the supplies, but because of the impossibility of maintaining the supplies during the fighting.  Fuel and water lines get cut, pylons delivering electricity are destroyed, trucks cannot enter the Gaza crossings, which are closed.  So the population of Gaza suffers, if not as directly under attack as by other countries, but I think they get the message. 
What is the message?  It should be "mess with us and you're dead!" but what it is is "mess with us and we'll tolerate it until we can't anymore and then we'll destroy your weapons capability and some of your military leaders, and then we'll stop."  Unfortunately it's not good enough, not for me, but for the future of Israel.  One of these days Israel must finish off the job, and this requires a ground invasion that literally cleans out the terrorists.  But, door to door fighting in an urban setting is dangerous and costly in terms of casualties, are we willing to risk the lives of our young soldiers for this?  Instead we could sit under the constant threat of missiles, although fewer get killed.  It's a risk-benefit analysis for which there is no clear-cut answer.
A related issue is how have the so-called "Arab spring" uprisings changed the reaction of the Arab countries to the current conflcit.  So far it has somewhat muted their response.  They are still recovering from their own internal dissension.  But, the reaction in Egypt is a harbinger.  Whereas Mubarak considered Hamas an enemy  and he banned the Muslim Brotherhood, Pres. Morsi is a member of the Muslim Bortherhood and so they have basic sympathy for the Palestinains under Hamas.  They basically discount and ignore the firing of missiles into Israel and concentrate only on the counter-reaction of Israel on Gaza.  At present they can't do anything tangible to help Hamas, but if Hamas survives, which is likely, then the next go around Egypt will probably be directly involved in aiding Hamas. Memories are short and unfortunately the Arbas might want to try a major war with Israel all over again.  That will change the future picture, when a whole series of Sunni fundamentalist governments in the Arab world will support Hamas.  At present Syria is out of the picture, due to its ongoing civil war, the PA is opposed to Hamas and is trying the diplomatic route against Israel and Iran is still the main enemy.  
This is not abstract for all of us.  Our daughter and her family live in Beersheva.  Yesterday during the day there were 17 missiles fired at Beersheva, 5 of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system and one that was missed got through and hit an empty site in the city (the rest were targeted on unpopulated areas).  We offered them to spend Shabbat with us in Netanya, until now beyond the range of rockets from Gaza.  But, they decided to return to Beersheva and spend Shabbat there.  They said that Hamas is not going to chase them out of their home.  Very commendable, but worrying.  Hamas and the other enemies of Israel should note this.  We are determined and we will overcome this threat and go on to bigger and better things. 


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