“The recent escalation and loss of life—as well as the disruption of the southern residents’ daily routine—will eventually make it necessary for the army to launch a major offensive in Gaza.”—IDF Chief of General Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, to Israel’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. (Ynet News, Tuesday, November 15.)
The last month has seen a significant escalation in the number of rocket attacks against Israel. Emanating from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Israel, in particular the South, is under constant fire—a situation which, according to IDF Chief Benny Gantz, will longer be tolerated. Yet similar rhetoric has been heard regularly since Israel’s 2005 Gaza disengagement, which resulted in a reign of terror that has seen more than 8000 rockets fired on the Jewish state’s civilian population.
The perpetrators, Hamas and other terrorist organizations like Islamic Jihad, are armed and financed by the radical regime in Tehran. Two weeks ago this was again confirmed by Abu Ahmed, spokesman for Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades: “We are proud and honored to say that the Islamic Republic of Iran gives us support and help,” Ahmed asserted. He added that Islamic Jihad has at least 8,000 “fearless” fighters ready to go to war against Israel, saying “When we chose the path of resistance, we opted either for martyrdom or victory. Martyrdom is the more desirable.”
This ideology, exported by Iran’s mullahs and promoted by the “democratically” elected Hamas, cannot be combated diplomatically. Hence Gantz’s most direct statement to date regarding the possibility of military action to uproot and destroy Israel’s Gaza-based enemies.
The question remains, however, whether Israel will indeed get serious about re-implementing a policy of strong deterrence—rather than the prevailing “Oslovian” theory of appeasement—or whether Gantz’s statements, like so many before, will be consigned to the dustbin of history.
A BITTER ROUTINE
Jerusalem Post, November 7, 2011
After the Hebrew months of Elul and Tishrei that are so full of meaning and spiritual work on our souls, we enter the month of Heshvan (the month’s original name is Marheshvan).
And why was this month called Marheshvan? There are two reasons. One is that Heshvan is considered a month that has a bitter taste (the Hebrew word mar means “bitter”): It has no holidays, no festive days and, in fact, according to Jewish tradition, several disastrous events occurred during this month. The second reason is that this is the month when rain begins to fall in the Land of Israel. The word “mar” also means “drop of water,” as it is written in the Bible: “Hen goyim ke-mar mi-dli (Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket),” Isaiah (40:15).
My original intention in writing these words was to express the idea that in Marheshvan, we can now finally return to our usual routines.… In Israel, as everyone knows, life goes back to normal “after the holidays.” However, although the holiday season was, thank God, tranquil, our normal routines did not return. Instead, the residents of southern Israel, especially Beersheba, returned to a harsh reality.…
As I write these lines, all the schools in Beersheba have been shut for three days—nursery schools, kindergartens, elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools. All the pupils are at home. No, this is not a mini-vacation. We are under siege.
Let me tell you what it is like to live under siege. The first problem is that although children are not in school, their parents are expected to be at work. But somebody has to look after them.… There are no summer camps. No sleepover camps. So, in most families, one of the parents must ask for a day off from work in order to stay at home and look after the children.
The second problem is actually leaving home. Traveling in a vehicle suddenly becomes dangerous when threatened with missile attacks. If the air raid sirens go off while you are traveling, you have several alternatives, as the instructions issued by the IDF’s Home Front Command tell us.
The first alternative is to get out of the car and to take shelter in a nearby apartment building. In theory, this is a good solution. In practice, however, it is not such a good solution. We were on our way back [recently] from a series of meetings in Tel Aviv when the sirens shrieked. In extensive areas near the entrance to Beersheba there are no apartment buildings.
The second alternative is to get out of the vehicle and stretch yourself out on the ground. The third alternative is to stay in the vehicle. All these alternatives are problematic. It is no coincidence that all of the persons injured and the person killed (in Ashkelon) in the recent rocket attacks were traveling when the air raid sirens started to wail.
The serious disruption of our normal routine is the heart of the matter. Yesterday, at 6:30 p.m., the sirens sounded in Beersheba but the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system downed the Grad rocket that was fired at the city. A half-hour later, I returned to my home. I was about to enter the apartment building when one of my neighbors emerged in order start her daily jog—just as many of us do. [Someone] saw her and called out, “Hey, are you crazy? Why are you going out now to jog? It’s dangerous to go out now. What will you do if there is another air raid siren? And what if a missile falls? What will you do? Run a little faster?”
The missiles are having an impact on more than just on our day-to-day activities. They are also having an impact on the basic elements of our lives. In effect, we are living in a constant state of tension, 24 hours a day. Every noise sounds like an air raid siren, making us run to seek shelter. Then, when everything is over, we keep hearing the air raid siren. It is as if we are actually seeking the sound of the air raid siren.
This is not paranoia; this is survival.…
It’s always good to find a bomb shelter; at least this is a place where you can feel safe. The sad fact is that we have still not been able to raise all the funds needed for the construction of an air raid siren for the children attending the nursery schools in our congregation, Eshel Avraham. We pray each and every day that there will be no surprises in the middle of the school day and that no missiles will fall, God forbid.…
Our children have no place where they can really feel safe. So we pray each and every day for a normal routine instead of the present situation. A life that is not routine can sometimes be a blessing. In our present reality, it is a curse.
“May He who makes peace in the heavens make peace for us and for all Israel and for all the world’s inhabitants. And let us say ‘Amen.’”
(The writer is rabbi of Eshel Avraham Congregationin Beersheba
and president of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel.)
THE VALUE OF A CREDIBLE THREAT
Jerusalem Magazine, November 8, 2011
After the U.S. halted funding to UNESCO last week in response to the agency’s acceptance of “Palestine” as a full member, many pundits argued that Washington would thereby undermine its international influence. But Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), whose party strongly supports U.S. engagement with the UN, had a counterargument: Doing exactly what America had threatened to do would actually bolster its influence, he said, by showing that its views could not be ignored with impunity.
Nor did it take long for his prediction to come true: Just two days after the Palestinian Authority had announced plans to seek membership in 16 additional UN organizations, PA Foreign Minister Riyal al-Maliki announced that these plans had been shelved. Faced with the realization that Washington really would stop paying its 22% share of UN agencies’ budgets, it seems the same “international community” that overwhelmingly voted to accept “Palestine” into UNESCO began pressing the PA to not repeat the gambit.
Israel, however, has yet to grasp the deterrent value of a credible threat. Instead, it has virtually destroyed its deterrence by six years of empty threats over the nonstop rocket fire from Gaza. Last week, for instance, the entire south was shut down for days as terrorists fired some 40 rockets. A day after the barrage began, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the cabinet that Israel would defend its citizens “determinedly, aggressively and effectively,” and that if the rocket fire continued, the terrorist organizations would pay a “far higher” price than they had hitherto. He and Defense Minister Ehud Barak both warned the terrorists not to “test” Israel’s resolve and capabilities.
But when the terrorist organizations called their bluff by continuing the rocket fire, no harsh response ensued. Instead, the government agreed to continue doing nothing while Egypt sought to broker a truce—even as Jerusalem publicly insisted it doesn’t do truces with terrorist organizations.
With rockets still raining down, an army official declared that the Israel Defense Forces had been authorized to take “all necessary steps” to halt the rocket fire, including a ground operation. But he promptly vitiated this threat by explaining that actually, the army wasn’t authorized to do whatever was needed to stop the attacks; it was only authorized to take steps commensurate with the attacks’ “severity.…”
Needless to say, all these empty threats had the terrorist organizations quaking in their boots—so much so that they held their fire for all of two days before renewing it. As Islamic Jihad spokesman Abu Ahmed scornfully said, the terrorists aren’t worried that Israel will launch a full-scale war, “because it does not have the courage and ability to do so and because its soldiers are afraid of being taken captive like Gilad Schalit.”
Abu Ahmed has good reasons for this confidence. In the three years after Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in September 2005, Israel suffered some 6,000 rocket strikes from the evacuated territory. Yet only in December 2008, thousands of empty threats later, did it launch its first major incursion into the Strip—and that war was pursued so half-heartedly that it ended not only with a terrorist group (Hamas) still firmly in control of Gaza, but with all the terrorist groups so undamaged that over the ensuing three years, they were able to dramatically increase the quantity and quality of their arsenals.
Nor did the war produce more than a brief interlude in the missile fire: From the start of 2010 through September 2011, Israel absorbed more than 900 rocket and mortar strikes from Gaza. Yet its response was confined to still more ineffective pinpoint strikes on smuggling tunnels and rocket-launching crews.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post earlier this year, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and avowed dove Dan Kurtzer explained the dire consequences of Israel’s restraint: The world had become “acclimated to the idea” that rocket fire on Israel is unexceptionable rather than unacceptable. That reality encouraged the terrorists to escalate, since they had no need to fear a painful Israeli response, while making the international community less understanding of even the limited military action Israel did take—a fact proven once again last week, when both the US and the EU issued responses that effectively blamed Israel and Islamic Jihad equally for the violence.
Hamas, which controls Gaza, is capable of stopping smaller groups like Islamic Jihad from launching rockets when it so chooses. In the lead-up to last month’s ransom deal for Gilad Schalit, for instance, it enforced a total clampdown to avoid disrupting the deal. If it thought the ongoing rocket fire risked an Israeli response that would threaten its rule, it would have made sure the fire stopped, even at the price of clashes with the smaller groups. But after six years and thousands of empty threats from Israel…why should it bother?…
Israeli leaders talk constantly about the need to bolster Israel’s deterrence. But…there’s only one way to actually do so: You need to prove that your threats are credible. The question is when, if ever, Israel’s leaders will finally grasp that this maxim also applies in Gaza.
PEACE THROUGH VICTORY
FrontPage, November 10, 2011
By now, Israel, at the urging and bullying of the world, has tried pretty much every conceivable idea and option for achieving tranquility and reconciliation with the Hamas, except for one.
Israel removed its army and civilian population from the Gaza Strip. In what amounted to the first ethnic self-cleansing in history, Israel evicted the entire Jewish presence in Gaza. The entire area was turned over to the Palestinians, lock, stock, barrel, and Jew-free.
The result is of course known. The Hamas immediately converted all of Gaza into a large rocket launch pad and a base for initiating terrorist attacks against Israel. It kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and held him incommunicado.… Israel in response provided free electricity and water to the Gazans and sent civilian supplies into Gaza. Israel never made any serious efforts to stop the massive tunnel smuggling into Gaza from Egypt, even when it was clear that the main item being smuggled was weapons. These smuggled weapons include bomb materials and sophisticated rockets that can now reach Tel Aviv. Israel responded to the endless rocket attacks against its own civilians by turning the other cheek. Only after 8000 rocket strikes did it launch the half-hearted symbolic retaliation in the “Cast Lead” campaign, withdrawing quickly after it was launched.
There is only one strategy for dealing with the Hamas that Israel has never attempted. That untried strategy is victory.… Instead, the world keeps demanding that Israel respond to Hamas provocation with an endless series of one-sided “goodwill measures.” Never mind that the only invariable effect of such Israeli “goodwill measures” has been to trigger more Hamas terrorism. The only “peace settlement” the Hamas is interested in is one in which Israelis volunteer to allow themselves to be placed in Hamas-run extermination camps for Jews.
Victory in the case of the war with the Gaza terrorists would mean annihilating the Hamas. Interestingly, there is an increasing chorus of voices inside Israel now calling for peace through victory. One of these is General Dan Halutz, the controversial erstwhile chief of staff of the Israeli army. A few days ago a Hamas rocket was fired into Israel and struck a school building. In response, Halutz called for a “mortal blow” to be dealt to the Hamas’ civilian and “military” leadership. Then, in a radio interview, Halutz said, “We must bring back our deterrence vis-à-vis Gaza. It has not existed for even one moment since Operation Cast Lead and to this day.” He has been joined by other Israeli leaders. The finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, recently called on Israel to topple the Hamas “regime” in Gaza if the terror continues.…
Part of the world’s problem in understanding such things about the Middle East is that most people have no idea how small Israel really is. Without the West Bank, Israel is at its waist about as wide as the length of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. All of the West Bank is smaller than the Everglades. The Arab world insists territory controlled from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf is insufficient for its appetites, but promises that if only Israel agrees to place its neck in a strategic hangman’s noose by turning over the West Bank to the PLO/Hamas, then peace will prevail. And if Israel refuses to place its neck in such an Arab noose voluntarily, then this shows that Israeli aggression is what is behind the violence.…
Even if anyone thinks the Palestinians might have had some legitimate claim to statehood or sovereignty, the Palestinians forfeited any such right they might have had due to the past century of Palestinian atrocities and terror. Just like the Sudeten Germans lost their claim to any sort of self-determination. True, Israeli governments have nevertheless naively and foolishly offered to allow the Palestinians to exercise control over these territories in exchange for peace. But Israel got war and mass murder of its civilians in exchange, not peace, so the foolhardy Oslo “peace process” deals are now off and should never have been implemented.…
The only real way to suppress the carnage is for Israel to re-occupy Gaza and the West Bank in full, implement open-ended military control there and a long-term program of Denazification (based in part on the Allied programs at the end of World War II). Israel needs to expel the terrorists and destroy their infrastructure.… Everything else is wishful thinking and delusion.…
The endless post-Oslo Middle East violence and terror was triggered because Israel indicated that it was on the run, exhausted, unwilling to fight, afraid to resist, and ready to capitulate. It will end only when Israel returns to its determination to end the terror through military victory and force of arms. The same United States that has understood that there is only a military option for dealing with terror in Iraq and Afghanistan must back up such a return by Israel to pre-Oslo sanity.
There are no non-military solutions to the problems of terrorism.