Former British Troops Commander on Possible Israel-Hamas Ceasefire: “I’m Skeptical” of How Long it Can Last (EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW)
Colonel Richard Kemp knows a thing or two about warfare. The former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan spent 28 years serving in his country’s army. His experience makes him exceptionally well versed on the difficulties facing Israel as they battle Hamas. An outspoken supporter of Israel, he has championed its armed forces even in the face of harsh criticism levied by the Goldstone report.
In an interview with The Algemeiner, Col. Kemp spoke about the future of the conflict between Israel and Hamas and whether a ground operation will be necessary, the international community’s culpability, and why Turkey should be careful about what it says.
“The last thing anyone wants to see is a ground incursion. There will be quite a large number of civilian casualties. It will also cause military casualties on Israel’s side. I don’t think anyone wants to see it. But I’m sorry to say it: there doesn’t seem like much sign of Hamas acceding to Israel’s requirements, which are to stop carrying out rocket attacks and to cease arming themselves with war munitions. Until they can agree to those two things and also having enhanced security on the Egyptian side of the border to stop the munitions smuggling, then I think the likelihood is that there will be a ground offensive.”
“The onus is on Hamas. They started this conflict by lobbing rockets at Israel’s civilian population. Israel’s obligation is to protect its citizens.”
“I’m skeptical of how long a ceasefire can last until Hamas has been dealt a blow far heavier than it’s been dealt thus far.”
Despite efforts to mediate, Col. Kemp does not think the international community has been helpful, in fact, it has hindered attempts at peace between the two sides. “I’m disturbed that some of the international community thinks there’s some sort of equivalence between a democratic state such as Israel defending itself and a terrorist group attacking it. They almost see them both as being of equal merit, which of course they’re not.”
And he’s even less enthusiastic about those who remain highly critical of Israel:
“There is a very effective anti-Israel propaganda machine and there has been for some time. It’s partly from the Palestinians, partly from other Arab states and many people in the West—from Europe in particular but also the United States—see Hamas as the underdog and Israel as the bully and their natural inclination is to side with the underdog; but it’s to misunderstand the reality: Hamas is not a small group of lone freedom fighters. Hamas is a terrorist organization supported, financed and directed by Iran. Israel on the other hand is not a bully. It has shown amazing restraint—far more restraint than most other countries would show in the face of this sort of provocation.”
“I think some of the governments, diplomats and international NGOs now circling around this issue should shoulder some of the blame for this current conflict. They ignored year after year terrorist missile attacks and they’ve not made any effort to restrain Hamas. So yes, there’s certainly a culpability far wider than just in the immediate region.”
On Israel’s army Col. Kemp say it is, “a very moral army. Their ethos are excellent and they will never seek to cause unnecessary civilian casualties. They’ve taken huge steps to prevent that from happening.”
“Israel has had some superb intelligence, very very precise operations, very restrained operations so I think any of these civilian tragedies are a tragedy but unfortunately they are unavoidable when you’re dealing with an enemy that uses its own population as human shields.”
“Unless there is a credible agreement I don’t think Israel has any choice but to restrain the entry of munitions into Gaza. It’s vital that they continue the blockade. They’d be irresponsible not to do it.”
He also thinks that many of those countries critical of Israel, particularly Turkey, which has a history of aggressive responses towards those it is at odds with, should be careful of its criticism of Israel. “They never hesitate to launch deadly airstrikes on the p that contain Kurdish extremists,” he says of Turkey. “They’ve been entirely happy to launch strikes in Iraq and other sovereign countries for the same purposes that Israel is attacking Gaza. They are in danger of looking hypocritical.”