Putting Hamas on Notice
Last Friday, the Israel Defense Forces struck out against the Iranian controlled Popular Resistance Committees, which our intelligence services had discovered were orchestrating another attack on the Egyptian border. Zuhair al Qaisi, the secretary-general of the PRC (who had orchestrated last August’s terror attack on the Egyptian border near Eilat) and his collaborator Mahmoud Hanani, recently released in the course of the Schalit exchange, were both killed.
Gaza terror groups immediately responded, and in the space of a few days more than 200 rockets have been launched against the south, one Grad missile reaching as far as Gedera, only 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) from Tel Aviv. Scores of Israelis throughout the south were injured. One rocket landed in an empty school courtyard in Beersheba, narrowly missing an apartment building. Subsequent Israeli responses destroyed numerous rocket-launching cells and killed scores of terrorists.
We can take pride that our Iron Dome interceptor missiles have been extraordinarily successful and intercepted 90 percent of missiles directed toward the major cities. But even setting aside the immense cost of $50,000 for each intercept, at this stage Iron Dome is still far from full-proof, and it only takes one missile to penetrate and cause tragic civilian casualties.
But, besides this, it is outrageous to enable the terrorists from Gaza, at their discretion, to have the ability to turn more than a million inhabitants in the south, in major cities like Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod, as well as in smaller regional councils, into hostages to their whims and to disrupt their lives, forcing them effectively to live for days on end underground and closing schools for more than 250,000 children.
There is no disputing that overcoming the existential threat of a nuclear Iran must remain our primary objective. And, yes, we also have sensitive issues which must concern us over our Egyptian neighbors.
But it would be unconscionable for our government to enable these considerations to inhibit adequate responses to missiles being launched against its citizens. It must be willing to take drastic action to deter even a single rocket being deliberately launched. Otherwise we doom ourselves to a new war of attrition and destroy the quality of life of increasing numbers of our citizens.
At present, Hamas does not consider the timing appropriate to confront us in another all-out war. The instability in Syria, Egypt and most of the Arab world would not enable it to effectively exploit its relationships with these countries.
But the reality is that our government is being derelict in its duty if it continues to restrain itself and responds only “proportionately” to rocket launches on its citizens, awaiting a catastrophe before employing genuine deterrence (which by definition cannot be “proportionate”). The inevitable outcome of the absence of a decisive response will mean that, God forbid, one of these hundreds of rockets will one day ultimately culminate in a catastrophe involving many tragic casualties. At that point the government will feel obliged to respond harshly and will invariably find itself engaged in another Gaza war. No self-respecting country should hold back and await such an eventuality.
What is currently required is not a threat or bluster but a clear warning from the government that if Hamas fails to control terrorist initiatives against us stemming from the region under its jurisdiction, we will protect our civilians by responding far more harshly than killing a few terrorists. We will state that that rocket attacks which force large numbers of Israelis to live in shelters are totally unacceptable and emphasize that we are no longer going to play the game of tit-for-tat and will exercise maximum deterrence.
And if deterrence does not work, it is in our interests to confront the problem now rather than in the future and eliminate the rockets and weapons in Gaza that were obviously assembled for use against us at a time best suited for the genocidal Hamas bent on our destruction.
Our embassies should be clearly outlining our position in advance, especially in the U.S. and Europe. By any logic or comparison such a position is unassailable. There is no other country in the world which would be displaying “restraint” or applying principles of proportionality when its neighbors provide a safe haven for terrorists to launch hundreds of potentially lethal rockets against its citizens. Any other country would find it difficult to deny the reality that a state which enables missiles to be launched against its neighbor would under any circumstances be deemed to have effectively declared war.
I have no doubt that if we acted resolutely in this manner the U.S. Congress and all open-minded people would overwhelmingly endorse our position.
This article was first published in Israel Hayom.