Hours after the security cabinet ruled against a large military operation in the Gaza Strip, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Wednesday that it was impossible to defeat a terrorist group without having control on the ground.
During the day, more than 20 Kassam rockets were fired into the western Negev, pounding Sderot and outlying communities. A young girl was lightly wounded by shrapnel in her leg and two others were treated for ringing in their ears after one Kassam struck the middle of a residential neighborhood in Sderot.
“I don’t think that this reality can continue for much longer,” Ashkenazi said at a conference on Israel’s future security challenges at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. — Jerusalem Post
The rocket attacks have barely missed a day since Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza strip (the withdrawal was complete in September 2005). In 2006, over a thousand rockets were fired. They have killed 12 Israelis and caused numerous injuries and much property damage.
The rockets and Israel’s disinclination or inability to respond effectively to them are emblematic of the whole situation. The Qassam rockets are not significant in a military sense. Although they are aimed at the civilian population they are not even a real terror weapon, like the German V-1’s and V-2’s.
They are a psychological weapon, designed to crush the self-image and spirit of Israelis. Every rocket that falls and drives shrieking children into a shelter carries the message “we can do whatever we want to you, you cannot defend yourselves, you are nothing”.
But like the chemical warheads that mix two by-themselves harmless substances to form a deadly agent on impact, the Qassams are binary weapons. Unlike the chemical warheads, though, the rocket only carries one half of the destructive payload. Without the second component, the rockets are almost harmless. And that component is Israel’s weak response.
The Chief of Staff is not the only one that understands that there is no alternative to an incursion and continued military occupation of strategic parts of Gaza, including the Beit Hanoun area from which many of the rockets are fired, and above all the ‘Philadelphi Corridor’ which runs along the Egyptian border, and under which weapons, explosives and terrorists are smuggled.
So what’s stopping it? Surely the government understands the damage the rocket barrage is doing.
Here are some of the deterrent factors:
- Hamas has built fortifications, tunnels, bunkers, etc. along the Gaza-Israel border which would be difficult to overcome, and the fight would bring Israeli casualities.
- An incursion into heavily populated Gaza would result in Palestinian civilian casualties.
- A fight in Gaza might cause Hezbollah to open a second front in the North, firing its (more potent) missiles as in 2006.
- The US, in order to placate the Arab nations that are so important to her effort in Iraq, has forbidden Israel from anything more than limited operations.
The IDF can overcome obstacles 1-3 by careful and creative planning. Ashkenazi believes this, which is why he has made the remarks quoted above.
But he can’t overcome no. 4. Only an Israeli government with the strength of character and self-respect to face the US as a sovereign nation can do this. And it’s not impossible:
- Sooner or later the US will realize that its real enemies are the same as Israel’s enemies. Our relationship with Saudi Arabia has cost us dearly, and our re-engagement with Iran and Syria promises more of the same.
- The US has few real allies in the Mideast, and especially not ones with an effective military and nuclear capability — except Israel.
Strength of character. Self-respect. And a belief in the rightness of the Zionist enterprise, the creation (and now preservation) of a Jewish state in her ancestral home.