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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Goldstone and diplomacy

Richard Goldstone was interviewed in Tikkun magazine last week:

Q: What are the specific steps that Israel could have taken to stop the shelling of southern Israel before commencing an attack on Gaza?

RG: Well, it could have used greater pressure by diplomatic means. They could have used the security council for that purpose. Israel could have put the security council on notice and said "if you don't stop this, if you don't do something to stop it, we will have to resort as a last resort to military means." But in our report we didn't question the right of Israel to use military force.

Q: Do you think Israel could have succeeded in stopping the bombing of Sderot had it gone to the Security Council?

RG: Well, I don't know. If it didn't work, then I have got no doubt that Israel was entitled to take a strong action to put a stop to the firing of rockets and mortars and has a duty to its own population to protect them.

Military force should be the very last resort. I think it is arguable here that other diplomatic means could have worked. If they didn't work then the last resort is to use force, and whether it is military or policing action force, Israel was entitled to take active steps.
In a previous interview Goldstone also said that he felt that Israel should have gone to the Security Council to stop the rockets.

As Yaacov Lazowick points out, Israel did do exactly that.

Since September of 2000 Israel has written dozens upon dozens of official letters to the UN complaining about incessant terror attacks including rocket attacks. The earliest mention I see of specific Qassam attacks is from 2003, although I'm sure there are earlier ones; in the context of the suicide bombing campaigns (that the UN did nothing to stop) the Qassam references are a bit harder to find. But from 2005 and on, Israel has brought Qassam attacks to the attention of the Security Council and these letters are available in the UN archives. For example, from 2006:
Identical letters dated 3 October 2006 from the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council


I write to inform you of the continued firing of Qassam rockets into Israel by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip over the weekend.
On the eve of 30 September 2006, three civilians were moderately injured after a Qassam rocket was fired by Palestinian terrorists at the southern Israeli city of Sderot. Another 10 civilians were treated for shock in the aftermath of the terrorist attack. Reports of this attack were conveyed orally to the Department of Political Affairs, as well as to the presidency of the Security Council, on Sunday, 1 October 2006.

Nonetheless, the firing of Qassam rockets continued into the holiday of Yom Kippur, which was observed in Israel yesterday. Synagogue services in the Sderot area were rudely interrupted by the blare of sirens, as Qassam rockets launched from inside Gaza pierced Israel’s southern skies. Fortunately, no one was hurt during the attacks.

The unceasing terrorist attacks, and in particular the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar, are an affront to the sovereignty of the State of Israel. Furthermore, the continuation of Palestinian terror and violence deteriorates the prospects for peace in the region. If such terrorist attacks continue, Israel will be forced to exercise its right of self-defence.

I should be grateful if you would arrange to have the text of this letter circulated as a document of the General Assembly under agenda items 13 and 14, and of the Security Council.

(Signed) Dan Gillerman
Ambassador
Permanent Representative

I count over 20 such letters since 2005. This doesn't count the many other mentions that Israel made of rocket attacks in various UN sessions, nor the official letters written about other terror attacks that also mentioned rockets and mortars.

In short, Israel has used every diplomatic means at its disposal to stop Qassam rocket attacks...for years. Goldstone's ignorance of that fact is, unfortunately, typical.

Today, the Arabic press is reporting that Hamas is actively trying to stop Qassam rockets from being fired from Gaza.

From Ma'an:
The Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip has actively prevented armed groups from launching shells from into Israel over the past few days, according the London-based newspaper Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday.

Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat’s Arabic website quoted sources in the resistance groups in Gaza saying, “Hamas security services have detained two militants while they were preparing to fire homemade projectiles towards Israel. They were questioned and released after a couple of hours.”

Hamas security confiscated the projectiles and warned the militants of carrying out new attempts, the sources added. Hamas has also prevented major factions like the Islamic Jihad from launching attacks, according to the sources.

“Hamas wants a de facto ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, and fears that the ceasefire will collapse if militant groups resume attacks against Israeli towns,” the sources added.

Hamas government official Ahmad Yousef confirmed in a recent interview with Ma’an that authorities are actively maintaining a ceasefire.

So, what was more effective in protecting Israeli citizens from incessant and constant Qassam rocket attacks...diplomacy or military action? Even as Goldstone claims that Israel would have been entitled to take military action had it done what he wasn't aware it had done, he has no clue on how it could have been done effectively:
Q: So once deciding to attack, the question gets raised: Is there any way to fight a war against terrorists that would not result in deaths and casualties of civilians, assuming that urban terrorists have located themselves in the midst of the population?

RG: You know, commando actions could have been taken.

This is what happens when you send someone to investigate military actions who knows nothing about the military. Commando actions? Against Qassam rockets?

In the minds of some wishful thinkers, it is possible to have a surgically clean war, where infinite intelligence and infinite technology can pick out the bad guys (only the bad guys who are actually in the process of shooting at you, of course) and not damage any property that belongs to civilians.

Israel, the one nation that spends a higher percentage of its military budget (and solders' time) on protecting enemy civilians than any other nation in history, gets slammed for not doing it better. The fact that no one can come up with any way to actually do it better is apparently not relevant.