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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gaza war repost: What was the alternative?

Last year on this day, I posted this article:

There has been no shortage of criticism of Israel for finally deciding to do something about incessant rocket attacks against its citizens. From the U.N. Secretary-General calling Israel's actions "excessive" to French President Nicolas Sarkozy saying that Israel is using a "disproportionate use of force" to the EU's Javier Solana saying "There is no military solution" to the situation in Gaza, down to the more reliably anti-Israel crowd from the "progressive" Left who decry the deaths of civilians, a large segment of the world seems to agree that israel has no right to act as it has been for the past few days.

Certainly, no one wants to see innocent people die in a massive military operation. But before you criticize Israel you need to answer a simple question:

What is the alternative?


It is easy to mindlessly repeat the comforting words "peace" and "truce" and "practice utmost restraint." Mantras require no thought. They are just soothing, comforting sounds with no meaning and no depth.

But calling for "peace" without a plan is not only shortsighted; it is counterproductive to the idea of peace itself. Certainly terrorists are not subject to international pressure nor to criticism by peace activists; their goals are inherently antithetical to peace. By calling on "both sides" to halt "hostilities" you are equating terror with self-defense, you are legitimizing terrorism and you are calling on the terrorized side to turn the other cheek and become the passive recipient of death and destruction - because the terrorists are unlikely to be swayed by your arguments. A vague desire for "peace" is not only meaningless, but it helps embolden terror.

The most common plan is never stated but it is implied by "peace activists." This plan is for Israel to do nothing - to accept rockets in the Negev as an ugly but permanent fact, perhaps to move residents further north for their own protection; to continue to provide Gaza with aid and to medically treat Gazans, to open the borders for unlimited trade with Gaza, to allow Hamas to import as many weapons as it wishes - because anything less than that is still considered "occupation." These so-called peace activists are nothing of the sort - they just want Israel to be destroyed as much as the Arab terrorists do. Their real plan is to replace the Jewish state with another Arab state where terror attacks against Jews can again become a daily occurrence in Tel Aviv and Haifa and Jerusalem. If this describes you, sorry for wasting your time - I suggest that you volunteer as a human shield for Qassam rocket launchers.

Some have called for another "truce." The idea seems appealing - let both sides stop attacks and bring things back to the status quo.

However, the status quo was completely unacceptable. Let's look at the last "truce." While Israel sent hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid, building materials, food, fuel, clothing and many trucks full of other essentials, Hamas eliminated any vestiges of freedom, arrested scores of Fatah members who survived the coup, imported Katyusha rockets and tons of weapons and explosives, built hundreds of Qassams, built up its cash reserves by indirectly using money that the international community sent to build up the PA, and started building tunnels for the express purpose of kidnapping Israelis. Even the rocket fire didn't halt until September and it restarted only two months later.

It is a well-established rule that it costs much less to solve a problem earlier rather than later. The "truce" - as well as the one that preceded it in late 2006 and early 2007, when Israel likewise refrained from military actions while Gaza terrorists continued to shoot rockets and arm themselves - is not a solution to any problem; it is a postponement of a much bloodier clash that is inevitable when we are dealing with one side that wants no less than the utter destruction of the other.

Another alternative that peace activists like to trot out is "end the occupation." Somehow, it is hoped, Israel's giving up land will magically make Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the PFLP and DFLP and PRC and Al Aqsa Brigades and Free Galilee Brigades and all the other terror groups put down their arms and happily accept Israel's existence.

Not only is this wishful thinking, but all evidence proves the exact opposite. Israel quit Gaza and it only emboldened terrorists to do more. What can explain thousands of rockets towards Sderot if you think that Arab terrorists do not have any land ambitions beyond the "territories"? In Arabic, they call Sderot and Ashkelon and Netivot "settlements," which means that the careful distinction that the world laboriously makes between "Israel proper" and the "territories" is completely meaningless to one side of this conflict.

Some say they understand Israel's motivation, but call for Israel's response to be "proportionate." What they don't recall is that Israel has had that policy for years now. Rather than respond immediately and devastatingly to rocket attacks, Israel has counseled its Negev residents to grin and bear it; it built shelters and installed sirens; it occasionally responded with targeted attacks against rocket launchers or terrorist leaders. This did not stop the rocket fire - rockets that have no purpose other than to terrorize civilians. For Israel to slowly increase the level of response is the guaranteed way to start the dreaded "cycle of violence."

A single attack by Israel to shut down the kidnap tunnel in November resulted in hundreds of rockets in response. A massive attack is meant to stop the "cycle of violence," and it has a much better chance of doing so.

Of course Israel needs to ensure that a minimum of civilians are hurt - and it is doing so. If you have any suggestions of how Israel can do a better job in that respect, I'm sure that the IDF is more than willing to listen. But keeping Hamas in power, unchecked, is not a formula for peace.

Criticizing is easy. Solving a problem is much harder. If those who say they want peace can offer better and realistic alternatives, where Israeli citizens as well as Gazans can both be safe and secure, please offer them.

One year later, it is instructive to see how the normally leftist writer Yaron London looks at the results of Cast Lead:
A year has passed since Operation Cast Lead. The Gaza vicinity region is calm and prosperous. Residents who left for fear of Qassams are returning home. Apartment prices are increasing. Even nature is blossoming. The blessed rain of the beginning of winter has woken the sleepy seeds of wild flowers. The soft hills of the "vicinity" have been speckled with yellow and red patches. It's possible that this is what these landscapes looked like last year as well, but no one was gazing at them, but rather westward, to locate a rising missile and precede its diving fall by taking shelter.

Hamas is deterred. Not because its leaders and the teachers of Islamic law have changed their opinion as to the way the conflict in the Middle East should be solved. Our monitors, who listen to the preaching in their mosques and to the radio broadcasts on their stations, have not discovered signs of moderation. As they did before the operation, the preachers talk about the Jews, the descendants of apes and pigs, who spread wars and epidemics and heresy and communism in the world, and that they must be expelled from the this world. Hamas fighters have not lost their courage. They are as fanatic and daring as they were. The virgins waiting for them in heaven have not lost their patience as well.

Hamas refrains from firing because it needs a timeout in order to establish its rule, rebuild the destructed houses, intensify its military power and fulfill the Shalit deal. When its leaders feel that they have completed their missions, when they believe the time is right, they'll resume their attacks. And maybe not. Perhaps they have learned their lesson. In any event, we cannot doubt the assertion that had we not sent a blow of fire to Gaza, Hamas would have continued firing.

We're enjoying a state of calm which is seldom violated. What was its price? The price was 10 fallen soldiers and more than 300 injured Israelis. There is no way to weigh this loss. The world has worsened its criticism against Israel. It's unpleasant, completely unpleasant, to face boycotts and curses, but the stains added to our image have not damaged us in measurable areas. The economy is good. The commerce relations have not been hurt. The countries leading the world – the United States, Russia, the European community, China, India, Canada, Brazil – have not changed their attitude towards us. They have not even compensated the Hamas regime for the suffering of the Strip's residents. Egypt has tightened its relations with us. Saudi Arabia has rebuked Hamas and has not adopted the Gazans with money. The Palestinians in the West Bank have not launched a third intifada. For now. Turkey, with which we have always had unstable relations, was angry and cursed us, but a year later it is clear that its interests have cooled the growling of its feelings. Venezuela, Bolivia, Mauritania and Qatar have severed their diplomatic ties with Israel. It's a shame, but not a disaster.

In fact, the prices for housing in Sderot have skyrocketed since the operation.

Israel's MFA says:

In 2008, 1750 rockets and 1528 mortar bombs were fired from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip against communities in southern Israel. In addition, during the three weeks of the operation, Hamas launched another 571 rockets and 205 mortar bombs at Israel. Yet, in the year since the operation, only 127 rockets and 70 mortar shells have been fired into Israel. This dramatic decrease in the number of missiles hitting the south is positive proof of the operation's success.
From Israel's perspective, if it would not have attacked after patiently absorbing years of incessant rocket and mortar fire, things would be worse today than has Cast Lead not happened. President Obama's wonderful oratory would not have convinced Hamas to stop the rocket fire. While I (and the PA, incidentally) would have preferred to have seen Hamas destroyed, the major objective of the operation has been met: to enable the residents of southern Israel to have reasonably normal lives, and to protect their human rights - an objective that most "human rights" activists seem to minimize or ignore.

For the many facile critics of Operation Cast Lead, they have yet to have offered an alternative. Anyone can criticize; but those who cannot offer a better idea have no basis for criticism.

And, like it or not, Cast Lead has accomplished what nothing else would.