Terrorists understand two things: strength and violence. Despite what you may hear from EU ministers, terrorists do not believe in negotiation to them its a sign of weakness from the enemy. Something that the PLO and Fatah have used to their advantage against Israel. These limited attacks against Hamas leaders enable have worked before but probably will not be as successful now as the ruling party Hamas has many more places to hide.
Hillel Halkin of the NY Sun has an excellent Idea. Maybe its time for a bit of “biblical-type retribution.” How about an Israeli announcement that says beginning in one weeks time, every rocket fired at Sderot will be answered with ten rockets fired at Gaza City, or Ramallah. Maybe its time to fight a little fire with fire:
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As if last summer’s war in Lebanon were not bad enough, Israel now has the ignominy of Sderot: A reasonably prosperous city of some 20,000 inhabitants, an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv, reduced to a state of shell-shocked panic by scattershot Kassam attacks from the Gaza Strip, its life paralyzed, and a large part of its population fled or wanting to flee, while the country’s government and army seem powerless to do anything about it.
And who is creating this pandemonium? Several hundred Palestinian irregulars, who may or may not be taking orders from a central command, firing homemade rockets from backyards and empty fields.
For years now they have been shooting on and off at Sderot, sometimes more and sometimes less, with no effective way, it would seem, of stopping them.
A few hundred men in backyards bringing a city of 20,000 to its knees. And what will happen when those same men, or others like them, slightly enlarge their rockets’ range and regularly begin to hit Ashkelon, slightly further to the north, with 100,000 residents, or Ashdod, a bit further still, with 200,000 residents? One quails to mention Tel Aviv.
From the Israeli point of view, this is no longer simply a failure in fighting terror. It is a disgrace and a terrible danger. Apart from the havoc wreaked to the lives of the inhabitants of Sderot itself, it is demoralizing to all Israelis and immensely encouraging to Israel’s enemies.
If this is how defenseless Israel is in the face of a few mere pinpricks, these enemies cannot but help wonder, what would happen if it were ever given a stiff uppercut?
What is Israel to do? Of the solutions proposed so far, one is unlikely to work and one would be likely to work, but is at too great a cost.
Although partially successful in the past, destroying rocket launchers and their operators from the air, or even killing the higher-ups in command of them by means of “targeted assassinations,” will probably not be very effective this time.
The anarchy in Palestinian society has reached the point that not even the heads of Hamas or Islamic jihad, were they to seek to stop the Kassam attacks because they feared for their own lives, would necessarily be able to do so.
What probably would work would be an Israeli military re-occupation of Gaza. But the price Israel would pay for this in terms of military casualties would be high — and once back in Gaza, how would it ever get out again? The last thing it needs is once again to have to police this tiny, overpopulated strip of human misery that is an ideal place for urban guerrilla warfare.
Is there no other solution? Of course there is. It is the obvious one — and the ugly one. And it may be the best one.
Suppose Israel were to announce, clearly and unequivocally:
“Starting exactly one week from today, any rocket attack from the Gaza Strip on any Israeli city, town, or village will be met with answering artillery fire aimed at Palestinian cities, towns, and villages in the Gaza Strip. This will of course cause civilian casualties far higher than those caused by Palestinian Kassams, since the weaponry at the Israel’s disposal is far more accurate and destructive.
These casualties will be innocent people, which is why we implore the world, the Arab states, and the Palestinian public to avoid them by putting every possible pressure on those who are firing rockets at Israel. Israel has no desire to see a single innocent Palestinian die — but if it has to choose between innocent Palestinians and innocent Israelis, it will choose to protect its own citizens first.”
Brutal? Inhuman? Playing into the Palestinians’ hands by turning Israel into a country of “eye for an eye” and “tooth for a tooth” morality? Doomed to failure in any case, since it would only lead to increasing spirals of violence?
But it probably wouldn’t. In fact, it might put an end to violence very quickly, once Palestinians in Gaza became as panicky as Israelis in Sderot and screamed at their leaders to put an end to it.
Although the backyard Kassam operators may not give a damn about what the heads of Hamas or Islamic Jihad are saying about them any more, they care very much about what the Palestinians street they are operating from is saying. Pressure from that streets is the one thing that can most change their behavior.
And this is but a small part of a much larger picture. Ultimately, deterrence only works when you are able and willing to harm your enemy more than he is willing to be harmed or able to harm you.
This is not only true of backyard rockets from Gaza. It is also true of Syrian missiles tipped with chemical warheads or of a possible Iranian atomic bomb.
As unpleasant as the thought may be, the only way to deter a Syrian or Iranian strike against Israeli civilian targets, with the huge numbers of deaths this would cause, is to make it clear to such countries that their own civilian targets would be hit in return, causing an even huger number of deaths.
An Israel that is not prepared to be so “immoral” as to let the Palestinians of Gaza know that is a question not of an eye for an eye, but of ten or twenty or a hundred eyes for an eye, can certainly never deliver such a message to Iran or Syria. And that’s the most worrisome part of what has been so far the losing battle for Sderot.