Daily Alert

30 December 2008

Israel Attacks Hamas: Euphoria Matured - Reality Settling In

Of course the attack on Gaza was the proper course of action. It is the moral thing to do when you are being fired upon indiscriminately to stop the ability of the one firing on you to continue doing so. The situation had become untenable. It is too much to ask border towns to “just deal with it”. Too much to ask school children, easily frightened into inaction and elderly unable to react with vigor to take cover in 15 seconds for mortars (up to 90 seconds for rockets) after the tseva adom siren.(Color Red/Red Dawn). Find shelter the alarm says, anywhere – incoming. More importantly it is a mitzvah to preserve innocent life even by taking the life of the rodef. Is anything more important? It does not matter that most of the rockets and mortars failed to kill or maim. They were supposed to. Most military objectives are multi-faceted. If you don’t kill anyone, that’s okay the launcher thinks. Terrorize them, make us look important. Make them fear us. Challenge them to find us, come and get us.

All but the most steadfast antiJew would have to sympathize with the plight of innocents under fire, even president-elect Obama as Bibi Netanyahu has explained now to the American media would not tolerate such a life for his girls – or so he said during his visit to S’derot.

Transitioning from desire and righteousness of acting to goals of acting is not quite so easy. It now is becoming quite clear that the year plus build up of anticipating an attack on Iran’s nuclear program was merely a diversion to shield spying eyes from the true target of the Israeli security apparatus – Hamas in Gaza. I suppose in terms of immediate threats, it was a good call. No one could have any doubt after the destruction of Israeli Gaza – Gush Katif- and villages of chalutzim in Yosh that Israel rarely considers morality in policy making. Otherwise one would have to ask “why did it take so long to act?” Taking years under fire to react in a legitimate way, one that could be interpreted by an observer to proclaim 'Jewish life has value'is a little extreme in the wrong direction. Was it really necessary to prove beyond that much shadow of a doubt that continued bombardment of innocents would not be tolerated?

Well, at least one benefit can be discerned from the inaction, a negative turned into a positive to Israel’s advantage. How many “toothless tiger” allegations have been made in recent years? How many Israeli warnings of a pending assault have been filed under “lost credibility” or more precisely “lost balance of power deterrent”? What causes armed conflict – on paper that is? It is a perception that the opponent will not or cannot fight back. This classically is understood as a failure of deterrence.

Israel was clearly guilty of the offense of failing in deterrence – for failing to utilize the powerful assets at its disposal in a meaningful way and thus create either balance of power or a perception that attacking Israel will result in an overwhelmingly strong response. How many times did you read stories within the last year that Israeli military officials were hinting or pointing toward a Gaza operation? How many times did Ehud Barak make threats to that effect? Yet, none were believable. Too many “toothless tiger” times in the past the threats were merely words not followed up with a significant action. One could claim that the 2006 Lebanon war was a result of “toothless tiger syndrome”. Yet this time, the presumption of Israeli inaction worked in Israel’s favor. Hamas seems to have been caught off guard. The best evidence is the large number of bombings and casualties on the first day of Operation Cast Lead.

But what now? Back to our earlier idea – what is victory and what does it look like? Both Samson Blinded and Sultan Knish have written about possible results of the war where Israel is clearly not benefited. The negative results include legitimizing Hamas and strengthening the terror organization both politically, strategically and tragically militarily and deeply impacting the Israeli political elections.

Failure to eliminate Hamas results in one not very favorable outcome (see the blogs above) and complete victory a different sort of not favorable result. As of now, I cannot find any Israeli leader in a position of power who asserts Israeli hegemony in Gaza. There appears at this time no interest in planning for a re-conquering of Gaza or of driving the barbarians into the Egyptian Sinai – most likely a discussion point between Israel and Egypt prior to the attack. Victory in the war as translated by complete elimination of Hamas foretells a future where the PA will be invited back to Gaza, given the pieces that are left, promised hundreds of billions in aid, and rushed to make a treaty with Israel while the power vacuum is still being filled with the exit of Hamas and before the the nationalist opposition can make the argument that 'Gaza is Israel' can occur. Essentially, complete military victory means a defeat for Zionism and international Jewry. A PA state will come into being rather quickly and who knows what will be the cost in Yosh for the treaty.

In the end, we can usually count on the arabians making decisions which prolong the conflict. What if some surviving Hamas official, who claims to be speaking for the organization makes a plea to through the international media and claims that “yes of course we will stop shooting at Israel, stop supporting the shooting at Israel and facilitating the shooting at Israel”. What then? Where does Israel’s international support go, what there is of it? What if it is Hamas that asks for UN observers or peace keepers? What if Hamas pulls a Hezbollah, never agrees to stop arming itself, only to stop shooting at Israel (for now)? Within a couple of days if not hours you can count on the offensive to stop and Israel’s chance to defeat Hamas will go by the wayside. This outcome leaves everything at a standstill. (see the Sultan Knish article above).

Yes, perhaps the rocket and mortar attacks will end under that scenario (for a while). But yes, Hamas will still be there and Israel has possibly contributed to re-building deterrent credibility. What doesn’t happen is an instant treaty with the PA and the idea of Israeli Gaza is still on the table. On the other hand it is likely that Hamas will return to firing rockets into Israel eventually or use the time honored defense that the attacks are coming from “rogue” elements or some other group. But this time, international observers will be in a better position to block Israeli self-defense tactics - perhaps. What is the better outcome for Israel in this conflict? It is a tough call. But what is also true is that the Torah demands we defend our lives at least as I read it. And even more so, we must defend Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Yisroel, again at least as I understand the Jewish role. If I am correct, the outcome then is not one in which we should be too concerned. We must do our part and the Aibishter will does His. Maybe, just maybe the political winds will shift and complete victory can be obtained.

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