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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Israel's response to Kassams must be disproportionate!

This morning, I discussed the likelihood that the 'Palestinians' have longer range rockets than they are currently shooting and what the implications of a longer range would be. Now, I'd like to discuss what Israel isn't doing about it and why.

From a JPost interview with Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh:
Sneh also said that Israel will need to consider escalating military operations in the Gaza Strip if rockets begin to fall in Netivot, Ashkelon or Kiryat Gat, amid concern that Israel's targeting of Hamas leaders could trigger attacks on cites within a 25 km. radius of Gaza.

Government officials said the concern was that the Palestinians could have the capability to reach southern Ashdod and the western reaches of Beersheba.

"We are getting ready for the possibly that the range will increase," Sneh told The Jerusalem Post. "They can increase the range and we need to be ready."
Read that first paragraph carefully. The government has essentially conceded already that there will be attacks on Netivot, Ashkelon and Kiryat Gat. In fact, there already have been several attacks on the outskirts of Ashkelon, and Netivot was also hit at least once during last summer's war. In the ministers' minds, the question is how to target Hamas 'leaders' - which is only a roundabout way to stop the Kassams (if that) - without having Kassams shot at Ashdod and Be'er Sheva, which are further out. And in fact, the government has started to distribute pamphlets in Netivot explaining what to do if the Kassams come. It means that the government is begging the real question: how to stop the Kassams now.

One way would be to accept Hamas' offer for a cease fire hudna. Haaretz reports this morning that Hamas has offered to stop firing Kassams if Israel agrees to extend the current hudna to Judea and Samaria. We'd have to be fools to accept that offer for several reasons. First, because the hudna has been violated constantly as a matter of convenience by the 'Palestinians' in Gaza, including Islamic Jihad (same players, different uniforms) having never accepted the hudna in the first place. Second, because Hamas would use the hudna - as they have used the one in Gaza - to regroup and re-arm for the next round, whereas Israel's interest should be in making this round the last round. Third, because the fact that Hamas is even making such an offer means their leadership is on the run. Now is not the time to let up. It's the time to hit harder.

Another way - the only way in my opinion - would be to escalate the force of Israel's reaction and to react disproportionately to the Kassam attacks. Every time a Kassam lands in Israel, ten targets should be hit in Gaza. And if we hit a few civilians along the way, maybe that will get the 63% of them who supposedly want Hamas to stop shooting Kassams to rise up against Hamas. It's an argument I made last summer regarding Lebanon:
The real issue is: what are Hezbullah's goals? On that score, I think there is little doubt: Hezbullah wishes to 'drive the Jews into the sea' - to bring about the demise of the State of Israel. Israel has to respond to those goals, not just to the Hezbullah action taken. The only response that is appropriate to an existential threat is a disproportionate response - one that will make the other side either disappear or crawl back into its cave and find something else to do with its time.
Just substitute Hamas for Hezbullah and you'll have my argument for why Israel should be hitting multiple targets in Gaza over and over again. If Israel's civilians suffer, Gaza's should suffer ten times as much. Yes, I know that just two weeks ago I blogged an article by Michael J. Totten that said that one of Israel's mistakes in Lebanon last summer was to expect the Lebanese to rise up against Hezbullah. This situation is different. First, I have no expectations that any 'Palestinians' will ever ally with us for any reason. Second, the 'Palestinians' don't have the civil war history that Lebanon has. And third, the 'Palestinians' are calling the shots for themselves whereas Syria and Iran called the shots for Hezbullah. Sure, we should go after Khaled Meshaal in Damascus if the opportunity presents itself. But he's not the key here. Our problem is sitting in Gaza and not elsewhere.

The reason it's unfortunately unlikely that the Olmert-Peretz-Livni government will take my advice and react disproportionately is that Ehud K. Olmert, Amir Comrade Peretz and Tzipi Feigele Livni are too worried about how the 'world' will react. And the 'world' doesn't like it when Jews fight back rather than going like sheep to the slaughter:
"This was the third time I have visited Sderot since my arrival in Israel last August, and I wanted to understand the impact of these latest Kassam attacks and personally to express the sympathy of my government to the people of Sderot for the suffering they are undergoing," said [British Ambassador to Israel CiJ]Phillips.


"The Palestinians must stop these attacks. Israel is in a difficult position, and has the right to defend itself from such attacks against its civilians. But any response should be in accordance with international law, and should seek to avoid civilian casualties," Phillips continued.

Meanwhile, the EU's ambassador to Israel, Ramiro Cibri n-Uzal, echoed the British ambassador's sentiments, saying that the EU recognized that Israel had a right and obligation to defend its citizens, but also expected it to act within the principles of two values it shared with the EU: "proportionality" and the "use of minimum necessary force."

Cibri n-Uzal said that it was not his position to give grades on whether Israel's recent military actions in the Gaza Strip fell within those two parameters.
Why does Phillips need to cite 'avoiding civilian casualties' when he already said that Israel needs to 'act in accordance with international law' and where does 'international law' adopt Cibri n-Uzal's requirements of "proportionately" and "use of minimum necessary force"?

The short answer is: it doesn't. As I noted last summer with respect to Lebanon, 'international law,' i.e. the Geneva Convention, does not protect civilians amongst whom terrorists are hiding:
Article 28 of the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949 is simple and clear. It says: " The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations." Hezbullah violates this provision daily. It is due to Hezbullah's violations of this provision that Lebanese civilians are being killed.

In an article published on the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com web page over the weekend, Orde F. Kittrie, a professor of international law at Arizona State University and who served in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. State Department from 1993 to 2003, summarized the three-part test in determining whether Israeli actions violate the Geneva Convention:
International law has three major prohibitions .... One forbids deliberate attacks on civilians. Another prohibits hiding forces in civilian areas, thereby turning civilians into "human shields." A third prohibition, the proportionality restriction that Israel is accused of violating, involves a complicated and controversial balancing test.
Ignoring the fact that Israel has warned Lebanese citizens to flee the combat zones dozens of times, given the manner in which Hezbullah has hidden both itself and its weapons among civilians, it is impossible to assert, let alone prove, that Israel is deliberately attacking civilians. But it is clear that Hezbullah has turned what remains of Lebanon's civilian population into human shields.
Once again, substitute "Hamas" for "Hezbullah" and 'Palestinians' for "Lebanese." And Israel is warning 'Palestinian' civilians to get out of the way, even if it lets the 'Palestinians' know that a strike is coming. For example, yesterday:
Local sources from Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, reported that the Israeli forces ordered two Palestinian families to evacuate their homes for an Israel strike.

One of the owners of the homes, Khadr Obeid, said that an Israeli spokesman ordered him to evacuate his house as it is going to be bombed.
The problem is that when the 'Palestinian' reaction is:
Hundreds of Palestinian citizens gathered in the area of the two homes, in an attempt to prevent the Israelis from striking.
Israel backs off the strike. Israel needs to strike just once in a situation like that, and most of the 'Palestinians' will decide to be rational and not be 'martyrs.'

But the Olmert-Peretz-Livni government lacks the intestinal fortitude to go ahead and do what needs to be done. Yes, part of that is fear of another Winograd Commission. But if you can't govern because you're in fear of another Winograd Commission, you ought not to be governing. Resign and go to new elections!

In the meantime, the residents of Sderot are left with no recourse other than throwing garbage at Livni and calling her a 'whore' and throwing stones at Olmert. While those actions may be cathartic, they aren't going to change anything.

In this morning's JPost, Caroline Glick argues that Israel's leadership is in denial about Fatah, and that it should be going after Fatah's leadership just as much as Hamas'. I agree. She calls for Israel to re-assert control over Gaza's border with Egypt. I agree with that too. But Kassams have been shot into Israel from Gaza since 2000 - five years before Israel expelled its Jews from Gaza and retreated to the pre-1967 border. While it will be much harder to gain control over the Kassams now after the 'Palestinians' have spent the last two years smuggling weapons into Gaza, there is no choice. It's not just that Israel must correctly identify its enemy and control the Gaza - Egypt border. It also has to put a stop to the Kassams so that the people of Israel's south can live normally. Our response must be disproportionate.

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