Sunday, October 30, 2011

Defense isn't enough

Uzi Dayan

We are not talking about an "escalation" or "crossing a red line," but rather war: a terrorist rocket war. Its method is to accumulate simple rockets in the heart of densely populated civilian areas, using the civilians as human shields while launching rockets in spurts and then waves on Israelis. These rockets cannot quite threaten Israel's existence, but they do kill, maim and disrupt the daily lives of Israeli civilians, and sow fear. The number of civilians affected by these rockets is increasing, and we cannot continue with these rounds of tit-for-tat fighting. First off, the calm is one-sided. There is never calm in Israel because there is always some "splinter group" operating or "sporadic shooting" despite cease-fire agreements. Second, this calm is exploited by terrorist organizations, with active assistance from Iran and Syria, to increase the number of rockets they possess and to improve their accuracy and range. Initially, the terrorist rockets threatened a few thousand. Now they can reach hundreds of thousands; next time, when their range can reach Gush Dan [central Israel including Tel Aviv], it will threaten millions of Israelis. Rocket terror is becoming a strategic weapon.

We do improve our defense with each round, both with respect to protection and, more recently, interception. The Iron Dome's performance is praiseworthy, and its developers and operators rightly deserve kudos, but we must remember that it is only one component of our defense and cannot do everything. Iron Dome cannot protect against mortars, short-range rockets, anti-tank missiles or even long-range rockets. Nor can a battery stationed in Ashkelon respond to fire on Rishon Lezion. We will need more Iron Domes. We do not need to calculate the price of each sophisticated and (very) expensive rocket fired versus the low cost of a simple one. We do need to calculate, if possible, the price of the interception versus the cost of both direct and indirect damage caused by rockets. We also have to remember that producing more Iron Domes will take a long time, especially for those communities anxiously awaiting them, while other communities are already relatively protected.

Defense alone cannot win. Iron Dome technology is not enough; we also need an iron-fist policy when it comes to terrorism. First, we have to end these rounds of attacks that come and go. They are not good for the strong side, which continues to absorb, even at intervals, such attacks, allowing our opponents to recover and get stronger each time. We must understand that we are in an ongoing war against terror, and we have to lead by continually attacking government institutions and exacting a price from terrorist leaders in Gaza.

There is no justification for the fact that parents in Ashkelon have to live in fear for their children's lives while Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh simply lives. We must take control of areas in the Gaza Strip and establish security zones, to distance the rocket threats from Israel and facilitate better interception to protect cities and communities in the south. We do not need to reoccupy Gaza, but if the battle leads to a wider campaign, to Operation Cast Lead 2, we will need to "go all the way" by toppling the Hamas regime. Hamas is not part of the solution - it is the problem.

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