Saturday, July 05, 2014

Justified Israeli rage

Dan Margalit

The is a sense of justified public rage prompting the demand that Israel exact a heavy price from Hamas, whose operatives in Judea and Samaria abducted and murdered three Israeli teenagers, especially since after the Israel Defense Forces entered Hebron, Hamas operatives in the Gaza Strip began firing rockets at the Negev's communities.
The terrorists' moves have bolstered the popularity of the demand to strike them with full force. It is natural and understandable, and it has become apparent in public polls as well.
When Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett and Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman demand, during a cabinet meeting, that Israel strike terrorists, and their comments become public knowledge almost immediately, they gain political popularity points.

A military operation, airstrikes and a ground incursion are roaring and resounding expression of the rage felt by the residents of Tel Aviv and the Gaza vicinity communities alike. In comparison, the fluctuations in the balance of power that result from low-key moves such as re-arresting a terror operative recently released, or seizing funds from a charity that serves as a front for a terror group, lack the luster of a military offensive, even if they have significant results on the ground.
Populist statements come with a price, and while the majority of the world regards Hamas with the utmost contempt, neighboring countries and the West alike would rush to its defense and condemn Israel at the first sight of IDF tanks entering the Gaza Strip. The European Union already has a statement of censure ready and waiting in Brussels.
If the light at the end of the tunnel indicated that there was a chance of toppling the Hamas regime in Gaza, this risk would be worth taking. But Israel's ability to achieve that by itself is a mirage. Toppling Hamas would require a practical -- albeit secret -- pact with Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, and this alliance would have to clearly define its mission. Anyone who knows how this alliance could be formed should be invited to the next diplomatic-security cabinet meeting.
Hamas is in dire straits. Its coffers are empty, and the IDF's operation in Judea and Samaria has stemmed the flow of funds from Qatar. Financial pressure can be more effective than bombs, but it takes longer, and it is less impressive to watch.
This does not mean that Israel should sit idly by, and it does not. Launching Operation Cast Lead in 2008 was the right thing to do, and 2012's Operation Pillar of Defense dealt Hamas a massive blow; but while both were meant to facilitate a prolonged cease-fire and the resulting calm, they could not solve the problem completely.
Former Shas Chairman MK Eli Yishai once suggested to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to create a "menu" that would inform Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas PM in Gaza, of the price Israel would exact for each type of attack against it. This could be classic crisis management, because there is no quick fix that could be applied to the Gaza front.
Israel has reason to believe that Hamas is interested in bringing the current round of violence to its ends, which most likely creates a dilemma for Hamas, as it needs to maintain its position as an active militant group. But the government in Gaza should not pass up the opportunity to choose reason over violence.
Those promoting a second Operation Defensive Shield, this time in Gaza Strip, should think about how they might feel about it 10 days after it begins, as well as about what they would do with this operation's results, once it is successfully completed.

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