In the last 48 hours, more than 30 rockets were fired from the Gaza strip towards Israeli cities and towns. Some scored direct hits, and so far there is one casualty, a man in Ashkelon hit while driving his car. The rockets landed as far north as Ashdod, less than 40 kilometres south of Tel Aviv. (It’s funny/sad to read in the media that Ashdod is in the “south”).
Many blame the “disengagement” of Israel from Gaza in 2005 for this situation. Some hark back to the Israel withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, the “original sin”. By withdrawing unilaterally from these areas, the argument goes, Israel has played into the hands of the terrorists (Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south), creating an untenable situation wherein Israel is unable to defend its citizens from attacks.
It is convenient to fall into the trap of this simplistic and seemingly logical argument. It is convenient to forget how Israel bled (not only in the physical sense of the word) during its occupation of southern Lebanon and the Gaza strip. It is convenient to believe that if only the IDF would re-occupy those territories, Israel will be immune from attacks.
The truth is the solution lies elsewhere. It is not in reversing the justified unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza. It is in implementing the second piece of those withdrawal plans: the promise of the Israeli government to retaliate should Israel be attacked from those territories!
For years Israel did next to nothing while Hamas held sizable portions of southern Israel hostage to their rocket launches. Then came operation Cast Lead in 2008, during which thousands of Palestinians lost their lives. And, lo and behold, here is what happened to the number of rockets launched towards Israe after 2008l:
(Source: IDF spokesman. Note the sharp decrease in 2005, the year Israel withdrew from Gaza).
The problem is not Israel’s presence in Gaza. The problem is the Israeli government is unwilling to perform its duties of protecting citizens from attack. Deterrence is not just a nice word. It can’t be earned by making fiery speeches and empty threats. Deterrence is earned with hard work. If you allow your crazy neighbour to throw rocks at your house without throwing back bigger rocks at his, you don’t have the right to complain that he does not respect you.
It is time our “brave” prime minister, so good at making speeches at the UN, starts acting like a leader. Rhetoric alone will not deter our crazy neighbours. It’s time to do more and talk less.
PS – After operation “Cast Lead” I proposed an idea for a deterrent Israel could use against rocket launches from Gaza. Surprisingly, my suggestion was never implemented. As far as I know, it wasn’t even considered. Shame…