Friday, July 11, 2014

Arlene Kushner on the Need For an Israeli Ground Attack in Gaza

From Arlene Kushner
July 11, 2014

Slowly, Thoughtfully, Agonizingly

By now I had thought our ground forces would have entered Gaza, but the operation remains on the edge of happening.
As I approach Shabbat and find I still have many preparations to attend to, I want to share only a very brief overview of what is transpiring with regard to the pros and cons of going in and what we do once we start the ground war.  We’re Jews. So we have as many opinions on the subject as we have commentators and analysts.
In the end, it seems to me we must go in on the ground because Hamas is stepping up the rocket launchings, and while – thank Goodness – no one one our side has been killed, there have been injuries at this point, at least a couple of which are serious.
Mordechai Yemin, an IDF soldier from Itamar, was seriously wounded by mortar shells yesterday while he was in the Eshkol Regional Council, near Kerem Shalom.  We are being asked to pray for his full recovery:  Mordechi Chai Ben Bracha Yehudit.
And...rockets are aimed now at the airport.  Not something we can tolerate.
Hamas is being defiant.  We must act decisively.
Netanyahu – either very prudent or over cautious, depending on your perspective – has to deal with many factors.  In no way should we imagine that his job is anything but horrendous, as he weighs heavy issues.  All of those who write to me with notions of what we “must” do are advised to consider what we are facing.  We don’t have a professional army.  The IDF is composed of our boys.  Our sons and grandsons and brothers and fathers and friends.  That some of them may – or in the end, inevitably, must – die to protect the country is accepted.  But it’s heart wrenching – in times like this we think like one extended family.  And the more extensive the operation, the greater the losses will be.  What is a reasonable “trade-off” for the sake of the country, and what is excessive and foolish?     
With all of this anguish, however, a good portion of the Israeli populace, I would say, is eager to see us go in and give Hamas what it deserves.  The people want to see strength.
On the one hand, we are told that the presence of a whole network of tunnels makes it imperative that we go in.  There is no way that we can reach those tunnels by air. And they are so sophisticated - Yossi Melman calls them an “underground city” - that we cannot take out infrastructure and personnel and weaponry sufficiently without sending in ground troops.  What makes the tunnels more dangerous is that – as I have written before – some of them travel under the border into Israel, making it possible for terrorists to enter Israel for kidnappings and various terror incidents.
Another reason we must go in is because Hamas is embedding itself in hospitals and schools (nothing new), making it impossible to reach them from the air.
And yet, those same Vietcong-inspired tunnels make matters more dangerous for ground troops, as they can be surprised from behind by those who are hiding in tunnels. There are some who say that the fact of the tunnels means we shouldn’t sent our boys in. That it would be a booby trap.
There are those – such as Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, former National Security Advisor and former head of research for military intelligence - saying that if we go in at all, it is not worth it unless we take over Gaza and really wipe out the entire terror network and leaders.  Otherwise Hamas will recoup and it will not have been worth the effort and the lives, as in two years or three, Hamas will be attacking us again.  He says it would take from three days to two weeks to take Gaza, and that we’d have to remain for six month to a year.
Avi Dichter former Shin Bet director, says something similar as well. We need to switch from a tactical to a strategic campaign that will last a year or two, he says.  Capture thousands of terrorist leaders and operators, and defeat terrorism.  This is different from going in to destroy weaponry that can be replenished. (My own question here is whether the fact that Egypt is blocking the smuggling tunnels would significantly reduce the ability of Hamas to replenish its weapon supply.  They manufacture some of their own weapons now, but the best are supplied by Iran.)
I will note here that these suggestions involve only a temporary takeover of Gaza. There is very little inclination to rule over Gaza indefinitely, with 1.5 million hostile Arabs, for whom we would be responsible.
And there are those – e.g., Mordechai Kedar, an academic with knowledge of the Islamic world and considerable intelligence savvy  – who insist we absolutely shouldn’t send in our boys because Hamas is laying a trap, and that there are other ways to handle matters.
One of the things Kedar suggests is that we cut off all electricity and fuel to Gaza, something which some of my readers have been asking me about. 
My response has been that there is an attitude in the Israeli government that we must be careful to never be accused of collective punishment of the civilian population of Gaza.  Aside from the fact that it may not be legal according to humanitarian international law, it would serve us very badly from a PR perspective and cause us to lose the support we have. What is envisioned is a headline that says, for example, that three people on respirators and five premature babies in incubators died because Israel cut off electricity and the hospital where these patients were did not have a working generator.
What’s being said is that the government’s legal advisors (which may primarily mean the attorney general) advise against cutting off of electricity.  But my own suspicion is that our prime minister, who is so inordinately concerned about world opinion, would, himself not go this route.
In 2007, what Israel did, however, was reduce the amount of electricity sent into Gaza without cutting it off completely, and government lawyers at that time said this was legal. This, then, might be the way to go – it would fall to Hamas to decide how to allocate available electricity and if hospitals were deprived it would be the fault of Hamas. But I don’t know that Netanyahu is about to be convinced of this.
Please know: At about dawn we were hit by three rockets coming out of Lebanon.  Another reason why we must act now.
May Shabbat bring us peace.  And may the Almighty endow our leaders with the wisdom to make the best decisions they can.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.  

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