Israel is currently fighting a war it cannot win. Cast Lead, Pillar of Defence, Protective Edge – even the 2nd Lebanon War; its all the same. When a terrorist organization consistently fires 1000’s of rockets on a civilian population, something must be done. Unfortunately, these groups cannot be stopped and the proposed solutions would be ineffective.
The rockets used are fired remotely while the operations managers and their weapon caches are buried deep below the ground (and likely in the middle of civilian areas). Even if Israel knocked out the entire surface level terrorist infrastructure, there are enough commanders and rockets below the ground (and inaccessible to Israel) to continue this attack indefinitely.
There is a misnomer about the concept of proportionality that plays a crucial role in this conflict. The media likes to cite incorrect arguments about disproportionality with a reference to international law when describing the Gazan wars. International law allows for a proportionate amount of civilian casualties and damage in relation to the military goal that the operation/attack achieves. Unfortunately, activists have become enamoured with the fallacious belief that a state is acting disproportionately (and therefore aggressive and wrong) if they have a lower fatality count than their enemy.
In reality, the largest hurdle Israel faces is not Hamas, but the sole fact that they are the only country to ever face this type of war. This is problematic because of the standard that Israel is held to. In reality, if Syria, Russia or the United States were in a war with this type of dynamic, the response would likely be a combination of forced displacement or scorched earth style destruction. There are terrorist organizations all across the world but outside of Israel, none of them have decided it is a good offensive strategy to launch endless amounts of rockets at a civilian population; the reason is obvious, they would be demolished within days.
Israel goes through measures incomparable to any nation in the history of warfare to minimize civilian casualties but it does not matter. Inevitably there will be civilian casualties, and these casualties will be celebrated across the globe by anti-Israel activists.
Max Fisher wrote something on twitter that I found to be important. “Israel’s “mowing the grass” approach to Gaza has been failing since 2006; zero indication anything is going to change”. Although this statement is false and incoherent (The existence of future operations does not negate the effectiveness of past operations, nor does it speak to how much worse the situation would be without these operations), it represents a mentality a lot of people have. These wars have happened in 2009, 2012 and 2014; what’s the point if all they do is delay the conflict for two years?
I view this to be the crux of the argument. Although these operations are not pointless as the situation would be much worse without them, they do not solve anything. The other line of thought is to destroy Hamas, which is equally as silly. Hamas cannot be ‘destroyed’, as it is a decentralized movement representing the wishes the Palestinian population. If Hamas were to be removed (which would come at great costs to Israel), another group with the exact same aspirations and means would sprout up.
If the biennial wars and destroying Hamas are not good options, then what is the solution? I propose that Israel should retake the Philadelphi Corridor. The Philadelphi Corridor refers to the border area between Gaza and Egypt. Underneath this land is a series of tunnels that provide the lifeblood of Hamas and the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.
So long as Gazan’s have the ability to possess thousands of rockets to send at Israel, they will continue to do so. Without the rockets, without the MANPADS, without the mortars; Hamas is left with nothing in Gaza. Weapons in Gaza are smuggled into the territory through underground tunnels connecting the territory with Egypt. Whether the weapons originate from Libya, Syria or Iran; they all have the same final route – The Sinai Peninsula into tunnels connected to Gaza.
Israel is legally allowed to occupy the Philadelphi corridor. The Gaza-Jericho agreement of 1994, which became part of the Oslo Accords and is still in effect categorized the Philadelphi corridor as a military installation area under sole control of Israel. In fact, leaked in the 2009 Palestine papers were statements by the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority – Ahmed Qurei asked for Israel to re-occupy the Philadelphi corridor. The reasons are obvious, the smuggling in of weapons is the only thing keeping Hamas alive and without them, Fatah would be able to re-takeover the Gaza strip.
Under different Egypt regimes, there have been different levels of attention to the tunnels. After the fall of Mubarak, Israel and the United States were able to convince the Egyptians to install a 12-meter subterranean barrier at the Egypt-Gaza border. Unfortunately, the smugglers just started digging deeper. Although Sisi is better than Morsi and Morsi was better than Mubarak; the tunnels still exist.
This is not the reoccupation of Gaza, or the building of settlements or anything like that. We are talking about a digging a hole in order to prevent the creation of terror tunnels. If Israel wants to prevent the inflow of weapons to Gaza and as a result, deny the ability for Hamas to engage in these conflicts, Israel must retake the Philadelphi Corridor.