The dust has since settled on Operation Protective Edge, and Israelis has returned to their old habit: did we win? did we lose? Was it a draw?
Among my more right-wing acquaintances, I often hear that we were too timid, too slow and horrifically ineffective. We should have gone all the way, reconquering the Gaza Strip, bag and baggage. Only by holding all the territory could we systematically dismantle and disarm Hamas’ rocket arsenal and infrastructure, as well as destroying their arms caches and removing their leaders.
By using our timid approach, Hamas’ army, rocket and tunneling capability was left largely intact to recuperate for another day. The whole country is still under rocket threat, and there’s no sign that any political pressure will make Gaza a peaceful place anytime soon.
Worse, by failing so miserably to truly force a decision by either Hizballah or Hamas, Israel’s cred as a regional power to be scared of has plummeted; to win brownie points among “world opinion”, we have shown ourselves to be timid and weak – a very dangerous thing to be in the Middle East.
Most argue that while it would be nice if we could reconquer and disarm the strip, it simply wasn’t feasible. The IDF casualties would be higher, for one thing. But I don’t buy it – many of our casualties came from soldiers sitting in defensive positions sitting to be attacked. The Israeli public showed a clear willingness to take casualties if only it achieved something tangible.
But what of civilian casualties? Would they not have gone through the roof? Not necessarily. If we had moved faster or at least from more unexpected directions, Hamas would have had less time and notice to arrange for human shields and booby-trapped buildings in the city. However precise, aerial bombs are less discriminatory than soldiers’ bullets.
Nor do I buy the argument of not going in to avoid a second Goldstone; we’re facing one anyway, but without a military victory for consolation. Nor did any of our almost Herculean efforts to avoid civilian casualties gain us any friends among the inquisitors known as the Human Rights community. As far as they’re concerned, Israel is always guilty, period. Avoiding civilian deaths is important, but it should be to impress foreign governments, not to appeal to the terminally biased.
Indeed, foreign governments such as the EU practically gave us an excuse to move in by supporting demilitarization of Hamas. Since the only way to do that is with the IDF, we could have used that as our ‘green light’ to go in.
And what would we do after we went in an disarmed Hamas? Simple: leave and let the Palestinians themselves figure it out.
The Middle East is becoming increasingly dangerous, and Israel cannot afford to appear so hesitant and cautious. Given the constant of human rights condemnations no matter what we do, it must stop being a factor which prevents us from striving towards decisive victory.