Critics of Israel agree that Israel has the right to defend itself, except when Hamas, with no prior warning, shoots rockets from Gaza into Israeli cities and towns, deliberately targeting civilians. When Israel retaliates with targeted air strikes against Hamas military assets in Gaza, the air strikes cannot avoid inflicting unintentional civilian casualties because Gaza is densely populated, lacks bomb shelters, and contains Hamas military assets embedded among the civilian population. Critics charge Israel with initiating a cycle of violence and demand an immediate cease fire.
Defenders of Israel argue that Hamas must be taught that people in glass houses shouldn’t shoot rockets at their neighbors. Although Israel has over 50 military bases, only Israeli civilians are targeted by Hamas rockets. Defenders of Israel note that when Hamas launches rockets at Israeli civilians, without prior warning, critics of Israel are silent. However, as rockets from Gaza and retaliatory air strikes from Israel continue, critics accuse Israel of using disproportionate force and of escalating the conflict.
Critics of Israel want the U.S. to reduce military aid to Israel because they claim this aid subsidizes the bombing of Palestinians in Gaza. But they offer no alternative to bombing as an action intended to make Hamas stop launching rockets into Israel. They also ignore Israel’s missile defense system, which has intercepted about 90% of incoming rockets, and was constructed with American military aid.
Thanks to generous funding by Iran, Hamas has acquired a large arsenal of rockets. Hamas has established in Gaza a thriving industry of manufacturing rockets using components, and technical expertise supplied by Iran. To degrade the offensive capability of Hamas, the U.S. could maintain or increase economic sanctions on Iran until Iran stops funding the rocket industry in Gaza. In addition, the U.S. could cancel funding of the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) aid program intended for Palestinians in Gaza. This action would force Hamas to divert money from the production and launching of rockets to the provision of essential services for residents of Gaza.
As we suggested in “Israeli Rocket Reciprocity” (Oct., 30, 2018), instead of retaliating against rocket attacks from Gaza with airstrikes which are denounced as disproportionate force and produce international protests, Israel can respond by launching small rockets into Gaza. As Gaza is about 13 times as densely populated as Israel, Israel can compensate by launching outgoing rockets at about 1/13 the frequency of incoming rockets. This response will give civilians in Gaza a taste of the excitement experienced by civilians in Israel. Perhaps Iran will offer to construct bomb shelters and install an antimissile system in Gaza.