Wiping Gaza from the map

There is a debate currently raging in official Israeli circles on how to deal with the Qassam rockets from Gaza. At the dovish end of the spectrum, we have Vice Premier Haim Ramon, former Minister of Justice, arguing against a full-scale military assault on the grounds that it “would cost many IDF casualties” and advocating instead that Israel collectively punish the entire population of Gaza by reducing their supply of electricity, necessary for the operation of such luxuries as hospitals and sewage treatment. “If they fire a rocket, then there should be no electricity, or water or fuel” that day, he said.

At the hawkish end, we have Israeli Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit calling for overt state terrorism against Gaza:

[A]ny other country would have already gone in and level the area, which is exactly what I think the IDF should do – decide on a neighborhood in Gaza and level it.

Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal explained the rationale:

“We did it in Lebanon in 2006; we wiped out a whole neighborhood, the Dachya, including tall buildings, sometimes with people in it, and – what can you do? It worked! We have had nearly two years of quiet from Lebanon since then.”

The problem, Sheetrit ventured, is that [w]e are trying to talk in English to a population that only understands Arabic”. And thus the colonialist racism underpinning so much of Israeli political discourse surfaces once again.

Is it any wonder so many Israeli politicians and generals find themselves having to cancel trips abroad fearing arrest for war crimes?

Returning to sanity, what is behind Hamas’ decision to resume the launching of Qassams into Israel? Ha’aretz explains:

‘One of the main reasons for the escalation stems from the attempt by Hamas to establish a new deterrent against Israel.

Since mid-January, Hamas has operated differently in the Strip. It no longer uses short-term and irrational responses to IDF ground raids or air attacks.

For each Israeli operation, especially if it involves a large number of casualties from the ranks of the organization, Hamas responds with a drawn-out rocket barrage of three to four days.

At its completion, Hamas lowers the intensity, until the next round of violence.

The latest example of this occurred last week. On Tuesday, nine members of Hamas were killed in an IDF operation.

Two days later, seven more Palestinians were killed, six gunmen and a civilian. Hamas fired, according to its press release, no less than 135 Qassam rockets and mortars between Tuesday and Saturday night, in addition to shooting from various smaller groups. On Sunday, Hamas stopped shooting.

The message: henceforth, every Israeli operation will result in a similar response. Hamas is hoping that Israel will agree, after repeated bombing of Sderot, to a tahdiye (calm) in the territories, and even believe they can bring about an end to the arrests that the IDF is carrying out in the West Bank.’

That is, the Qassams are motivated by rational military calculations and are typically a response to Israeli military action. Hamas is trying to force Israel into a ceasefire by raising the costs of military confrontation. It isn’t working because Hamas’ ability to inflict damage on Israeli society is extremely limited. The Qassams are far too inept to force Israel to the negotiating table.

(Incidentally, check out the latest Israeli military euphemism: it’s not an “assassination”, it’s a “focused prevention”, don’tcha know?)

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