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On broken truces, proportionality, and embargoes

By
January 5, 2009

I’ve read a number of posts on this site that say it wasn’t Hamas that “really” broke the truce, it was broken by an Israeli response into Gaza on Nov 5th, 2008.

The reality is that Hamas had already broken the truce several times before it was a week old:

“Gaza Rockets Again Break Hamas Truce Pledge
By MARK LAVIE, Associated Press | June 26, 2008

JERUSALEM � Gaza militants fired two rockets into southern Israel today, further straining a shaky, week-old truce as Israel kept vital Gaza border crossings closed in response.

The rocket attack, the second since the cease-fire took effect, led to a call for retaliation by Israel’s Foreign Minister while Palestinian Arabs charged that the continued closure of crossings violated terms of the cease-fire.

Despite the breach, Israel dispatched an envoy to Egypt in hopes of negotiating a prisoner swap with Gaza’s ruling Islamic Hamas.”

http://www.nysun.com/foreign/gaza-rockets-again-break-hamas-truce-pledge/80769/

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Hamas never stopped sending rockets into Israel (a total of over 6400 over the last 8 years), but they calculated they could keep firing rockets without invoking an Israeli response (and in fact, Israel did not respond to every rocket – see above).

So now we come to “proportionality” – Hamas was comfortable with the level of Israeli responses, at least until Nov 5th. So a “proportional” response is by the Hamas definition a response not substantial enough to get them to change their behavior.

Two thirds of the children of the Israeli city of Sderot suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome. Now perhaps many here may not consider that serious, but no country in the world would find that acceptable. We were attacked ONCE, and our response was to go half way around the world, drop more bombs than we did in Vietnam, enough to turn over every square inch of Afghanistan several times. Eight years later, no further attacks, and we are still in Afghanistan. Why? Supposedly somebody in Afghanistan poses some sort of theoretical risk to our safety.

Meanwhile, Hamas poses far more than a theoretical threat. Consider the teachings of the Hamas leader Rayan who was killed by an Israeli air assault this week:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nizar_Rayan

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Rayan was fundamentally opposed to the state of Israel.[9] He proclaimed, “True Islam would ever allow a Jewish state to survive in the Muslim Middle East. Israel is an impossibility. It is an offense against God.”[17]

Rayan believed that Jews are a “cursed people” and some were transformed into pigs and apes by Allah.[17] He also believed that Jews must pay for murdering prophets of Islam and “closing [their] your ears to the Messenger of Allah.”[17]

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I listened to an interview with a journalist who had recently interviewed Rayan. The journalist asked Rayan if a 50 year hudna (truce) with Israel was a possibility.

Ryan replied that the purpose of a hudna was “preparation for the final battle” (those who believe a truce with Hamas in the Western sense is possible, are you paying attention?). “We have no need for a 50 year hudna. Israel will be destroyed long before that.”

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So how does Israel stop the rockets? Any effective response must be forceful enough to make the consequences of continued rocket attacks unacceptable. That is not an Israeli choice, that is the only choice that Hamas has given Israel. All the “proportional” responses to date have only encouraged and emboldened Hamas. I don’t see how a rational person could come to a different conclusion.

After the 2006 Lebanese War, Nasrallah gave an interview to Al Jazeera in which he stated that had he known the extent of the Israeli response, he would not have kidnapped the Israeli soldiers (personally, I feel Israel made a terrible mistake exchanging the murdered Kuntar for the bodies of the kidnapped soldiers – why would Hezbollah ever return a live hostage in the future if dead hostages are acceptable? – but that’s another story).

So despite the general belief that the 2006 Lebanese War was a failure for Israel, there have been no attacks from Hezbollah since. If the Gaza conflict concludes with no response from Hezbollah, I may no longer be the only one who views that conflict as at least a break even for Israel.

Which brings us to the issue of the Israeli closure of Gaza borders. I was watching Ben Wedeman on CNN. Wedeman is nominally the CNN Bureau Chief in Jerusalem. He should really be called Hamas’ CNN spokesman.

Wedeman unintentionally gave a convincing explanation of why Israel was controlling access into and out of Gaza. When asked whether Hamas might be successful militarily due to what it had learned from Hezbollah, he responded that Hamas was adversely affected because unlike Hezbollah, which was able to more easily bring in Iranian weapons through Syria, Israel had been more successful in limiting Hamas’ access to weapons.

Thank you, Mr. Wedeman, for that explanation. No one in an official capacity in Israel has said it as clearly and simply as that.

That’s not to say that Hamas has been completely unsuccessful smuggling in weapons. The longer range rockets Hamas has been firing were all smuggled in. Imagine, no problem smuggling in all those rockets, smuggling in tons and tons of explosives, but somehow they never get around to smuggling in food and medical supplies. Everyone has their priorities, of course.

Hamas and the PA before them had the opportunity to use the Arab and other foreign aid coming into Gaza to improve the lives of the Gazans. But no, war against Israel is a far higher priority. Doesn’t that bother any of the bleeding hearts who blame Israel for the plight of the Palestinians?

So to sum up:

1) Hamas, the elected government of Gaza, is completely dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel. They commit their scarce resources to the goal, over feeding and caring for the Gazan population. How do you negotiate with an enemy that doesn’t recognize your existence, and is commited to murdering every last one of your inhabitants? (see:

http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/72

2) Israel’s “proportional response” have only encouraged and emboldened Hamas.

3) In military terms, a response is “proportional” if it is of a scale required to achieve the legitimate military goal. It doesn’t mean that the number of casualties is equal. By this definition, the Israeli response IS proportional, as nothing less will stop the rocket fire. Even now, despite the obvious futility, Hamas CONTINUES to fire rockets at Israel.

4) The purpose of the Israeli embargo is to prevent, as best possible, weapons from being smuggled in.

If I’m missing something, let me know.

4 Responses to On broken truces, proportionality, and embargoes

  1. woody188

    January 6, 2009 at 12:01 am

    They have created a circular situation. It will always continue because both sides use religion as their underlying motivation and we all know how impossible it is to change ones views on religion, particularly religious fanatics like Hamas and Zionists.

  2. CheckerboardStrangler

    January 7, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Sorry, both sides aren’t using their religion.
    Israel is using self defense.
    It might be somewhat out of proportion according to some views but again one has to consider what it would be like if the rockets were landing in Anytown USA.
    Personally, if it were my town being hit I’d probably feel much the same as Israel, sorry!

  3. adamrussell

    January 6, 2009 at 11:19 am

    There is nothing circular about Israel’s position. Israel is ready to live in peace. But of course the old adage still holds “Trust your neighbor, but cut the cards”. Naturally they will do everything it takes to stop hamas from bombing them. That has nothing to do with religious differences.

  4. hmpierson

    January 6, 2009 at 11:23 am

    RE: “we all know how impossible it is to change ones views on religion, particularly religious fanatics like Hamas and Zionists.”

    Zionists are by definition people who support the State of Israel. Most of them are in fact secular, as are most of the Israeli population.

    There are in fact Jewish religious fanatics who are anti-Zionist, who believe there should not be a Jewish state of Israel until the time of the Messiah. You might find the following interesting (and bewildering:)

    http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061215/NEWS/612150322/-1/COMM

    Hamas believes that Jews must be eliminated from the Middle East. No one in Israel, Zionist or not, believes the Palestinians must be eliminated. So your response is basically without merit.