July 6, 2006
How can Israel resolve the enigma that is Gaza‹should it consider reoccupying the territory?
Dear Friend of FLAME:
The last week has been harrowing for all of us who love Israel and who hope for peace in the Middle East. Capping off a period of increased Qassam missile attacks from Gaza into Israel, Palestinians from several terrorist groups tunneled under the fence separating Israel and Gaza and attacked an Israeli army post, killing two soldiers and kidnapping another---19-year-old Gilad Shalit---whose fate remains unknown. Understandably, Israel has responded massively, with air raids on terrorist hideouts and rocket-launch sites in Gaza, with cautious ground-troop incursions, and by arresting Hamas leaders in the West Bank. Our hearts go out to Gilad Shalit, his family, and all those in uniform in Israel (and in Iraq) who stand in harm's way. We pray for Shalit's safe return.
Deterrence against Hamas: Israel may have no choice but to establish security zones in Gaza
by Dore Gold, Ynetnews, July 5, 2006
When Israel completed its disengagement from the Gaza Strip, many assumed that after the withdrawal Israel would have far great legitimacy to conduct deterrence operations in Gaza, if Israeli territory would be attacked in the future. As a result, it would be able to create same sort of deterrence that it had projected along Israel's northern border against Hizbullah. It was commonly observed that while Hizbullah had built up its military capability with thousands of missiles, the front was generally stable with the notable exception of Har Dov. But Israeli deterrence against the Palestinians failed, and now there is a serious deterioration in the south. What happened?
Commentators often use terminology without knowing its meaning. The term "deterrence" was already used before the Second World War, but it was popularized during the nuclear standoff between the superpowers in the Cold War, when each side could threaten the other with "mutually assured destruction". That ultimate threat created a form of stability and strengthened the territorial status quo in many parts of the world.
But can there be deterrence with non-conventional weapons or against terrorism? During the Cold War, many experts were doubtful. But what is clear is that for deterrence to work, a state supporter of terrorism must face serious retaliatory escalation that could threaten his hold on power. For that reason, Israel's north been relatively stable. Syria has come to understand that if Hizbullah launches rockets against Israel, then the Israeli Air Force will attack Syria. As a result, Syria must restrain Hizbullah and some kind of deterrence--even if fragile-- exists.
Who is the Syria of the south? The fact is that there is no state that plays that role. Israel has a peace treaty with Egypt and Cairo has a far more complex relationship with Hamas than Damascus has with Hizbullah. The Egyptians do not stop the flow of weaponry to the Gaza Strip, but they also have reservations about a Muslim Brotherhood state on their northern border that would support their main political opposition.
Simple lesson from the Gaza experience
What about deterring Hamas directly? Many politicians declared in 2005 that if after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, Hamas even dares to fire a Qassam rocket, Israel will retaliate with enormous firepower. The reality is that Israel is not about to erase whole civilian towns. Massive retaliation of that sort will have Israel sitting on the bench of the accused in the UN Security Council and begging President Bush for a US veto, which he may not have the political capital to provide. More importantly, such action also violates the moral standards of the IDF and Israel as a whole since 1948.
Is Israel helpless under these circumstances? No. In the theory of deterrence, there is another concept that has been forgotten: Deterrence by denial instead of deterrence by punishment. Israel must make clear to an aggressor that his attack plan will fail. For example, when Israel put up the security fence in Gaza, in the 1990's, it established a security zone inside the fence in order to deny the Palestinians the ability to dig tunnels. When Israel disengaged from Gaza, it gave up on the security zone, and relied on deterrence by punishment instead. Israel also used to control the outside envelope of Gaza to prevent the flow of arms, but it conceded this control in the Philadephi corridor and as a result advanced arms are now flowing without anyone impeding them significantly. There is a simple lesson from the Gaza experience: the formula of full withdrawal backed up by the threat of punishing deterrence operations simply doesn't work.
In the next stages, Israel must re-establish its doctrine of defensible borders, in accordance with its international legal rights under UN Security Council Resolution 242. In the West Bank, that means making sure that Israel secures US support for controlling the Jordan Valley, in order to prevent a flow of Islamic volunteers and advanced weapons to Hamas from jihadi groups in the East. Israel must seek international support for permanent control of territories from which terrorists can pose a direct threat to vital Israeli civilian installations, like the territories dominating Ben-Gurion Airport. But isn't there always a missile with a longer range, beyond any security zone that Israel will establish? Some will say that for this reason there is no end to the needed depth of security zones.
Now is the time
However strategic depth must be used to deny the most available weapons; there are tens of thousands of SA-7 shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles on the world market with a range of 5 kilometers or less. The 15-20 kilometer range advanced shoulder fired missiles of Russia and the US are for the most part under lock and key, because they also fear such missile reaching the Chechens and al-Qaeda. Similarly, the Palestinians have a few smuggled Katyusha rockets, but they have a seemingly endless supply of home-made Qassam rockets. The latter needs to be neutralized on an urgent basis.
The situation in Gaza is changing every day, as the eyes of the nation are fixed on the fate of Corporal Gilad Shalit. Israel may have no choice but to establish security zones in Gaza, as well, for the immediate future. This might not neutralize all threats but such zones can create difficulties for Hamas to use the most common threats in its arsenal. When I used to spend time with Ariel Sharon between 2000 and 2003, he used to say to me that Israel should never put itself in a position when facing a threat that it only has two choices: going to war or doing nothing. If it preserves defensible borders, Israel will not get into that untenable position. Unfortunately, Israel has allowed Sderot for months to be attacked and it has done nothing. Now is the time to make sure that this doesn’t happen again: By using deterrence by denial, so that Hamas' ability to threaten the people of Israel is finally seriously restricted, even after any Israeli military operation in Gaza is completed in the future.