The Post reports: “The Israeli army, air force and navy launched a major operation Tuesday against the Islamist militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, striking dozens of sites in the coastal enclave and mobilizing infantry troops along the border for a possible ground incursion designed to stop rocket attacks on Israel. Israel announced the beginning of ‘Operation Protective Edge’ to strike Hamas and protect southern Israeli citizens from intensified rocket fire from Gaza.”
The extent of the provocation is stunning: “Over the last 24 hours, Hamas and other anti-Israel militant groups in Gaza have fired more than 100 mortar rounds and rocket shells at Israel. More than a dozen were intercepted by Israel’s U.S.-supported Iron Dome missile-defense batteries, but many others fell on Israeli soil. Most of the rockets landed in open fields, but some hit structures. Sirens were ringing hourly in southern Israel, and activity ground to a standstill. The Israeli home front authority said businesses should shutter and workers should remain at home. All camps for children were canceled within a 25-mile radius of Gaza.” Make no mistake, the deliberate targeting of civilians is a human rights atrocity and under international law a war crime; Israel is fully entitled to defend itself.
The notion that Israel should show “restraint” is preposterous when one considers what the reaction would be in the United States if Mexican or Canadian terrorists shelled American neighborhoods. Those pleading for the sides to “deescalate” should at least acknowledge that up until the last moments, Israel was trying to broker a deal to avoid further violence. From of all sources, the Arabic daily Al-Hayat reports, “Israel warned Hamas and Islamic Jihad through Egypt on Monday that if the rocket fire persists, the IDF will respond strongly.’ Israel will strike Gaza with a heavy hand if the two movements don’t accept a truce,’ a senior Egyptian official told representatives of the two organizations, according to a Palestinian official. Islamic Jihad has taken credit for at least 60 of the rockets fired on Israel in the last two days.”
Across the political spectrum in Israel, from figures such as former Labor prime minister Ehud Barak to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, there is virtual unanimity as to the need for action. Meanwhile, Hamas issues absurd demands such as an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip — which obviously wasn’t stringent enough to keep out scores of weapons.
Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who is presently in Israel, tells me, “[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu does not want to enter Gaza. He had been exercising incredible restraint. But 80 or more rockets in one day makes it impossible for him to simply authorize a few air strikes and go home. The longer the rockets continue, the more likely we will see a large operation.” He nevertheless cautions, “He will need to be careful, though. It is not in Israel’s interest to get into a lengthy war amidst the current unrest in Syria and the looming Iran talks. He also risks giving Hamas an opportunity to gain political clout in the region. This happens when any group fights Israel.”
If there is any silver lining to this, it is that it will almost assuredly spell the end of the “unity” government, which was already teetering. “The unity government is dead in the water. We are back to the old Palestinian dynamic,” says Schanzer. “The rockets are as much about rejecting Fatah as they are about terrorizing Israelis. The firing of rockets amidst Abbas’s calls for calm make it clear that cooperation and coordination are no longer [there].”
As for the United States, rather than issue nonsensical calls for “restraint,” it would be well advised to at least suspend aid to the Palestinian Authority until hostilities cease. It should be crystal clear that the P.A. must choose between war and Hamas, on one hand, or a relationship with the United States.
Once again, Obama’s dream of “ending” wars without dealing with the perpetrators of terror and mayhem, in this case Iran and its proxy Hamas, has proved to be folly. Perhaps if the administration had not burned bridges with both sides and with Sunni allies, it would be in a better position to influence events.