Today’s Qassam rocket strike on Ashkelon has driven an already rocket-obsessed nation into near hysteria. Zeev Schiff, Haaretz’s military correspondent, writes (hat tip to Sol Salbe for this story):
The firing of a rocket from the Gaza Strip to Ashkelon’s center on Tuesday constitutes an unequivocal invitation by Hamas to war.
Ehud Olmert has called an emergency meeting of his war cabinet. Very serious stuff.
But Schiff’s “invitation to war” statement reflects the absolute delirium and bankruptcy of current Israeli policy. Get a grip guys. First, the Qassam landed in a parking lot and did no serious damage. Second, the Qassam firing is a direct result of the Israel’s invasion of Gaza. In other words, had Israel not invaded Gaza and not killed 20 civilians in the month leading up to the invasion, this incident would likely not have happened. The fact that a nation which suffers such a relatively minor indignity is ready to go to war with the perpetrators indicates a nation that has lost in bearings, if not its moorings. Many commentators have noted the absolute military inexperience of Israel’s senior leadership from Olmert to Peretz. In addition, they note the relative weakness and instability of the current government. All of these factors are coming into play with a vengeance. The only problem is that all this weakness and lack of experience has the potential of launching Armageddon in the Middle East.
Are the U.S., EU and UN prepared for this possibility? If not, why are they not insisting on placing constraints on Israeli actions? Why are they not denouncing Israel’s bellicosity and brutal overreaction? Why are they sitting by while Gaza burns?
That being said, I’m not saying Israel doesn’t have reason to be concerned–even alarmed. After all, this was the longest Qassam flight every recorded. Plus, Hamas has added a technical innovation by placing a second motor on the rocket to give it a longer flight capacity. If I were the IDF I’d realize that when the Israelis escalate the conflict there is always a compensatory escalation from the other side. Israel can no longer (if it ever could) act in isolation and with utter disregard for consequences. If it does attempt to do so there is always a price to be paid. Unfortunately, the current price is Qassam rockets landing for the first time in an Israeli city.
Haaretz has published yet another eminently sensible editorial about the rise of extreme right-wing security mania and the deleterious effect it is having on Israeli policy:
The Qassam rocket fire on Sderot and the attack on the Israel Defense Forces outpost at Kerem Shalom have brought the right…back to life and undermined public support for the [Olmert] disengagement policy. The charm of security-oriented rhetoric is once again captivating the public’s heart, even though this formula has been tried over the course of 40 years of occupation and failed utterly.
Israel’s strength, as well as its deterrent power, have been damaged not by the under use of force, but by its overuse. The Palestinians’ determination and stamina have only increased as their situation worsened. We must acknowledge that every military tactic employed by Israel has given birth to no-less creative and painful Palestinian tactics – suicide bombings, Qassam fire, tunnels – that have managed to harass and wear out the strongest state in the Middle East. There is nothing more debilitating than a feeling of having lost one’s way and purpose.
The right always proposes the same recipe, but in ever-increasing doses: If we did not manage to deter them by using force, we need to use more force; and if that fails, then we need to use even more force. The establishment of the settlements was, and remains, a form of using force, as is construction of the fence along a route that harms Palestinian life more than necessary for security purposes. The attempt to topple an elected government by means of tanks and to remove members of an elected parliament by arresting them also constitutes a policy of aggression.
Haaretz points out that the Gaza invasion is the wrong answer to the wrong problem at the wrong time:
Israel has no option in the long run other than withdrawing from the territories and from the occupation. The Qassam launches’ infringement on Israeli sovereignty is intolerable, and Israel must cause it to end. But this problem, grave as it is, is essentially tactical. It is not a reason for returning to Gaza, and a return to Gaza would bolster neither Israel’s sovereignty nor its deterrent capabilities. Toppling the Hamas government is liable to result in chaos on the Palestinian side and deter the Palestinians from holding elections in the future, given that Israel and the Western world are not honoring the results.