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Nahum Barnea  

 

No wars in winter

Weather plays key role in military decisions; once clouds clear, will we enter Gaza?

Published: 02.11.08, 08:57 / Israel Opinion

When the cabinet discussed the ground operation that was supposed to end the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Shaul Mofaz warned against an operation that could last for months. Soon September will come around, Mofaz warned, and we shall see clouds. We won’t be able to use the Air Force.

 

Someone has to take up the task of doing serious research regarding the part played by the clouds in the country’s military history. We know about operations that were postponed because of fear of casualties, or because of disagreement among senior officials, or because of American pressure. It is doubtful whether anyone ever counted the number of operations cancelled because of the weather.

 

During the Sharon era, and not only then, clouds were used as an almost permanent prevention method. A terror attack would infuriate the prime minister. He would demand immediate military action, a harsh one. Sorry, the army would say: There are clouds. Until the clouds cleared, the prime minister’s anger would subside, and so forth.

 

Therefore, we don’t have wars in winter. All the wars we initiated took place in the spring and summer (with the exception of the Sinai campaign in 1956, but in that war Israel had European partners that dictated their own timetables.) The war in Gaza will also have to wait, apparently. In addition to all the familiar dilemmas that accompany the decision on a large-scale military operation, there is also the weather problem.

 

The situation in Sderot and Gaza-region communities is intolerable: This should be the starting point of any discussion. It is not similar to the Syrian bombardments on Galilee kibbutzim during the ‘60s or the Katyushas fired at Kiryat Shmona during the ‘70s and ‘80s.

 

The politicians can continue to praise the perseverance of residents from morning till night, yet the sad reality is that the town is half-empty, schools and places of employment are half-empty, and those who stay live under constant fear. A government that exposes its civilians over an extended period of time to a war of attrition of this kind does not deserve to stay in place.

 

A large-scale operation in Gaza is supposed to achieve two objectives: Block the arms smuggling path in Rafah, and paralyze the Qassam fire from Gaza City and its environs. These are two fronts that necessitate simultaneous handling: Operating on one front only won’t resolve a thing.

 

Politicians need to be honest 

The number of casualties among IDF soldiers may be large. Many civilians on the Palestinian side will also be hurt, and at he end of the day Israel will face the most difficult question: What should we do now? Should we continue with the occupation, with all the costs this entails, or should we get out of there and start the war of attrition anew?

 

There are not school-type solutions for this situation. It is possible that we are destined to fight Hamas and also talk to it, and the question is merely what the right order is: First fight them and then talk to them, or talk to them first and then fight them.

 

Under such circumstances, the little that is required of the politicians is to tell themselves and their voters the truth. Benjamin Netanyahu
went up to the microphone yesterday and blamed the situation that has been created on the disengagement. He forgot that he served as one of the most senior ministers in the government that decided on disengagement, and that he basked the disengagement in the decisive vote at the Knesset. He also forgot that Israel left Gaza 1994, 11 years before disengagement.

 

Gush Katif residents sustained much of the fire that is now directed at Sderot, and this is said to their credit, yet they contributed nothing to restraining the Gaza terrorism.

 

In a few weeks, the clouds will clear. The cabinet will have to decide whether there is no other way except for a massive IDF operation in the Strip, where, and for how long. When it comes out of Netanyahu’s mouth, it sounds as easy as a weekend trip. In real life, it will be an extremely difficult decision. It is doubtful whether the Olmert government was prepared for making a decision on one war. And there we have it; it is destined to decide on two wars.

 

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