Reconciling ourselves to ongoing rocket attacks on Sderot or any other Israeli community is intolerable. An effective interception system against these rockets is not on the horizon. The deterrent power created by operations such as “Warm Winter” seems limited. And by all indications, a major military campaign would exact a high casualty toll, among our troops as well, and there is almost no chance that it would lead a reasonable agreement. Yet the need to topple the fundamentalist anti-Israeli regime in Gaza remains.
All of the above observations come together to form one conclusion: We must focus our effort on the sources of the fire in the midst of the Palestinian population. We can and should do it without convening a team of legal experts. We can and should, because the true sources of the fire are not the launching devices or their armed operators. These sources are the ones that set the tone and give the orders. We are talking about dozens of people - headed by Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud al-Zahar – who head Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Seemingly, these people have been in our sights for a while now. An Israeli missile hits one of them on occasion. On other occasions, we are informed that they went underground, fearing for their personal safety. Yet overall they seem to be in rather good condition, and their voters do not turn on them. Their responsibility for every Grad or Qassam rocket is perceived as indirect.
Based on informal customs, they are referred to as political leaders – radical leaders, but ones who are nonetheless interviewed on television and meet with diplomats, thus enjoying some kind of immunity that is not granted to field operators.
This immunity has no moral justification of course. Those who allow rocket terror on Israeli citizens are just as guilty as those who fire the rockets. Therefore, if we are allowed to target the operators, we are also allowed to target their superiors.
Eliminating senior terror leaders is a viable option. They are not Bin Laden, who is hiding somewhere in Afghanistan’s deserts. They are enclosed in a coastal plain of limited size and Israel’s security services know them well and likely know how to locate them, or at least most of them.
And what about Palestinian civilians, including children, who would be hurt in such surgical strikes? What about the media and international pressure that would follow? We must not ignore these questions. Yet it would be advisable to keep in mind that these questions are relevant also with regards to implementing any other military option currently on the agenda. There is even reason to assume that the casualty toll – always a horrifying expression – of these suggested high-level surgical strikes would be lower in comparison to all other non-utopian options.