Just when Defense Minister Ehud Barak was joking with the GOC Southern Command during Thursday’s improvised press conference on the Egypt border, showing him with odd glee where the camera was positioned, the police’s anti-terrorism unit lost one of its top fighters. That was a symbolic incident that illustrated the limits of power.
The defense minister was indeed confident in the army’s ability to defeat the terrorists, yet given the tough topographic conditions, with terrorists ambushing the troops while hiding between rocks and across the border, there is no significance whatsoever to the army’s strength or to its technological prowess. There is also no significance to the defense minister’s high spirits.
When people fire at each other, we see casualties on both sides. Always. This is precisely why Israel must aim, as much as is possible, to stay away from these situations.
Moreover, the last thing Israel needs at this time is to enable the whole Arab world to unite. The last thing Israel needs now is to allow the Arab world to divert the discussion away from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s despicable acts against his own countrymen and direct it at IDF troops operating in Gaza.
Arab citizens in the region are rising up and seeking freedom, and we should allow this process to continue. A ground operation in Gaza at this time will also infuriate Egypt, bury the remaining chances of securing Gilad Shalit’s release and provoke global criticism at a highly sensitive junction – September, ahead of the expected Palestinian declaration of independence and UN vote. Furthermore, such operation will not achieve anything with the exception of intensified attacks on the south.
At the end of the day, what can we gain from such operation in Gaza? What will a ground operation involving tanks and infantry reservists achieve that cannot be achieved by aerial assaults? Deterrence? After all, surgical strikes have already proven themselves as the most effective deterrent. Calm? We already learned that there is no way to fully prevent rocket attacks by taking over territory.
There will always be terrorists who can come out of the garage for a moment, fire yet another rocket, and go back to hiding among civilians. Israel must respond with force to every act of terror, but embarking on a ground operation would not constitute a forceful response, but rather, a case of falling into a trap laid by the other side.
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