Imagine the following scenario: The residents of San Diego are attacked from Tijuana, Mexico with daily rocket fire and occasional guerilla raids. How would the United States respond? What would be left of Tijuana?
Imagine a similar scenario unraveling against French, German, British or any other civilian population.
Such scenario has been an ongoing reality for over a million and a half citizens living in southern Israel, as Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations have been targeting Israeli civilians for decades and most vehemently since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gush Katif and Gaza in August 2005.
Since then, the two sides have been taking part in what seems to be endless cycles of tit for tat violence. Hamas or its affiliates launch rockets at Israeli civilians and the IDF targets Palestinian rocket launchers in return.
These tit for tat cycles have not deterred Hamas. On the contrary: Hamas and its supporters are convinced that terrorist attacks on Israel are rewarded by Israeli withdrawals and concessions. So how can Hamas and its affiliates now be deterred from continuing their attacks?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once said that the key to deterrence is that the response or perceived response to a terrorist attack must be disproportional to the terrorist attack itself. For example, in May 1999, towards the end of his first term as PM, and while Shaul Mofaz was IDF chief of staff, Hezbollah launched Katyusha rockets at northern Israel. The army responded by bombing critical infrastructure in Lebanon, causing millions of dollars in damage. The result was a long, quiet period for the north.
Principle of proportionality
According to international law, military attacks must be proportional to their anticipated benefits. The High Court of Justice in Israel said that this principle of proportionality needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis. The question in the case before us is as follows: What is the required response to Hamas terror in order to restore a long period of quiet in southern Israel?
Hamas, Egypt and Israel recently set a certain standard for proportionality. The freedom of one Israeli hostage was agreed by the sides to be proportional to the release of 1’027 Palestinian prisoners. Can a proportional response to Palestinian terror be formulated in a similar manner?
At the end of 2008, after years of Palestinian rocket fire, the IDF launched Operation Cast Lead. The fighting resulted in more than 1,000 Palestinian casualties compared to fewer than 10 on the Israeli side. Nevertheless, Hamas stayed in power and the recess of rocket fire was short lived.
By now, Palestinian Grads have returned in full force.
Moshe Ami of Ashkelon, a father of four, was killed on Saturday by a Palestinian Grad rocket as he was driving home from work. The principle of proportionality does not necessarily call for ‘027 Palestinian fatalities in return. However, Israel’s government is obliged to do whatever is needed to provide its citizens the security they are entitled to. Nothing short of removing Hamas from power will achieve that legitimate goal.
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