Until Israeli leadership feels confident that they have destroyed the threat to their citizens and country emanating out of Gaza, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians of Gaza will continue to be waged.
While many voices — elected voices, leadership voices, media voices, analytical voices and the voices of vox populi, the people on the street, are quick to blame Israel, Israel did not provoke this conflict. It’s easy to blame the overwhelming military force, easy to blame the proverbial Goliath in battle with David, but to do so is to propagate an untruth.
Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) kicked off this conflict with a barrage of rockets shooting through the air from Gaza into Israel. Over 1,500 rockets flew into Israel in less than 48 hours.
Clearly, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are sitting on a huge stockpile. And right now, they are strutting their stuff.
It’s a game of Palestinian politics. Hamas and PIJ want to announce to the world — but more specifically to their own population, that Gaza is a significant player in Palestinian events.
Fatah, the vibrant force in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, has long been the dominant force in Palestinian politics.
Hamas has, for years, tried to overturn their rule and would have had the election scheduled to take place a few weeks from now not been cancelled by Fatah leadership. Cancelled because Hamas was winning in the polls. As rockets roared overhead, protests took place on the ground.
Fueled by the holiday of Ramadan, always a contentious time between Palestinians and Israelis, and by the eviction of seven families in East Jerusalem over a rent dispute, the protests spread throughout Jerusalem and Israel.
Jerusalem is a tinderbox of emotion and ideology for Palestinians of all political stripes. Gaza is not at all near Jerusalem. Hamas and PIJ chose the venue to stake their claim and assert their power as leaders of the Palestinians.
And Israel, the only country in the world to call its military not an army but a defense force — the IDF stands for Israeli Defense Forces — retaliated. The sole purpose of the IDF is defense, not offense.
U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken released a statement indicating that Israel has the right to defend itself. He qualified his comments, however, by saying that Israel should “take extra care” not to harm civilians. The question begs asking:
Why the caveat? Why?
How would the United States react if 1,800 rockets were shot into Texas from Mexico or from Canada into New York. The parallel is logistically accurate. Israel goes to tremendous lengths to keep its citizens safe.
And just as great lengths to assure that the innocent civilians of their enemy are not hurt. Some might even argue that they handicap themselves by taking away the element of surprise. Israel actually sends SMS messages to the phones in the target area of the attack advising them to evacuate because an airstrike is coming.
They drop leaflets in Arabic alerting the population of the upcoming airstrike. And when they conduct their strikes they are surgical strikes aimed specifically at weapons depots and Hamas and PIJ leadership, not at civilians.
Imagine a military strategy that gives up the weapon of surprise in order to save innocent lives — of your enemy! This action is taken by Israel because their enemy cares so little about innocent lives — about the innocent lives of their own population.
These Palestinian terrorists operate within civilian urban environs.
They shoot their rockets and store their rockets in schools, hospitals and even in U.N. facilities.
The rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel are unguided.
It’s a game of point and shoot. Wherever the rocket lands, wherever they fall, the operation is a success. These rockets are the weapons of terrorists. They are not aimed, they are not calibrated, they are often homemade.
The fear factor that they induce in Israelis is another Palestinian goal.
Not so long ago, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad imported all their rockets. Gifts from Iran, they were snuck in via tunnels under the border with Egypt or by boats coming in from the Mediterranean Sea. But that has changed. The Palestinian cause is no longer the darling of the Muslim Arab Middle East.
Egypt has clamped down on the borders. Other countries are no longer facilitating the Palestinian conflict with Israel. Now these homemade rockets are built from designs supplied them by Iran.
Most worrisome for Israel is the long-range rockets. Capable of travelling 120 miles it puts these rockets in range of the port city Haifa, one of Israel’s largest and most populated cities. These rockets include the R-160, the M302-D and the M302-B. They also have Buraq 100 rockets.
Other rockets, the J-80, M-75 and Fajr-5 are shorter range. These rockets can hit Israel’s Ben Gurion airport and central cities like Tel Aviv where the bulk of the population, literally two-thirds of Israelis, reside.
Finally, Hamas has 5,000-6,000 short-range rockets that will hit Israeli communities near Gaza. The bulk of their rocket stocks are the Badr-3 and the Qassam rockets which have a 10-mile range.
Intel sources in Israel estimate that Hamas has upwards of 8,000 rockets. In terms of soldiers on the ground Hamas has about 40,000 fighters and PIJ has about 9,000.
The air strikes continue.
The violent protests continue.
Hamas needs to feel central, but this time they may have overshot their goal. Israel will not stop targeting Hamas and PIJ leadership until they have been rooted out, until Israel is convinced that they no longer have the capability of striking again.
Israel has no interest in being “right back in the same place in six months”.
The tide of the conflict has just turned.
IDF ground troops have been deployed.
And only because Israeli civilians have been killed.
Seven Israelis is seven deaths too many for Israel..
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
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