At this moment, the IDF is poised to begin a ground invasion of Gaza. The objectives of the campaign, however, have not been spelled out with sufficient clarity by the political echelon, other than by saying that Hamas will be eliminated as a military threat and sovereign power in Gaza. The following are my ideas of appropriate short and long-term goals for the IDF.
The first and highest-priority objective must be the restoration of Israel’s honor and power of deterrence in the Middle East. This is the part that is the most difficult to understand for the West, particularly by the elites in the US and Europe, but it is an existential condition for the survival of our state. A person or a nation without honor will not live long in this region. What was done to us, what we allowed to be done to us, was so shameful that today we stand naked, a target for anyone who wants to kill us, to invade our country, to take our property, to defile our women, to enslave our children.
You can say that this point of view is atavistic and uncivilized, and perhaps it is when compared to the (supposedly) morally evolved West, but we live in the Middle East, not in Europe or America.* The law here is not the post-1945 international law of the West, it is a code that has evolved in the harsh conditions of the region over millennia. It has been impossible until now for our own Israeli elites to internalize this, but one hopes that the viciousness of the attack on us – the worst since the founding of the state and the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust – will shake them out of their dream of living in a villa in the jungle.
So what does this imply for the IDF’s short-term objectives? I see it this way: all important Hamas leaders, wherever they are, and every commander, soldier, and civilian that took part in the terrorist attack should be killed. Not “brought to justice,” not captured and tried for war crimes, not imprisoned. Killed. Overall Gazan casualties will need to reach a level of ten times more than the number of Israelis murdered and violated. There are other important objectives for the invasion, like the rescue of hostages and the destruction of weapons and military infrastructure, but the recovery of honor – revenge, if you insist – must be top priority. Only thus can the appropriate message be sent to all the players in the region, and the rest of the world.
The long-term objective must be to ensure that this cannot happen again. And from a strategic standpoint, that implies that Israel must either implement a military occupation capable of controlling the population and preventing the rise of a new terrorist regime, or she must force a change in the population to one that will not become a threat. Most of our leadership believes that an occupation is untenable. It would tie down a large part of our army, be very expensive, and provide a focus for continued terrorism and insurrections. But at the same time they shrink from the alternative.
Population transfer is anathema to the West, despite the fact that they’ve done it countless times in the past. But the tribal nature of humans implies that it is often an absolute condition for peace. Antagonistic tribes must be separated by natural barriers that make predation difficult or impossible. The Gaza Envelope – the location of the Israeli communities next door to Gaza – is not viable for Jews unless the hostile Arab population is removed or somehow prevented from attacking them. Israel built a barrier above and below the ground at a cost of a billion dollars. Sophisticated sensors above ground and hundreds of tons of concrete below were intended to provide a sense of safety to the people on the Israeli side. But like all Maginot lines, simple and inexpensive ways were found to bypass it, and Hamas brought death and destruction to the Jewish farmers who had trusted their leaders to protect them.
Some of our leadership seems to believe that we can sail peacefully between the Scylla of occupation and the Charybdis of transfer. The Americans are promising that they will help us bribe the Palestinian Authority to take control and that will solve the problem. The foolishness (or malevolence) of this plan is so obvious that only the most deluded or corrupt Israeli could accept it. As if the murderous Fatah would be a better neighbor than the murderous Hamas!
No Jew will return to live in the Gaza envelope while Gaza remains populated by Arabs. Not one. Are we prepared to give up the Negev? That is, in essence, what the Americans are asking in return for their ammunition and diplomatic support.
On Friday I explained that Israel should force the major part of the Gazan population into the Sinai, where they will become the responsibility of the international community, which created the problem in the first place. The area should be secured by the development of Jewish settlements, and ultimately become a part of Israel. And for the sake of justice, land in Gaza and financial aid should be provided to the descendants of those Jews who were so cruelly expelled from their homes there in 2005.
* But Europe and America will soon have similar concerns, since the recent mass migration from our part of the world is bringing the Middle East to them.