More than three thousand rockets and missiles have been launched by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), purposefully targeting Israeli cities over a period of nine days. There is currently no end to the campaign in sight, even though the Israel Defense Force (IDF) launched Operation ‘Guardian of the Walls’ to protect Israeli citizens and destroy the launching capabilities of Hamas and PIJ.
When Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, it evacuated over nine thousand Israeli citizens living in 25 Jewish villages with the hope of encouraging the creation of an independent Palestinian state that would live in peace alongside Israel.
The Israeli government left behind a highly-developed area, which could have served as the backbone of a prosperous economy. The sum of the exports from the Israeli greenhouses came to $200 million a year. The combined assets of Gush Katif (the largest Israeli village in the Gaza Strip at the time) were estimated at $23 billion.
Rather than reciprocate and use the infrastructure Israel left to the Palestinians, Hamas felt emboldened enough to violently take over the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority in 2007. In a reversal of “beating their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks” (Isaiah 2:4), Hamas instead has used life-giving agricultural machinery and irrigation pipes to create rockets and weapons of slaughter.
Hamas is a hybrid terrorist organization with well-developed social, political and military wings. As the ruling regime in the Gaza Strip, Hamas needs to run schools, mosques, hospitals, and other social services for its residents. As a military wing (called the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades), Hamas has committed over 90 suicide and bombing attacks and has launched over 20,000 rocket and mortar attacks that have killed over 650 innocent Israeli civilians.
Hamas has established an orderly paramilitary framework with brigades, battalions, companies, and platoons as well as dedicated units, including intelligence, commando and cyber units. Its arsenal includes thousands of rockets and missiles at their disposal, as well as dozens of kilometers of tunnels often built underneath highly-sensitive areas in the Gaza Strip such as hospitals. Rockets have even been found underneath UNRWA schools.
Over time, Hamas has used its mandate to make the Gaza Strip into a base for terrorism. The money that it gets from Israel and Qatar is not used for the welfare of its citizens, but to increase its military capability by digging more tunnels and increasing its missile ranges and explosive payloads. At the same time, Israel has developed technologies to decrease collateral damage and protect the lives of innocent civilians.
As a democracy, Israel faces what is known as the “democratic dilemma.” On the one hand, it must follow moral and legal norms while it is fighting against an enemy that does not adhere to international law. On the other hand, Israel must also protect the lives of its citizens against a paramilitary organization that will use every means at its disposal to achieve its goals.
Moral and legal justifications that were developed after World War II for declaring and waging wars (specifically the Hague and Geneva Convention) were meant for sovereign states. They are not appropriate for waging wars fought against terrorist organizations like Hamas. This puts Israel at a significant disadvantage to effectively defend itself and its citizens.
In the current campaign between Israel and Hamas, the front and home front are blurred together. Hamas forces civilians in the Gaza Strip and Israel to be on the front lines. Hamas deliberately uses Palestinian civilians as human shields, since the terrorists are launching rockets and missiles from heavily-populated areas towards Israeli cities. Israel on the other hand, is trying to save innocent lives by always notifying Palestinian civilians in the building that is going to be targeted. The IDF does this by sending leaflets, making phone calls, using “knock on the roof” tactics and more.
Unlike a conventional war, this current campaign and ongoing war of attrition between Israel and Hamas shows no sign of ending. Israel does not wish to take control over the Gaza Strip again, while neither Egypt, the Palestinian Authority or any other state wants to control this territory.
In order to truly achieve a resolution, the Gaza Strip must be demilitarized, while running a program similar to the Marshall Plan. All countries including Israel, Arab and Muslim countries, the United States Great Britain, the European Union, and more, will have a hand in helping the Gaza Strip recover. Such a program would include building critical infrastructure such as an air and sea port, develop tourism sites near the beach and encourage democratic elections.
As a result of this program, Israeli civilians will be able to live in security. While Palestinians in the Gaza Strip will finally be able to live in peace and prosperity.
- Bradley Martin is the Executive Director for the Near East Center for Strategic Studies.
- Dr. Liram Koblentz-Stenzler is a Researcher and Head of the Global Far-Right Extremism Desk at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism (ICT) at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya.
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