Why Israel should not attack in Gaza

A terrorist attack in Israel has claimed seven victims. Barak plans a large-scale attack on Gaza. We shouldn’t do it.

Seven Israelis were killed earlier today in a terror attack in the south of Israel, near Eilat. As these words are written, IAF fighters are circling in the skies of Gaza, and reports just came in of an airstrike in Rafah that claimed three lives. We still don’t know who is responsible for the attack, but Defense Minister Ehud Barak has already found the guilty parties, the residents of the Gaza Strip. Borrowing the language of the settler pogromchiks, he actually promised a “price tag” operation (Hebrew). In Gaza, people are already huddling in shelters, and following the tweets from there, you can feel the despair, the terror, the feeling of “not again”.

We are all familiar with this circle: Attack, terrorist attack, attack, terrorist attack, attack, major terrorist attack, major operation, terrorist attack, attack and so on and so forth. Maybe we should, for once, break the circle? Here are a few reasons why:

A.    Enough with the Pavolvian instinct. Barak wants to take us to a major operation in Gaza? He should first explain to the public what proof he has the attack originated there. I may well be proven wrong in the coming days, but right now this looks more like an Al Qaeda job, certainly much more professional than anything Hamas ever managed to pull off. Al Qaeda has already attacked Eilat before (a rocket attack – Hebrew), and it threatened an attack on it last year (Hebrew). Secondly, Barak should explain how, precisely, will his attack change the situation. The ease, almost absent-mindedness, in which the government can take us to war should be stopped.

B.     Nobody does it anymore. Israel is one of the few countries still clinging to the punitive raids method of the 1950s. Does Barak claim the Hamas is responsible for the murder of Israeli citizens by a rocket attacks on busses? He should go the UN and demand an investigation of what seems to be a bona fide war crime. What does Israel stand to lose, if for once it should let international law take its course, instead of breaking it? Will the coming blow will show any different results from the previous ones? Take a deep breath, let the blood recede from your eyes, let’s talk this over; don’t make decisions when you’re in this state.

C.      Fear for civilian life: The IDF does not know how to fight without harming civilians – even assuming that i wants to. Much of its lore is fighting against civilians, making them a pre-mediated target. This began in the late 1960s, with the bombing of the Suez Canal cities, and reached its climax in operations Grapes of Wrath and Law and Judgment in 1990s Lebanon – both of which directly attacked the population so that it would pressure its government to end the fighting. Barak led one directly and was involved in the planning of the other. Politically and diplomatically, Israel cannot afford another such operation, particularly not after Cast Lead.

D.     The suspicion of a putsch: A large segment of the Israeli people will not believe that a major offensive – which will entail the calling up of reserves – is the result of today’s attack. Given that one deputy minister, Ayoub Qara, already asked the tent-towns of the J14 protests to go home, and given that this morning saw particularly heavy fighting between the Treasury and the Ministry of Defense, this suspicion would be very hard to disperse. Particularly when the minister in charge is Ehud Barak, whose cynicism is only rivaled by the hatred the public feels for him.

Let’s, for once, not open fire as our first move. If this fails, we can always fire later.