Helpless Against Two-Bit Terrorists

Israel is at a loss as to how to deal with the “drizzle” of rockets from Gaza that seriously disrupts life for more than a million citizens in the south of the country. That was the message of Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman, the head of the IDF Southern Command, when he met this week with the heads of towns bordering Gaza.

Turgeman told the meeting, convened following a spate of rocket attacks, including one that triggered sirens in Ashkelon, that the IDF wasn’t going to go to war to put a stop to sporadic fire. What he didn’t say is what, exactly, Israel is going to do about terrorists who take pot shots at its civilians with Grad missiles.

That’s been the $64,000 question ever since the disastrous “disengagement” was executed 10 years ago. The architect of the pullout, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, warned that the Palestinians wouldn’t “dare” start up, that the very first missile would be reciprocated with such massive firepower that there would never be a second.

We’ll never know if Sharon’s threat was mere bravado, since he was out of office within six months due to a stroke that put him in a coma, but it’s clear that the world would never countenance massive missile fire on Gaza in response to a single rocket, or two or 200. We’ve seen the response when Israel fights a limited war — after being slammed with thousands of rockets — using expensive, camera-guided missiles to kill terrorists with minimal collateral damage.

Sharon’s son, Gilad, wrote an op-ed in 2007, suggesting that Israel simply cut electricity to Gaza as a means of persuading the terrorists to stop firing rockets. “A power cut of five minutes after the first Kassem rocket, 15 minutes after the second, and half a day after the 10th,” he wrote in Yediot Aharonot. “We cannot, nor do we want to pull out every despicable terrorist from his hole, but we can pull the plug.

“It is, of course, impossible to live without electricity nowadays, but it is also impossible to continue living the way Sderot residents are living.”

What Sharon, the son, forgot is that while the world will respond forcefully to ensure that Palestinians get electricity, it won’t lift a finger to protect the residents of Sderot.

How about closing the Kerem Shalom and Erez border crossings between Israel and Gaza, through which Israel permits hundreds of trucks a day of food, building materials, medicines and humanitarian aid of all sorts?

That was tried this week — for all of 36 hours. (Medical care continued uninterrupted.) More than that, the thinking goes, would be punishing the citizens of Gaza who are desperate for assistance, especially after last summer’s war.

Israel can’t even punish Hamas, the ruling power in Gaza, because it is having difficulty reining in all the splinter groups that are aligning themselves with Islamic State. In other words, Hamas, which was once the extremist anti-establishment terror group, bucking the rule of the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority, is now the establishment that is helpless to control ever more extreme terror groups.

The withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 has made Israel vulnerable to terror groups in the north, with a cache of more than 100,000 missiles. The withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 has put the IDF — the “strongest military power in the Middle East” — at the mercy of tiny Salafist groups like the “Omar Brigades” which claimed responsibility for the recent rocket-firings in the south.

Israel’s solution has been to go on the defensive. It moved additional Iron Dome anti-missile batteries to the south. Last week it held a huge Home Front Command drill to prepare for, R”l, a massive missile war starting off in the north and spreading to the south, with the entire country coming under attack.

The scenario presented to those participating in the exercise was a conflagration beginning very slowly, an isolated missile falling here and there. This is followed by a terrorist infiltration attempt in the Golan Heights and a road mine exploding on Highway 6 in the center of the country, causing casualties.

Little by little, the missiles and terror attacks increase in frequency — a bombing on the Israeli Railways — Hamas joins in the action, Israel calls up emergency reserves, hundreds, then thousands of rockets start falling… That’s the scenario that the army sees as realistic and is preparing for.

The message is twofold. One, based on its past experience with withdrawals, Israel must take extreme care when approaching talks with the Palestinians, if and when they are renewed.

Most importantly, Israel’s strength and source of protection is so clearly not based on its military might. When even the generals themselves can offer no straight answers for how they will protect the citizenry, it must be obvious to all that Israel can only rely on Shomer Yisrael.

May we merit continued Divine protection for Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael.

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