To defend itself, the Jewish state needs to arrest thousands of terrorists and launch deep rooted intelligence campaign in the Palestinian territory.
Imagine two thirds of America's population under rocket attack — 200 million men, women and children running to bomb shelters every hour, day after day, to avoid being maimed or killed by incoming projectiles. This nightmare scenario is the reality in Israel today, and must be ended by a strategic campaign to once and for all destroy the military infrastructure of terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.
As Egyptian brokered ceasefire talks continue, Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue to fire rockets on Israeli population centers in more than 40 cities. Since July 7, over 1,000 rockets have been fired. Five million Israelis, or two thirds of the population, have been under siege, and with only 15 to 90 seconds of warning, find themselves running to the nearest bomb shelter multiple times daily.
This tragic phenomenon is not new — since 2001 terrorist groups in Gaza have fired roughly 12,000 rockets into Israel, aiming at Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians. The result? The terrorists have managed to drag half of Israel's population into a war of attrition.
The issue for Israel is centered on three points:
- Hamas and other terrorist groups' access to weaponry;
- The ease with which such weaponry can be fired at Israeli civilians;
- and most significantly, the war crime of hiding such operations behind a human shield of Palestinian civilians.
Hamas knows well that the Israeli Defense Forces go to great lengths to avoid harming civilians in Gaza, even to a point of calling off important operations to protect them. And so, Israel must change the status quo on the above three points.
Until now, the terrorists have decided when to fire volleys of rockets and Israel has responded tactically with surgical airstrikes and ground incursions (e.g. Operations Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense and Protective Edge).
Now, the time is ripe to shift from tactical operations such as these to a strategic campaign that will dramatically diminish the terrorists' ability to harm Israel.
Such an initiative should not last for a month or two, but rather a year or two, in which security forces will arrest thousands of terrorists in Gaza, continue targeted airstrikes and produce the necessary intelligence to completely reformat terrorism in Gaza. Israel defeated suicide terrorism during the Second Intifada, and we can eradicate rocket terrorism with the same determination and cunning.
If Israel does not embark on such a campaign, it will continue living from one round of shooting to the next, with time intervals between rounds decreasing and rocket range increasing. As status quo Israeli airstrikes are decreasingly effective and as Hamas terrorists and their leaders act according to their capabilities, not according to Western logic, the time to act is now.
The Israeli leadership has an obligation to its citizens to stop the rockets from Gaza. No nation in the world could accept ongoing fire on its population. Neither will Israel.
Avi Dichter is a former Israeli internal security minister, homefront defense minister, Shin Bet director and Knesset member.
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