Thursday, January 1, 2009

Israelis Have a Right to Live

Consider what you'd expect of your government if you lived in the Greater Waterbury area and a single rocket was launched at your community from Danbury, by a terror group that also happened to have been elected to govern Danbury.

Consider what you'd expect of your government if on some days not a single rocket, but dozens, were launched at your community.

Consider what you'd expect of your government if, over a course of eight years, thousands of such rockets were launched at your community, perhaps most landing in open fields, but hundreds hitting cars, homes and schools and many causing injuries and even death.

We know how President-elect Barack Obama would react. He said "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that."

Our incoming president said that while visiting tiny Sderot, whose residents have been terrorized by just that sort of rocket barrage from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups in Gaza ever since Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority rejected peace and the establishment of another Palestinian Arab state in 2000.

Gaza-based terrorists launched 4 rockets in the last four months of 2001, 35 in 2002, 155 in 2003, 281 in 2004, 179 in 2005, 946 in 2006, 896 in 2007, 1212 in 2008 through November, hundreds of which were launched during a six-month "cease-fire," observed by Hamas mostly in the breech. Hundreds more were fired at Israel in December.

At first the rockets were almost all crude Kassams, with a range of just a few kilometers, aimed at Jewish communities in and around the Gaza Strip. As the years went on, the range of the Kassams increased and they were joined with Grads, mostly imported from Iran. One Grad rocket, which on the last day of 2008 hit the school where my beautiful cousin Karen, expecting to give birth to her first child any day now, teaches was made in China.

One trait all these rockets have in common is they have absolutely no military value. They have no guidance system and serve just one purpose: to terrorize ordinary people and make life unlivable.

It's almost impossible for the ordinary person to imagine why Palestinian Arabs resort to behavior so alien to the Western mind. They claim many grievances against Israel. Their terrorist actions would be totally unjustified even if their grievances were real, but even those are grievances are phony.

One hears false accusations, for example, that Gaza is occupied, yet Israel completely left Gaza more than three years ago, even uprooting every Jew living there, leaving Gaza judenrein. Israel has actually left most of Gaza eleven years earlier, handing over the administration of all the Arab-inhabited areas to the Palestinian Authority back in 1994.

One hears false accusations that Israel has imposed a siege on Gaza, depriving its residents of needed food, fuel and medicine, yet even during the current hostilities Israel has been transferring huge amounts of such items to the people in Gaza. Gaza also shares a border with Egypt, so Israel couldn't possibly prevent those items from reaching Gaza unless Egypt was doing the same. There is certainly no shortage in Gaza of inessential items such as mortars along with Kassam and Grad rockets.

One hears assertions that the people of Gaza are mired in poverty. This is one of the few assertions which is true, but even here the blame neither lies with Israel nor justifies launching Kassams at Israeli civilians.

Gaza was sorely neglected from 1948 to 1967, the period during which it was occupied by Egypt. By almost all objective standards, things improved dramatically after the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel found itself saddled with Gaza.

Under Israel's administration, roads, schools and hospitals were built. The economy, fueled by the wages Arabs were able to earn in Israel, grew at a fast pace. Infant mortality, generally considered one of the most reliable indicator of health care, dropped tremendously.

All these improvements stopped only with the onset of the first intifada in the late 1980's, with conditions going downhill when most of Gaza came under the administration of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, getting worse when the Palestinian Arabs launched their second intifada after rejecting a peace that would have brought them an independent state in September 2000, and got even worse when Israel left completely in 2005.

Meanwhile, rockets keep falling on Israeli civilians and, as they say in Hebrew, ayn breira, the government has no choice: it has to defend its people.

For eight years, Israel has tried almost everything short of war.

Israel has tried cease-fire after cease-fire; unfortunately, the Palestinian Arab definition of cease-fire seems to be that Israel ceases to go after the terrorists firing at its citizens. (Of course, when Israel targets those shooting at it during a cease-fire, it gets condemned for violating the cease-fire!)

Israel has tried pinpoint attacks on rocket squads, but the Kassams and Grads are both hidden in homes, schools and even hospitals and mosques and can be set up and launched quickly, so this isn't very effective. It also leads to civilian casualties among Palestinian Arabs, since the launches are so often from heavily populated areas. (It is said that for Hamas, if innocent Israelis are murdered, that's good, but if Palestinian Arab civilians get killed, that's even better.)

Israel has tried going after the terrorist leaders, only to be accused of targeted assassinations. (Under the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority is supposed to turn terrorists over to Israel; that's just one the many provisions of the Oslo Accords the Palestinian Arabs have egregiously violated.)

Israel has tried negotiations, but it has nothing left to negotiate, having completely left Gaza. There's nothing else Israel can offer the Palestinian Arabs other than Israel itself.

That, of course, is the real crux of the matter. Hamas has no interest in peace, or even in a Palestinian Arab state living in peace next to Israel; as enshrined in its charter, its purpose is the replacement of Israel by a Palestinian Arab state.

Ultimately, ayn breira, Israel has no choice. There being no possibility of peace as long as Hamas exists in anything resembling its current form, Hamas must either be eliminated or completely disabused of ever achieving its goal.

Israel has thus embarked on an operation, with the absurd name "Operation Cast Lead," which even the relatively moderate Arab countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia apparently hope will succeed, even as they are publicly critical. (Egypt and Saudi Arabia are only slightly less at risk from the Muslim Brotherhood than is Israel.)

Israel began with air attacks on Hamas installations. Thanks to the extraordinary care Israel took to minimize civilian casualties, including phone calls to thousands of homes containing or near rocket and weapons storehouses, collateral damage has been surprisingly light.

Unsurprisingly, many voices which have been silent while Israeli civilians were targeted with Kassams and Grads for the last eight years, not to mention suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks since even before the reestablishment of Israel six decades ago, have suddenly risen to protest and demand an end to "violence by both sides," as if there was a moral equivalence between Arab terror and Israel defense against terror.

Some, while paying lip service to Israel's right to defend its citizens, even accuse Israel of a "disproportionate" response. This is patently absurd, since thus far Israel's response has not only not been disproportionate, but has been insufficient to convince Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Arab terror groups to stop launching rockets at Israeli civilians.

Israel will almost certainly have to step up its efforts, including the use of ground troops, in order to permanently stop the launching of rockets. It will be a difficult operation, made even more problematic by international pressure for another counterproductive cease-fire which would serve the purpose of giving Hamas an opportunity to replenish its stocks of Kassams and Grads and further increase their range.

Iran, which has supplied Hamas with many of the longer range Grads, as it and Syria have (in violation of Security Council resolutions) supplied Hezbollah with Katyushas, is also developing missiles which can reach Western Europe and eventually America. It is also developing nuclear warheads with which to arm those missiles.

Israel may be the country being hit by Iranian missiles now, but if Israel doesn't put an end to them, it will not be the last. If for no other reason, it is thus in the interest of the entire democratic Western world, including the United States, that Hamas and the other fanatical Islamist terror groups be defeated. The more we equivocate and the more we try to get Israel to reach an accommodation with with terrorists unwilling to compromise, the more we put ourselves at risk.

But the bottom line goes even beyond that self-interest. The bottom line is really just that, like everyone else, Israelis have the right to live and their government not only has the right, but the obligation, to ensure that right.

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