Thursday, May 15, 2008

Countering the Qassam

Photo: Amos Yadlin (IDF)

The capabilities that the Palestinians demonstrated with yesterday's rocket attack on Ashqelon are impressive. Despite the limitations placed on them by the blockade and by occasional IDF operations, the terrorist groups in Gaza have consistently upgraded the range and power of their missiles. In comments to Ha'aretz today, Amos Yadlin, head of AMA"N (Military Intelligence Department), warned that two years from now, even Be'er Sheva might become a target. He did not announce any specific initiatives to forestall this threat.

The aims of Hamas and the other groups rocketing Israel's southern communities are various. One of the goals seems to be to pressure Israel into a truce that would result in lifting the "siege," whose effects have of course been greatly exaggerated by Hamas propagandists. Paradoxically, the Palestinians are trying to achieve this by demonstrating their ability to bomb Israeli civilians and by blowing up crossing points designed for the delivery of food and fuel.

Another aim of Hamas, which Yadlin also acknowledged in comments to the press, is to create deterrence against Israel comparable to the deterrence that Hizbullah achieved. Just like Hizbullah, Hamas wants to be able to strike at will deep into Israeli territory, turning Israeli civilians into its hostages in order to ensure that the IDF does not attack Hamas's fighters and leadership in Gaza.

These two aims suggest a number of different responses.
  1. Israel might agree to a truce and to the conditions imposed by Hamas, in return for an end to rocket attacks (diplomatic solution)
  2. Israel might acquiesce to Hamas's regime of deterrence and cease attacking its forces, in the hopes of quiet
  3. Israel can opt for its own policy of deterrence (military and economic)
  4. offensive operations to destroy the Palestinians' rocket-firing capabilities (military)
  5. defensive measures to limit the impact of the rocket strikes (military)
The problems with these options are as follows:
  1. Gives Hamas time to build up its forces for the next round; given the organization's ideology and support/pressure from Syria and Iran, it will not be turned into a pacific neighbor
  2. Same as above without even a formal set of protections; liable to break down at any moment.
  3. Hamas does not care if Palestinian civilians die as a result of IDF operations; in fact, images of civilian deaths or injuries aid its cause.
  4. the IDF has so far proven unable to do this; its efforts in this area during the Lebanon War of 2006 were unimpressive.
  5. expensive and so far ineffective
As I have said before, none of these options are particularly appealing or likely to be effective in ensuring the long-term interests of the state and its population. For this reason, I do not anticipate any changes in Israeli or Palestinian policy over the next 2 years but rather a continuation of the type of attrition that we have observed since the withdrawal from Gaza. I also doubt that we will see the release of Gilad Shalit anytime soon.

1 comment:

zhopa said...

why should Hamas free Shalit? how 'bout israhell to free 10 000 arab prisoners first?