Taking Lieberman’s Advice

How long are we going to stay there after the IDF has put the Qassams out of range, ask the perennial doubters. The answer is simple – as long as the children of Sderot will need protection.


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on September 6, 2007.)

Minister for Strategic Threats Avigdor Lieberman is finally making his weight felt around the cabinet table. The majority, including our new defense minister, it seems, is prepared to support his proposal of starving the population of Gaza into submission. This is not a case of the correct decision being taken after all other alternatives have been exhausted. It is rather a case of stubbornly rejecting the only effective means of keeping Sderot’s children out of range of Qassam rockets, and reaching for the most nonsensical, inhumane and ineffective of all alternatives – collective punishment.

The prime minister has already publicly issued the orders to the IDF: go after every launcher and kill every terrorist involved in launching Qassam rockets. And the Qassams keep coming. Rockets against the children of Sderot is not acceptable to us, we will not remain indifferent to this outrage, he says – so what else is new? His rhetoric does not seem to make much of an impression on those in Gaza who launch Qassams to greet Sderot’s children on the opening of the new school year.

There are no magic solutions and no one-shot solutions, he repeats interminably. In other words, the people in Sderot better get used to it.

In three years we will have a system which will intercept the Qassams in mid-air, the defense minister promises, so wait and see. Thick walls and reinforced concrete roofs will in time protect the citizens of Sderot in their homes, and their children in school, so have a little patience.

How are they going to get from home to school? Why not underground tunnels?

But the Qassams keep coming, and Islamic Jihad and Hamas are delivering stinging defeats day after day to the IDF. If Hezbollah could do it in Lebanon, why can’t they do it in Sderot? And they are doing it.

Now using the terminology of market economics, the government thinks it has come up with the answer – we shall attach a price to every Qassam launched against Israel. We will cut off water and electricity to the population of Gaza until they understand that this must stop. In other words, once starved and thirsty, they will force the terrorists to stop launching Qassams.

It won’t work. Collective punishment of civilian populations did not work in World War II, and it did not work when Vietnam was carpet-bombed, and it won’t work in Gaza under a Hamas leadership. It won’t last.

The international community will quickly mobilize help for the starving and the thirsty in Gaza. Water tankers will bring water from Egypt to Gaza, generators will be flown in from Europe, and Israel will be asked to contribute to this humanitarian cause. It is immoral, and not worthy of Israel, and the people of Israel will not stand for it.

The Qassam rockets are being launched from a distance of one to three kilometers from the wall surrounding the Gaza Strip. The only way to put a stop to this is for the IDF to enter Gaza to this depth, and put the Qassams out of range. There is no other way. Just as in the Second Lebanon War, the only way to stop the rocketing of Galilee was for IDF ground forces to reach the launching sites of the short-range rockets. Now the Olmert government, reinforced by the new defense minister, is repeating the same mistake they made then. Who cares about the Winograd report?

How long are we going to stay there after the IDF has put the Qassams out of range, ask the perennial doubters. The answer is simple – as long as the children of Sderot will need protection.

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