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July 06, 2006 - Image 30

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2006-07-06

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to exercise maximum restraint and
to "count the shells" that the Israel
Defense Forces fired into Gaza.
Indeed, when Kassams were smash-
ing into Sderot last week and Mr.
Peretz's neighbors were on a hunger
strike in front of his house, the defense
minister was in Jerusalem stump-
ing for his candidates in the Jewish
Agency elections.
Israel's inaction has provided a
bonanza to Hamas. By demonstrating
that disengagement impaired rather
than enhanced Israeli security, Hamas
has dissuaded many Israelis from sup-
porting a similar withdrawal from the
West Bank, fpm where Kassams could
be launched at Tel Aviv and the Ben-
Gurion airport.
By firing the rockets from densely
populated neighborhoods, the
Palestinians have forced Israel to kill
and wound civilian bystanders, sul-
lying its reputation abroad. Indeed,
many world leaders and virtually all of

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The damage to
Israel's image will
likely be temporary.

the press hastened to condemn Israel
for allegedly firing a shell onto a Gaza
beach that killed eight Palestinians.
That the IDF denied firing the shell
and that the Palestinians destroyed
exculpatory evidence by gouging
shrapnel from the victims' limbs
could not repair the damage to Israel's
image.
Collateral damage not only hurts
Israel's international standing, it also
divides the country internally. Many
Israelis grieve over the deaths of inno-
cent Palestinians, even those incurred
in successful strikes against terrorists.
Israel's Supreme Court is now con-
sidering two lawsuits against the IDF,
both filed by Israelis, for unintention-
ally killing 15 civilians while success-
fully targeting Hamas commander
Selah Shahada in 2002.
The deaths of more than a dozen
Palestinian civilians by Israeli fire
in the last few weeks has further
widened these schisms, pinning the
government between the leftists who
denounce its callousness and the gen-
erals who disdain its sheepishness.
An Israeli raid into Gaza will almost
certainly result in a frightful number
of civilian deaths. The press will once

again focus on funerals and mourn-
ing families and forget the reason for
Israel's action. Israelis will once again
agonize over whether these casualties
were justified or avoidable.
Palestinians will not be the only
ones killed. Hundreds of Kassams fell
on Sderot but it took the deaths of two
soldiers and the kidnapping of a third
to move the government to consider
major military action.
Soldiers are Israel's Everyman — or
rather Everychild — and Israelis are
acutely sensitive to their safety. Yet in
retaliating for the rocket attacks and
trying to free the hostage, the IDF will
almost certainly suffer casualties.
After a few days of heated battles
and accusations of Israeli atrocities,
the government will be compelled to
extract its forces from Gaza, but not
all the soldiers will be going home.
And the rockets will keep raining on
Sderot.
Posing as defenders of the land,
Hamas will be made more, not less,
popular by the Israeli attack, and Abu
Mazen will be commensurately weak-
ened. Mr. Olmert will be unable to
proceed on convergence and the Israeli
right will begin its inexorable return
to office.
There is, however, one way to avert
a public relations disaster for Israel, to
limit casualties, and to restore Israel's
deterrence power: Israel must return
to the targeted-killing policy that
enabled Mr. Sharon to triumph over
terrorist organizations.
Israel must target those Palestinians
who order others to fire rockets from
within civilian areas but whose fami-
lies are located safely away from the
firing zones. No Hamas or Islamic
Jihad leader should be immune from
such reprisals — neither Prime
Minister Ismail Haniya nor Khaled
Meshal, who masterminds Hamas
from Damascus.
Though there is certain to be some
international backlash, the damage to
Israel's image will likely be temporary.
Who today remembers Abdel Aziz
Ranitisi and Sheikh Yassin?
Those responsible for causing
injury and death to both Israelis and
Palestinians must pay the ultimate
price. Only then can quiet be restored
to Israel's borders and progress toward
either unilateral or negotiated solu-
tions resumed. E

Michael Oren, senior fellow at the Shalom

Center in Jerusalem, is author of "Six Days

of War" (Oxford, 2002). This commentary

first appeared in the Wall Street Journal

on June 28.

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