Israel: Aiming For the Brain


February 28, 2008: As a democracy, Israel cannot ignore threats to its citizens. So the continued rocket attacks on southern Israel create a public outcry for a solution. Moving Israeli troops out of Gaza three years ago was supposed to be a solution, but it wasn't. Israelis can access Palestinian media, and all they see is the same old "kill the Jews and destroy Israel" propaganda (from both Fatah and Hamas, although the Hamas stuff is more strident and abundant.) So Israel is increasingly applying the same tactics in Gaza (go after the terrorist leadership and technical experts) that worked to stop the Palestinian suicide bombing campaign that began in 2000 (and was defeated by 2005). Even most pacifist Israelis have given up on trying to make deals with the Palestinians. There are too many Palestinian factions, conditioned by a century of "kill the Jews" propaganda, that will not abide by any deal, and will keep trying to kill Israelis.

Defensive measures often have serious limitations. For example, the Palestinian rocket attacks on the town (Sderot) closest to Gaza, continue to kill and wound and Israelis. The "Iron Dome" anti-rocket system Israel is building will not, it turns out, protect Sderot, because the town is too close (two kilometers) to where the rockets are launched. Iron Dome is designed to take down missiles fired from at least four kilometers away. That might change, because the basic problem is time. Missiles fired from two kilometers away arrive in 9-10 seconds, which is before Iron Dome can react. Some Israeli army commanders want to reoccupy part of northern Gaza, to force the Palestinians to launch their rockets four kilometers from Sderot. In the last year, these rockets have killed two Israelis, and wounded dozens more. Israeli attacks on the terrorist groups responsible have left over 300 Palestinians dead. The Israeli shift to mainly targeting the terrorist leaders and technicians has the best chance, in the near term, of crippling the Hamas attacks. The increased Israeli attacks are apparently the result of improved intelligence within Gaza, probably the result of Fatah ordering its supporters there to aid the Israelis in targeting the Hamas leadership.

In the meantime, Israel continues its blockade of Gaza, allowing only food and medical supplies through. This has made Gaza Palestinians angry, but also apathetic and fearful. Hamas is running a police state, so the feelings of the average Palestinian have little impact. The blockade has enraged many Europeans, who are calling for diplomatic, economic and legal moves against Israel for "war crimes." Many Israelis see this as the old European anti-Semitism, which led to the Nazi mass murder of six million Jews during World War II (with the cooperation of officials and citizens in many European countries). But the Palestinians see such support as one of the few weapons they have left. However, an increasing number of Arabs are getting tired of the Palestinian inability to work out a peace deal. These Arabs have come to recognize that the Israelis are trying harder to make a deal than the Palestinians are. Moreover, Arabs public opinion has turned against the Islamic terrorists, mainly because of the murderous tactics used by Islamic terrorists in Iraq, and elsewhere in the Arab world. The Palestinians are running out of allies, and options. It's the Palestinians who are best able to control the radicals, whose violence is preventing any peace deal from being made, or kept. Fatah is trying to organize a "resistance" against Hamas, within Gaza. But so far, Hamas has proved too powerful for that to work. But after a few months of concentrated Israeli attacks on Hamas leadership, that may change.

Fourteen members of the Al Asqa Martyrs Brigades "escaped" from a Palestinian prison in the West Bank. The men were terrorists working for Fatah, and had been in jail for a month. Such incidents are all too common, and are the main reason Israel does not trust Palestinian efforts to crack down on terrorism. The terrorists were supposed to spend three months in a Palestinian prison in order to get taken off Israeli lists of known terrorists. But the men, who can leave the prison during the day, say the living conditions are not adequate and refuse to abide by the deal.

Meanwhile, Fatah accuses Hamas of allowing al Qaeda to set up shop in Gaza. Hamas denies this, but more non-Palestinian Islamic terrorists are showing up in Gaza, which has become one of the few sanctuaries in the world for these guys. Groups claiming to be allied with Al Qaeda are openly operating in Gaza.

In Lebanon, Hizbollah is still fuming over the recent killing of terrorist leader Imad Mughniyeh in Syria. Now Hizbollah threatens to make attacks against Israeli targets outside of Israel. This has not been done much in the past because Hizbollah relied on fund raising and recruiting among Moslems (especially Shia) living outside the Middle East (especially in the West). But in the past few years, Western counter-terror efforts have cracked down on both of these activities anyway. So there is real fear that the furor over Mughniyeh's death will encourage Hizbollah to branch out into international terrorism. The downside of this is increased international efforts against Hizbollah. Logic, however, does not always play with Hizbollah and the Islamic radicals in the Iranian government who provide money and weapons for the Lebanese based Hizbollah. Then again, the Iranian Islamic radicals are on the defensive at home, where Iranians are increasingly angry over how the religious dictatorship has mismanaged the economy, and stepped up use of religious police to enforce rules on how people are supposed to live (no entertainment, dress codes for young men and women, press censorship, etc). Going international with their terrorism would be a big mistake for Hizbollah, but they just might do it.




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