By Rabbi Yossi Jacobson / TheYeshiva.net
Over the last few days, As Israeli troops entered Gaza to search for the Hamas tunnels and rocket launching sites, over 40 Israeli soldiers have been killed. Many civilians in Gaza lost their lives too.
I am afraid Israel may be repeating a mistake it has made thrice before.
On July 26, 2006, nine Israeli soldiers died and 27 others were injured as they were searching homes for Hezbollah fighters in the hardest day of fighting in southern Lebanon since the war began two weeks earlier. The Israeli press reported at the time that officers in the Israeli army brigades charged that the IDF employed insufficient force before the soldiers were deployed. Once civilians had been told to leave the town, the officers said, the army should have regarded Bint Jbail as a battlefield and destroyed from the air any home where Hezbollah guerrillas were suspected of hiding, instead of sending the soldiers into the line of fire.
Israel committed the same error in Jenin, in April 2002. As the suicide bombings created rivers of blood in Israel, the IDF finally entered Jenin, the stronghold of the terrorists. The hand-to-hand, door-to-door combat among dozens of houses booby-trapped by Palestinian fighters claimed the lives of 23 Israeli soldiers. Israel did not want to cause the civilian casualties that come with aerial bombardment, as has happened everywhere from Dresden, to Grozny, to Kabul, involving nations from Russia to Britain, to the United States. So it sacrificed its soldiers to save Arab lives. Notwithstanding this, civilians who chose not to leave were caught in the crossfire, and Israel was charged with perpetrating a massacre, and was investigated by the UN.
Israel should not repeat the same mistake in July 2014, subjecting its children to death in order to please pacifists who will criticize the Jewish state regardless.
The main battle is presently taking place in the Gaza border neighborhoods — Shejaiya, Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun and others — where thousands of Israeli soldiers are searching, house to house, for the tunnel entrances. Hamas gunmen have sought to surprise the Israeli soldiers by rising out of the earth from these openings, and firing, and Israel is paying a heavy price. Soldiers have been killed in booby-trapped buildings. Many died when their armored personnel carrier was hit by an anti-tank missile in Shejaiya. The losses are mounting.
Israel ought to consider changing its strategy. After instructing civilians to leave these regions, Israel should reduce these sections of Gaza to rubble. When the civilian population will be convinced that Israel is serious, it will leave, despite Hamas warning them to stay and die (Obviously, those who choose to stay by volition are naturally responsible for the results). After a complete bombing of these locations, ensuring that the Hamas fighters are gone, Israeli troops will be able to enter and destroy the terror infrastructure of tunnels and rockets with less casualties.
This would not only spare the lives of Israelis, but also of Arab civilians in Gaza, who will not get caught in the crossfire with Hamas.
Why should Jewish mothers be burying their children who are fighting like lions for their homeland, just because we are afraid of world-opinion to bomb Gaza from the air? Why are we sending our children to confront Hamas in face to face battles? We have made this error before and paid for it dearly.
What is more, this strategy will end the conflict quicker and will allow Israel to eliminate much of the Hamas terror infrastructure. If not, the present war will end with no decisive victory, and will only create a lull till Hamas decides to strike again, which will only cause the deaths of many more Gaza civilians.
Those who will condemn Israel for reducing regions of Gaza into rubble are doing so regardless. Even as Jewish soldiers today die to save Palestinian lives, Israel is being accused of war crimes. Israel will be blamed no matter what it does. A statement made by the United Nations Human Rights Council on July 23 accused Israel of committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip and calling for an investigation into its operation there. Rather than investigate Hamas, which is firing rockets at Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians, and turning hospitals into military command centers, it puts the blame on Israel.
The critics of Israel care about Arab children in Gaza less than you care about turtles in New Zealand. Where was the outcry over the thousands of children murdered in Syria? Where is the outcry against Hamas who is directly responsible for the deaths of these poor children in Gaza by hiding among them and forcing Israel to strike at these vulnerable locations?
Conversely, those who appreciate Israel’s moral right to defend its people, crave that Israel finish the job swiftly. Let Israel not hesitate of doing what is best for security because of fear of world-opinion.
Let Israel not repeat the disaster of summer 1982. In June of that year, Israel entered Lebanon to eliminate Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization, which had been terrorizing Israel’s northern cities and towns. Just as the army stood on the verge of total victory, the military’s hands were tied. The Israeli army waited futilely on the outskirts of Beirut instead of swiftly completing its objectives. Israel could have warned all civilians to leave the areas of fighting and then reduced the suitable regions in Beirut to rubble, finishing the war with fewer deaths on both sides. Instead, the casualties grew from day to day, the results were catastrophic for Israelis and for Arabs, and the PLO survived and thrived.
The Palestinian Authority held popular elections across the West Bank and Gaza for the Palestinian legislature in 2006. Hamas won a majority. It has ruled in Gaza since. The people chose Hamas, knowing that its mission statement is the destruction of Israel.
Notwithstanding this, Israel rightfully wishes to protect the lives of civilians in Gaza. The best way to do so is by incessant aerial bombardment.