In Gaza, there is no such thing as ‘innocent civilians’

Op-ed: Fighting an enemy state with one hand while supplying food and energy to its residents with the other hand is absurd.

Giora Eiland, YNET NEWS

Regardless of how Protective Edge ends, this operation appears to have one clear lesson, which doesn’t have to do with the tunnel issue but with a more strategic question. Israel is repeatedly falling into the asymmetry trap.

The story we are telling in this conflict is similar to the one we told in Lebanon in 2006. In this story we are fighting a terror organization, and only a terror organization, while the population the organization is operating from is not the enemy. Moreover, during the fighting we even feel obligated to supply Gaza’s residents with food, fuel and electricity.

Why is that wrong? Because a state cannot defeat an efficient guerilla organization if the following three conditions exist: We and they are on two sides of a border; the organization enjoys the full protection of a state; their state or its citizens are not an accountable side. Whoever fails to understand that is entering a war without an ability to win.

We are seeing now that despite the IDF’s impressive fighting, despite the absolute military supremacy, we are in a sort of “strategic tie.”

What would have been the right thing to do? We should have declared war against the state of Gaza (rather than against the Hamas organization), and in a war as in a war. The moment it begins, the right thing to do is to shut down the crossings, prevent the entry of any goods, including food, and definitely prevent the supply of gas and electricity.

In a war between states, each side is entitled to use its ability to pressure the other side. The fact that we are fighting with one hand and supplying food and energy to the enemy state with the other hand is absurd. This generosity strengthens and extends the ability of the enemy state of Gaza to fight us.

You probably have two questions now. First, why should Gaza’s residents suffer? Well, they are to blame for this situation just like Germany’s residents were to blame for electing Hitler as their leader and paid a heavy price for that, and rightfully so.

Hamas is not a terror organization which came from afar and forcibly occupied Gaza. It’s the authentic representative of the population there. It rose to power following democratic elections and built an impressive military ability with the residents’ support. Its power base has remained stable despite the suffering.

The second question is about the international legitimacy. The answer is simple: Israel was willing and is still willing to reach a real ceasefire at any moment. The Gazans’ suffering is not the result of the Israeli pressure but of their support, through their elected government, for an armed struggle. This suffering could instantly if they accept a ceasefire.

Because we want to be compassionate towards those cruel people, we are committing to act cruelly towards the really compassionate people – the residents of the State of Israel.

This is relevant not only to the lessons of the conflict but also to what is expected to happen tomorrow. It’s reasonable to assume that as soon as the fire ceases, we will be under heavy pressure to open up the crossing, restore the electricity lines to Gaza and help rebuild buildings and infrastructure. Israel can and should agree, but only if the other side agrees to demilitarize the Strip of heavy weapons.

In order to guarantee our interests versus the other side’s demands, we must avoid the artificial, wrong and dangerous distinction between the Hamas people, who are “the bad guys,” and Gaza’s residents, which are allegedly “the good guys.” We are dealing with an enemy state, not with a terror organization which is seemingly operating from within an innocent civilian population.

Only when we put things on the level between states or between people, we will be able to create real deterrence or defeat the enemy when the next conflict erupts.

Major-General (res.) Giora Eiland is a former head of Israel’s National Security Council.

August 5, 2014 | 2 Comments »

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  1. Only when we put things on the level between states or between people, we will be able to create real deterrence or defeat the enemy when the next conflict erupts.

    Since when Gaza has become a state? Considering Gaza a ‘sovereign state’ is a wrong assumption!

    Israel is considered by many as a responsible party for the well-being of those in Gaza to a lesser degree.

    The main problem in this war is one sided negative info disseminated by western liberal mass media. This should be continuously exposed now and after the war is over.

    If Israel’s goodness to its enemies has been told to the entire world and the image of Hamas firing from crowded places, mosques, schools etc. have been shown, the international community’s negative reaction towards Israel could have been minimized.

  2. Israel needs to operate diplomatically with a different paradigm. It should always deflect questions and criticism from the needs or desires of the enemy to the needs and desires of Israelis. It must demonstrate that the enemy concerns are not a priority and will only get atttention AFTER they satisfy israel’s needs.
    Question:
    what about pal suffering
    answer: ask hamas, when they demilitarize and stop aggression we will think about that.
    Question:
    what about the many civilian pal deaths
    dont know, ask hamas when they will stop firing becuase that is when their people will stop dying.
    Israel has no responsibility or obligations to hamas including an obligation to demonstrate humanitarianism to those seeking dead jewish children.
    Those govs and civilians who elect them must deservedly suffer until they cease the desire to kill Jewish children. In the same way we incarcerate criminals and the insane, their suffering and convenience is the last priority, so should the gazanzs be treated as long as their governing charter and behavior demonstrates a desire to kill the jews.
    Gazan people are the enemy of the the Jews, the jew killers, not just their gov.
    THE PEOPLE OF GAZA DESERVE TO SUFFER!