Responding to the recent escalation of rocket fire stemming from the Gaza strip, IDF Chief Benny Gantz addressed the Israeli Knesset’s Defense Committee and stated that the Israeli army will eventually have to “launch a major offensive in Gaza,” in order to restore security to the southern Israeli cities that are under constant attack.
If and when the IDF launches a military offensive in the Gaza strip it would be the second of such operations since Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2006, which ended all military presence in Gaza and uprooted thousands of Israeli residents from the Gush Katif settlements.
While many in Israel thought that quiet would prevail as a result of the disengagement, the exact opposite has been true.
Since Israel’s evacuation of Gaza, Hamas has violently taken control of the strip and has launched a campaign of terror against the Jewish state. Islamic Jihad – which like Hamas receives support from Iran – has flourished in the Hamas ruled Gaza and is now responsible for many of the rocket attacks against Israel.
Israelis understand the necessity of launching a military offensive in Gaza to diminish the power of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and to deter terrorists from continuing to fire rockets into southern Israel. However, there is a great concern that anything short of retaking control of the strip and establishing the IDF as the sole power in Gaza will not lead to long term security in southern Israel.
Therefore, the more hawkish Israeli citizens believe that the army should reassert its power in Gaza to permanently root out Hamas and Islamic Jihad. However, realistically speaking Israel is not going to retake control of the Gaza strip in light of the political and diplomatic consequences that would ensue. Hence, any future operation in Gaza will be limited to destroying smuggling tunnels and terrorist training bases, confiscating or obliterating all weapons that are found, as well as capturing or killing Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists.
Unfortunately, a limited operation will only lead to temporary security for southern Israel. Even a highly successful military campaign will only deter Hamas and Islamic Jihad for a few months to a year, before the rockets start flying again.
Do we honestly expect the Israeli citizens of the south to live under such intolerable circumstances indefinitely?