March 24, 2012
By GILAD SHARON
When the next large ground offensive in the Gaza Strip is over, there still won’t be complete calm forever. But it will have had an effect. When it occurs, the IDF will collect thousands of rockets, thousands of weapons and tons of explosives. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of terrorists will be killed or arrested. The heads of the terrorist organizations – Hamas and the others – will disappear. Others will replace them, but they too will be dealt with in their time.
Unfortunately, civilians will also suffer; this will be combat in the most congested area in the world. We, too, will probably incur casualties. But after the cleaning- up operation, let’s call it “Defensive Shield in Gaza,” the IDF will be able to enter the territory whenever it is deemed necessary, and arrest a terrorist or two.
Operation Defensive Shield in Gaza must be different from Operation Cast Lead, the offensive conducted by the IDF in the Gaza Strip from December 27, 2008, to January 18, 2009. That operation was seen as a success, even though a true investigation, if it were held, would show that it wasn’t. Once upon a time, the IDF took over the whole of Sinai in four days, but that was 45 years ago. During Cast Lead, the IDF didn’t even take control of the 360 square kilometers that is the Gaza Strip. The rocket fire did not stop as a result of the operation, but merely subsided due to the cease-fire. The only thing that was “burned in our memory” was that idiotic expression itself.
Those arguing that dealing with Gaza now would be a mistake as it would deflect attention from Iran should think again.
Besides addressing the fact that almost a million Israelis have been in rocket range for far too long, dealing with Gaza would also make it clear to the world that we mean what we say. “We won’t accept rocket fire on our communities” is like saying “we won’t agree to any more heat waves” – unless we do something about it.
A perpetuation of the current situation, ostensibly so as not to interfere with the Iranian issue, will only create the perception that we are weak, a people whose word is meaningless. What other conclusion can be drawn when a nation is prepared to accept having 200,000 of its children under fire, not going to kindergarten and school, and sleeping in bomb shelters and protected rooms? It could have been different – the IDF could have dealt a strong blow to the infrastructure in Gaza in response to terror. Let them sit in Gaza without electricity, in the dark, without gas or moving cars. That is what the citizens of Gaza have chosen, so that is what they should get.
Or, it would have been possible to carry out targeted killings of the terrorist organizations’ leaders; the price for a mortar shell on Kibbutz Nir Oz would be, say, the head of Ismail Haniyeh (the Hamas prime minister). This would have provided Hamas with real incentive to maintain the quiet.
But the government won’t do any of these things – because if it had the will to do so, it would have done it some time ago. That’s why Defensive Shield in Gaza is the only remaining option. To say that the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza turned the territory into a center of terror (as if it was previously a branch of Disneyland) is like saying that if you have a snakes’ nest near your home, the only way to fight it is to live inside it.
The writer is the son of former prime minister Ariel Sharon and author of Sharon: The Life of a Leader.