The Limits of Restraint

[Ynet News] Dan Schueftan - The war in Gaza is over the fate of regional radicalism and the myth of "resistance." In the second half of the previous century, the military struggle against Israel reached a dead-end. This perception started sinking into the Arab public's consciousness in the Six-Day War. It was institutionalized when the peace treaty removed Egypt from the cycle of active confrontation, when the superpower that armed the Arabs collapsed, and when Iraq's military power was eliminated. Ever since then, radical elements in the region have been seeking a replacement. When a proper response for suicide attacks was found, in the form of the security fence and Operation Defensive Shield (when the IDF retook control of the West Bank in 2002), the radicals turned to rockets. The Second Lebanon War illustrated that there is no military solution to rocket attacks on the home front, with the exception of permanent Israeli presence within the territory and population that hosts the threat. So the radicals reached the conclusion that they possess the ultimate weapon that would embitter Israel's existence and present it as helpless. The entrenchment of such perception in the Arab world poses a strategic threat to Israel. The war in Gaza was aimed at preventing the entrenchment of the perception that the rocket resistance in conjunction with Islamic zealotry is the ultimate weapon Israel cannot cope with. The strategic response is political willingness (in addition to military capabilities) to sow disproportional destruction and hurt the assets that are dear to those who fire rockets at Israeli population centers. The main objective is not to hit the last rocket, but rather, to enforce a fundamental change in the cost-benefit equation of the "resistance" by dramatically raising the cost. The results of the war will not be determined by the nature of the diplomatic agreement that ends it, but rather, by Israel's willingness to pulverize Hamas during the war, and especially to respond to the first rocket launched after the war. Destruction in Gaza contributes to the prevention of war with Lebanon and Syria, assists Egypt and Jordan in fighting radical elements, and signals Israel's limits of restraint to Iran. The writer is deputy director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa.

2009-01-19 06:00:00

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