By Daoud Kuttab
Los Angeles Times
For years, Israelis have embraced a theory of “deterrence” with respect to the Gaza Strip. The idea is that if Gazans feel enough pain, they will refrain from attacking Israel. But this kind of strategic deterrence simply doesn’t work. Instead, Gazans react to the suffering and pain inflicted by Israel with a greater determination to inflict pain on their attackers. Furthermore, deterrence without any possibility of a political settlement ensures that this madness will go on indefinitely.
In explaining the Israeli theory, Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, said last week that “if the terror organizations do not cease their fire, we will be prepared to toughen our response as much as necessary, until they say ‘enough!’ ”
Using their strategic military advantage, the Israelis bombarded Gaza during the week leading to a ceasfire from the air, ground and sea. The majority of the more than 100 Palestinians killed have been noncombatants, including children.
Israel has said its goal is to attack those who are launching missile attacks. But its actions seem almost certain to produce a new crop of militants eager to launch a new round of attacks.
Palestinians say that their rocket attacks are acts of self-defense against the punishing land and naval blockade Israel has imposed on Gaza since 2007. The killing of civilians by either side can’t be condoned, and it’s true that Gazan missile attacks have killed several Israeli civilians. But Israel’s recent military actions have been shockingly disproportionate, aimed at densely populated areas in which besieged Gazan civilians have no place to escape the overwhelming and exaggerated Israeli firepower.
Where’s the plan?
What makes Israel’s “strategic deterrence” approach most unworkable is that it is being employed without a comprehensive plan that includes a political component. By refusing to politically deal with those in power in Gaza, Israel is seeking a solely military solution to what is mostly a political conflict.
Perhaps the worst part of this deterrence strategy is that it places no importance on the long-term relationships between Israel and its Arab neighbors. After being forced from their land in 1948 and again in 1967, and pushed into a mere 22 percent of the original boundaries of Palestine as established by the British, Palestinians are intent on not retreating further.
A relentless and aggressive policy that harms innocent people doesn’t serve the long-term good and should not be condoned by the international community, including the United States.
Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and former professor of journalism at Princeton University. He wrote this for the Los Angeles Times. Distributed by MCT Information Services.
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