While the Goldstone report is being eagerly read in Israel and in capitals around the world, it is also being intensively studied by terrorists bent on destroying the State of Israel - and they must be breathing a sigh of relief.
This is not only because the Hamas terrorists in Gaza are in effect getting off scot-free in the report - they, in any case, did not have to be concerned about being brought before the International Court of Justice.
They can also interpret the report as international approbation for carrying out military operations from civilian population centers - schools, hospitals, refugee camps, etc. - as they did in the years when they were launching rockets into Israeli towns and villages in the south of Israel, and as they continued to do during the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip.
From the report it is clear to them that establishing military units and rocket launchers in civilian population centers will from now on be an effective military tactic that they can hope to apply with impunity, enjoying at least partial immunity from an Israeli response. That response is likely to be withheld out of concern that it will lead to Israel being charged with committing a war crime.
The report is in effect a license to kill - for Hamas, for Hezbollah, and for terrorists all over the world. No less.
"The bastards have changed the rules," Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon's vice president, supposedly said when his wrong-doings caught up with him. He resigned on October 10, 1973. That was 36 years ago, during the Yom Kippur War, a conventional battlefield war, tanks against tanks and soldiers against soldiers, with no civilians in the vicinity. And also no war crime inquiries.
But since that Israeli victory, things have changed. Faced by the overpowering force of the Israel Defense Forces, terror attacks against civilians have become the weapon of choice for Israel's enemies. And here the Goldstone report is changing the rules of warfare so as to favor the terrorists. As long as they operate in civilian surroundings, they should have nothing to worry about.
Hezbollah pioneered this tactic in Southern Lebanon, and put it into practice very effectively during the Second Lebanon War. Hamas in Gaza, tutored by Hezbollah, followed suit. And the Goldstone report has now enshrined it with international legalese, which may very well serve as a precedent in future encounters with terrorists.
This will have far-reaching effects on the war against terror, wherever it is being waged, and it will empower the terrorists, whether Justice Richard Goldstone realizes it or not. It will be especially damaging for Israel, whose civilians are under almost constant threat from terrorists.
During Operation Defensive Shield the IDF showed that the commonly held wisdom that terrorism could not be defeated by military means was dead wrong.
Whereas Palestinian terrorism could not be deterred, it could be physically eliminated by military means. The terrorists could be pursued into their lairs and destroyed, or brought to justice. Since then, terrorism from Judea and Samaria against Israeli civilians has essentially ceased. Now, after the Goldstone report, that kind of operation is going to be difficult to repeat.
The report is a blow to the war on terror everywhere and for all nations engaged in fighting terrorism. Hopefully, the nations of the world will have the strength and political will to reject the report, and make it clear to all that terror operations carried out from civilian areas are the war crime, and not the attempt to eliminate these attacks. That using civilians as a shield is a war crime.
If that does not happen, we can expect that areas densely populated by civilians will become the base for terrorist activities in many parts of the world - with the expectation that "international law" will provide them with immunity from counterattacks.
Israel, knowing that its existence is at stake, will find a way to defend itself even under these changed circumstances. But the peace process is bound to be set back. This will not be the time to take big risks.
Thank you Justice Goldstone. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
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