Acting out of frustration in Gaza
It is easier for Israel to attack a reactor in Syria than hit nearby Beit Hanun, because it is difficult, if not outright impossible, to avoid civilian casualties there.
One can appreciate the frustration behind the defense establishment's proposal to sporadically cut the electricity supply to the Gaza Strip: Powerful Israel stands by helplessly while Qassam rockets continue falling on Sderot and the Negev. And these are attacks that in the not-so-distant future may become increasingly more accurate and effective.
The operations carried out by Israel Defense Forces units in Gaza - in which a paratrooper was killed and a Golani Brigade soldier was seriously injured yesterday - are becoming more complicated, according to briefings, because they are increasingly encountering better organized and trained foes.
It is easier for Israel to attack a reactor in Syria than hit nearby Beit Hanun, because it is difficult, if not outright impossible, to avoid civilian casualties there. Cutting off the supply of electricity, fuel and baby food is also a blatant blow against civilians - and only against them. One cannot claim that there will not be a serious humanitarian effect on the Gaza residents when, from the onset, they are subject to a permanent humanitarian crisis.
More than any defensive or deterrent effect, this policy is simply about revenge. It is understandable, in view of the continued attacks, but it cannot be accepted as a policy that was conceived in a rational manner by the Defense Ministry. The role of the defense establishment is to defend the country, not to avenge on its behalf, and not to dampen the frustration of the residents of Sderot by announcing operations stinking of spin. Moreover, the power that these civilians supposedly have to influence the Hamas government and make it stop the rocket fire against Israel is minimal.
Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai says that this is in no way punitive, only a continuation of the process of Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Except that Gaza depends on Israel for the supply of its most basic needs, and the unilateral disengagement in the summer of 2005 did not alter this fact. Israel does not want to consider itself a state that ignores international law - even though it has diverged from it for years by establishing settlements in occupied territory.
Attacking infrastructure is always problematic, and many believe that it never achieves anything, even if carried out in response to action targeting Israeli civilians. The inherent assumption in applying more severe sanctions against Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip is that it is easier to bring down Hamas than to defeat it in battle or talk with it, and that every blow against Hamas contributes to the strengthening of Mahmoud Abbas. This is the new idee fixe guiding Israel's policy in the territories, at least until the Annapolis summit. This approach may collapse, just like the ones that preceded it.
If the aim is indeed complete disengagement, it is impossible to accomplish this only by disengaging from Gaza, nor can this be seen as part of an opportunistic maneuver, or as punishment. It must be done in an orderly and responsible manner, with the support of Europe and the United States.
The Gaza Strip is not independent, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. The babies of Gaza depend on the government of Israel more than the Hamas government, and the decision to punish them for the Qassam rockets does not contribute to the safety of the residents of Sderot.