Qassams symbolize a failure to deter
Primitive Qassam rockets, of which many dozens have been launched at Israeli settlements, and especially at Sderot city, have become a symbol of the military confrontation with the Palestinians.
Primitive Qassam rockets, of which many dozens have been launched at Israeli settlements, and especially at Sderot city, have become a symbol of the military confrontation with the Palestinians. The rocket has caused no loss of life, but in its ability to trigger a deterioration in the situation, it is a classic weapon. It is unacceptable for a state to accept the systematic shelling of one of its cities with equanimity. It is hard to imagine any European country, for instance France, that would not respond to such attacks with rage and fury.
It should be an uncomplicated military problem. After all, it is not like all-out war on terror and suicide bombings. The missiles are a tactical military problem - a specific weapon with a specific range. But in spite of the efforts of the IDF and its superior military capabilities, the army has still not managed to solve the problem. Some would call it as an operational failure, but there is no doubt that what has been achieved could scarcely be termed a success.
There are two sides to the failed effort to deal with the Qassams. In spite of the IDF's actions in past months, including the destruction of dozens of metal shops and foundries throughout the Gaza Strip, the army has not succeeded in ending the manufacture of the launchers and rockets. Similarly, it has not been able to halt the firing of the rockets, not even at a single important target such as Sderot.
To that end, the IDF has made frequent military forays into the Strip. At first, the invasions were very short-term. Later on, the period was extended, and now the army is staying for a prolonged period. It has destroyed bridges and homes, and disrupted roads on which the rocket launchers are moved.
Cultivated fields have been denuded, and vegetation that served to conceal the cells that launch the Qassams has been uprooted. The IDF has set up observation posts in Palestinian territory to enhance its surveillance capability, and has stationed tanks in shooting positions.
The lives of residents of the area of Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip have become much more difficult. Some of them are rising up against the Hamas, which launches the rockets. Many of the Palestinians do not understand, in the words of Abu Mazen, why they have to suffer for a military offensive that is not bringing them any achievements.
The impression is that Hamas does not care. It may be that the suffering of the residents furnishes them with a sufficient excuse for opposing any possibility of the Palestinian Authority reaching a diplomatic arrangement with Israel. They seem to consider the Qassam an object of honor - an area in which Israel has been unable to best them.
It would be wise to listen closely to the explanation offered by the head of the Southern Command, Major General Doron Almog, just before the start of the latest major operation against the Qassam in Beit Hanun. "We won't be able to provide 100 percent success against the Qassam rockets, but we will be able to improve our ability to thwart Qassam cells."
This style of explanation has not been offered before for this particular matter. If the IDF cannot achieve a 100 percent rate of operational success, why should Abu Mazen and Mohammed Dahlan commit to a 100 percent success rate in their war on terror? Almog explains that if after the current operation the Palestinians fire Qassam rockets, they will do so from further away. But what if over time they succeed in extending the range of the rockets?
In military terms, the Qassam is an example of a failure of deterrence, albeit on a tactical level. Nevertheless, the symbolism is stark. Israel does not have many options. Additional territory can be seized, and the occupation of the Gaza Strip can be intensified. Residents of the area can be expelled and every structure demolished. These are violent and extreme solutions.
Alternatively, there can be cooperation with Palestinian security authorities, although they will not enter any confrontation without Palestinian public support, and said support will not be given unless genuine Israeli steps are taken to help Abu Mazen and residents of the region. If nothing is done, as has often been the case with previous plans, Israel will eventually move on to more wide-ranging attacks on the Hamas leadership.