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Again the IDF is out to deliver a "crushing blow" to the terrorists. Again large-scale and casualty-heavy armored incursions are planned throughout the Gaza Strip, and again missiles will be launched from the air to liquidate the "senior perpetrators of terrorism." Senior sources in the Israel Defense Forces explain, with unconcealed satisfaction, that at long last "we are returning to the period before the hudna [cease-fire]." That was the happy period in which the gloves were taken off and the IDF was permitted to assassinate the leaders of Hamas. Now, following the latest wave of terrorism, which peaked with this week's attack at the port of Ashdod, the moment has come for another massive liquidation campaign, which this time won't make do with only Hamas but will aim at killing the maximum number of leaders of all the Palestinian organizations in the Gaza Strip.

The problem is that what guides the policy of liquidation and incursion is not the hope that it will lead to calm but the concern that someone will think that the decision to leave the Gaza Strip means we are "fleeing with our tail between our legs," as the prime minister and the defense minister noted in this week's meeting of the security cabinet. We must on no account leave Gaza before "we teach them a lesson they won't forget." To restore our deterrent capability, it's necessary time and again to unleash the IDF's military superiority against the Palestinians.

The IDF has become captive to the "consciousness conception" that was adduced by the chief of staff, Moshe Ya'alon, which holds that we must "sear into the Palestinians' consciousness" the idea that "we cannot be defeated by terrorism and violence." So, in the name of "consciousness searing," the army is setting out on a round of raids and killing, to prove that victory belongs to the IDF. Of course, no one can define the meaning of this "victory," but when the outgoing commander of the IDF in the Gaza Strip, Brigadier General Gadi Shamni, was interviewed, he was at pains to emphasize that "we are winning in this confrontation every day, a few times."

One of the grave implications of the new policy adopted by the IDF is the further slide down the moral slope. Last week's armored raid on the Al-Bureij and Nusseirat camps set a new criterion for defining Palestinians who are condemned to die without a trial: anyone who bears arms. There is no need to show whether the person holding the rifle has anything to do with terrorism. An armored force enters a refugee camp, accompanied by snipers who take up positions at commanding sites, and a process begins of "stimulating" armed Palestinians to open fire at the Israeli troops so that they "will expose themselves to being hit," in the words of commanders who led the force. The inevitable result is the death of many people, including children. The decision to kill everyone bearing arms is not only immoral, it also lacks any operational sense.

What the IDF is doing in Gaza is not waging a war on terrorism but demonstrating the total loss of direction by the senior command level. IDF officers no longer try to conceal the goal in these operations: to kill as many arms bearers as possible. This has nothing to do with any attempt to arrest terrorist activists or to destroy "terrorist infrastructures." Whoever gave the order to the soldiers to kill every armed person in the Gaza Strip, an area in which bearing arms has become the norm, without any connection to what the person carrying the weapon has done, testifies about himself that he has lost the remnants of his moral judgment.

Like members of other armies, the commanders of the IDF cling to the conception that all problems can be solved by military force, while any concession is liable to be perceived by the other side as weakness. For these people, force is the be-all and end-all. Concession and compromise are forever prohibited, because any compromise is tantamount to and admission of failure. Only after the total surrender of the other side will he agree to talk to them.

The army's latest operations in Gaza prove that its commanders continue to see the world through gun sights and the turrets of tanks. In this most difficult period for Israel, the army's high command is unable to rise above itself, and as such they are contributing to the country's decline into a maelstrom of fighting, with no end visible on the horizon.