THE "X"FACTOR: HOW MANY LIVES vs HOW MANY LIVES
By Micah Halpern
Friday June 13, 2008
In the end, it will all come down to a simple, strategic, calculus. The "X" Factor. How many lives versus how many lives. How many Israeli civilian lives have already been lost and how many Israeli military lives will be lost in an operation fighting Hamas and Islamic Jihad forces in Gaza versus how many civilian and military lives will be lost if the situation remains status quo.
Heartless? Humane? Those are the issues that Israel's political and military leaders have been struggling over.
For months there has been talk of an Israeli invasion into Gaza. The objective is obvious - to silence, even if only for the short term, the relentless barrage of rockets and mortars that rains down on Israeli communities bordering Gaza.
The mission would be justified morally and legally, about that there is no question. Even die hard Israel bashers Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu have condemned the Palestinian launched rocket fire on these defenseless, civilian Israeli townspeople. Even the United States, in a high level meeting held several weeks ago, asked Israel if they had a response to the Qassam crisis, a response other than sitting still and allowing the rockets to fall where they will. Even the venerable United Nations has made it clear and public that, although restraint is advised, Israel, one of the unacknowledged least favored nations, has the right to act in order to protect Israeli citizens and protect Israeli borders.
Internationally, of course, there would be a backlash from the typical far flung corners of the world. The Muslim world, the Arab countries, Venezuela, and one or two European countries will cry out for the pain of the Palestinian people denied their favorite sport - injure the Israeli.
An Israeli military response to the untenable situation called Gaza has been in formulation for long months. And during those months many Israelis have been injured, some physically, some financially, almost all psychologically. An Israeli does not have to share a border with Gaza to feel national pain. The reason the response plan has not yet been activated is because the political side has not yet been reconciled with the military side. Political Israel is less comfortable with the calculus than is military Israel.
How fast and furious are these rockets and mortars coming? On Thursday June 12th, 40 mortars and 24 Qassam and I GRAD rocket fell on Israel. What has been the damage in terms of lives? 8 Israelis and I Ecuadorian farm worker have been killed by Qassam rockets in 2008.
The decision to invade Gaza will be made easier if the death toll goes higher. If more than 2 Israelis are killed by mortar or rockets in a single week Israel will be forced into it and the response will commence.
Israel needs to have fresh victims in order to respond. Israel needs to appear to be responding to a fresh act of aggression. Israel needs this to happen because Israel is unlike many other nations, because Israel does not arbitrarily, indiscriminately, unjustifiably invade another entity. For the sake of Israel it must appear that Israelis are responding to a specific act of aggression, even if most of the free and democratic world is convinced that Israel would be justified if the response attack came now - right now.
The X Factor calculus weighs most strongly, but there are other issues that go into the decision making process of whether or not to launch an invasion into Gaza to ferret out and destroy the Hamas and Islamic Jihad rocket launchers. One of those issues putting the brakes on a military response is that military intelligence is saying that Hamas is preparing for an Israeli land assault.
The way in which Hamas prepares is to physically, bodily, lay in wait and create booby traps for the invading Israelis troops. If that happens, casualty numbers will be great and that troubles decision makers. Then again, the situation in border towns like Sderot, particularly in Sderot, is unacceptable and intolerable. And that troubles decision makers.
It took Hercules to cut off heads of the many-headed serpent. It took super human (Herculean) strength to defeat the Hydra from the Lake of Lerna. And Israeli defense planners are saying that they have a series of plans to invade and cut the off the many heads of their own Gazan serpent.
The ancient Greek myth has taught an important lesson to Israel's leaders. Over the past 8 weeks 81 Hamas leaders have been killed by Israeli soldiers using In and Out operations and air force helicopter and unmanned drone attacks. More than 300 Hamas leaders have been killed over the past 6 months. It also has become apparent that Egypt has begun an attempt at foiling acts of aggression within Gaza by protecting their own border and by searching for underground tunnels with the help of the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Hamas might be on the ropes. There is talk of internal conflict. There was an assassination attempt by Iranian backed Hamas fighters against the current leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh.
It might soon be time to formulate another calculus: How strong is Hamas - will an Israeli invasion into Gaza unify Hamas or topple Hamas.
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