Tuesday, July 04, 2006

4-Jul-06: Missile Strikes School in Central Ashkelon

To anyone paying attention these past twelve months to the relentless firing of missiles from the freshly-abandoned Gaza Strip into Israel, what happened today was only a matter of time. But to political poseurs, today was a turning point. It's important to pay attention to the differences between these two viewpoints.

More than 500 missiles have struck Israel from Gaza this past year; thirty in the past week alone. The numbers are mind boggling. There have been deaths, injuries and property damage. Reporters with an agenda keep describing these rockets as home-made, and want us to believe that they're really just symbolic and not lethal; this is the sort of rubbish that leads to maiming and deaths. Those reporters are an embarrassment to their media and profession.

The effective range of these missiles keeps growing as the terrorists get more skilled. While sources in the IDF argue over whether their true range is 7.5km or 10km, we don't know whether to laugh or cry. Gentlemen, wake up. If they can cover 7.5km today, then it will be 10km tomorrow, and 150km by next month or next year. Don't waste our time and your goodwill with hair-splitting arguments that lose all meaning when a school in a major Israeli city is struck and damaged.

Some missiles previously managed to reach the outskirts of Israel's largest city in the area, Ashkelon, and caused concern there, but no panic till now. (We have reported on this in recent days: here for instance.) But panic is certainly what the beleagured residents of a smaller Israeli community closer to Gaza have felt for this past year and before it - and with very good reason. Their homes, vehicles, schools, stores, factories, sidewalks and everything else have suffered direct hits day after day for many months. And for the most part, until the people of Sderot took to the streets to protest, the authorities in Jerusalem and the leaders of the military pretty largely ignored them. Sderot's frustration was manifest and perfectly understandable.

Now place yourself in the shoes of a Sderot parent, trembling at the thought of another night of missiles and shrieking Red Dawn missile-warnings... as you listen (as we did just now in the car, coming home) to the prime minister speaking at a 4th July party at the US ambassador's estate tonight, responding on national radio and TV in prime time to what happened today (see photo above):
This evening a serious incident like no other took place, when a Qassam landed in a school in our southern town... This is a serious step up in the terror war which the Hamas-led government is responsible for... This serious act and this criminal attempt to hurt Israel's citizens will have far-reaching consequences.

You don't need to be on the right or the left of Israeli politics to be appalled at the way this terribly dangerous scenario is unfolding. The residents of Sderot have been warning - shouting and screaming would be more accurate - for a year that the terrorists and their government in Gaza are trying to kill and injure anyone they can hit. And while missiles are not the only means of doing so, they are the means most widely deployed and potentially the method of greatest danger. And before the people of Sderot said it, the people of the now-destroyed Jewish communities in Gaza did. Then they were removed from Gaza in the name of a peace-building strategy, and look at what we have reaped as a result. (Charles Krauthammer has an outstanding short essay called "Gaza is freed yet Gaza makes war" in this week's TIME Magazine. It's brilliant.)

We disagree with prime minister Olmert. This is neither "
a serious step up in the terror war", nor "a serious incident like no other". It is, in fact, more of the same - a continuation of the terror war that has been raging for nearly six years and that will continue for more unless decisive, consistent, goal-oriented policies are executed by those in charge of Israel's destiny. A political leader who can call this "a serious incident like no other" is telling us that he feels untouched by all those others. This is unacceptable in a national leader.

It's a tremendous shame that this needs to be said, but the prime minister's words make clear that it does have to be said. Sderot is no less strategic than Ashkelon. Ashkelon is no less strategic than Jerusalem. Jerusalem is no less strategic than Ramat Hasharon and Kfar Saba. Israel is under attack, and a winning Israeli strategy for dealing with it is nowhere in sight.

1 comment:

RR said...

And at one time, Ariel Sharon warned everyone that Netzarim was of tremendous strategic value and that Tel Aviv would be in danger if it were ever evacuated. So many warnings.