Yesterday, a missile fired from Gaza struck southern Israel, wounding two—one critically. Israel retaliated, killing five Palestinians. Hours later, Hamas announced that militants had agreed to a cease-fire. Whether the cease-fire will hold remains to be seen.
These unfortunate events come less than a week after Richard Goldstone wrote a revealing article in the Washington Post. A South African jurist—and a Jew—Goldstone headed the United Nations committee investigating the conduct of Israel’s 2008-09 incursion into Gaza. Operation Cast Lead responded to continual rocketing by Hamas and other anti-Israel groups. The 2009 Goldstone Report accused Israel of overreacting—of deliberately targeting and killing civilians. Israel conducted its own investigation countering the accusation. The world turned a blind eye.
In his recent article, Goldstone repudiated the report’s findings. He wrote, “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.” Last Saturday night Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the UN to retract the Goldstone Report. We’ll see where that goes.
Hamas has long targeted Israel. The problem Israel faces is how to stop the attacks within the strictures of what the world deems “proportional response.” The conundrum: If Hamas launches three rockets into an unoccupied area of Israel’s Negev, may Israel launch only three rockets in return—and only into a relatively unoccupied area of Gaza? If a Hamas rocket lands in Sderot, may Israel fire only a single rocket at a lightly inhabited area of Gaza? If Israel experiences no fatalities, should it be castigated if its rocket results in one or more deaths? And what if Hamas launches dozens—even hundreds—of longer-range missiles at heavily populated Ashdod or Tel Aviv? Does proportional response dictate that Israel may fire only the same number of missiles?
Tit-for-tat is in no way proportional. It favors Hamas, which seems delighted to fray Israelis’ nerves and accept similar casualties and damage in Gaza. Hamas is more than willing to take a punch—as opposed to a knockdown or knockout blow— if it can garner world support for its self-portrayal as the Arab David combating the Jewish Goliath.
I suggest that proportional response is not a numbers game. It should represent not military action undertaken but results achieved. I do not propose that the IDF follow the scorched-earth policy of Genghis Khan. But if Hamas launches rockets, Israel is entitled to respond in such a way that Hamas stops. Operation Cast Led achieved that—for a while.
I hope that Richard Goldstone will not only continue to distance himself from his committee’s report but avow Israel’s right to halt Hamas’ attacks. Perhaps then, we can all move forward on a long-overdue agreement to establish a Palestinian state and a real peace.
Several readers expressed anger at the family in my blog “Supermarket Politics” (March 25). Sorry to disappoint, but the family is a fictional device. Alas, the problem of American obesity and the failure of Congress and California to arrive at healthy budgets are all too real.
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