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Ira Sharkansky



Response to Tel Aviv bombing
is a model of 'coping' strategy, April 20, 2006

By Ira Sharkansky
JERUSALEM —Israel's response to the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv earlier this week is a model of coping.
To remind you, the bombing killed nine Israelis and visitors, and injured more than 60. Some 30 are still in hospital. A physician said this morning that most of them will undergo years of painful rehabilitation, with results likely to be only partial. Some of them may come to envy the dead.
Until now, Israel has used only a fraction of its military power. Owing to constraints of Jewish morality, and Israel's reading of international law and the likelihood of sanctions for "misbehavior," the IDF has not bombed from heights, or targeted residential neighborhoods with its artillery. It has risked its own personnel by actions meant to seize or kill individuals known to be involved in violence.
This week's bombing presents new opportunities. For the first time, the government of the Palestinian Authority, now in Hamas hands, has endorsed violence against Israeli civilians as a legitimate means of national action. In response, Israel could target government buildings and other sites likely to harbor leaders of Hamas or individuals involved in violence, and bomb them from 10,000 feet or so. It is the tactic used by Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq. It protects one's own troops, but produces a considerable amount of "collateral damage," i.e., dead civilians. It is probably defensible under fair readings of international law, providing the judges are not predisposed to rule against anything Israeli.
If Israel did something like that, it would in all likelihood generate a flight of refugees towards the borders of Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. It would cause a spate of international condemnation, but probably nothing more. After all, the targets are a regime that has signed on to the destruction of Israel.
However, this is only what is possible. I am certain it will not happen. Again, Jewish morality. (Scorn if you wish, whatever anti-Semitic bastards are reading this. The IDF has invested great effort to teach its officers and soldiers to avoid harming civilians. One colonel told me that he and his men would refuse to carry out orders that endangered civilians.)
So what is Israel doing? It is not gentle, but it does not amount to the wet dreams of those who want to respond by "cleaning out" the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank. 

Perhaps in response to this last bombing, the Supreme Court has permitted the government to go forward with the construction of the barrier around Jerusalem. This should plug the hole that the recent suicide bomber, and others before him, had used to enter the country. 

The IDF will cut off the northern West Bank with road barricades, from which recent bombers have come, in order to add to their difficulties. The government will proceed to remove rights of Jerusalem residence from ministers in the Hamas government who live in this city. 

The IDF will increase efforts to arrest active members of violent organizations, or liquidate those who do not come peacefully. Politically, the government will continue efforts to deny the Hamas-ruled Palestinian Authority support from foreign governments. 

Against the missiles that continue to come to Israeli towns out of Gaza, the IDF will target the sites from which the missiles are fired. Some of these sites are close to residential neighborhoods. There will be collateral damage from the artillery barrages, but the residents have been warned. There is probably no Israeli solution for the problem of Palestinian children who go into the fields being fired upon, seemingly to collect some scrap metal from the exploded shells. There is a limit to how we can protect individuals from themselves.
None of this will solve the problem of Palestinian violence. But it is likely to increase non-lethal pressure on civilians, which will give them an opportunity to do what they have to in order to stop the violence directed against us. If they do nothing, they will continue to suffer. Many of us truly regret what we do to them, but our authorities view this as the most humane way to defend ourselves. Such actions do not guarantee an early solution of the problem. Coping is a way to deal with problems that cannot be solved. It is inelegant, and usually only partially successful. But it is better than the alternatives.

Sharkansky is an emeritus member of the political science department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem