We cannot even begin to estimate how many lives Iron Dome saved. But we know it’s very many lives. The downside, though, is that its success encouraged all too many Israelis to expect all our troubles to be solved by state-of-the-art magic wands. This isn’t always possible.
No miraculous technological gimmicks can entirely eliminate Gaza’s tunnels.
The only way to diminish this diabolical threat is by sending infantry in, by going from house to house to discover trap-doors and concealed shafts. Suggestions that the tunnels could be flooded or filled with smoke are impractical if their entry and exit points are unknown.
This rules out a deluxe war. This unavoidably costs lives and we’d be exceedingly lucky to even limit the cost.
This is why Binyamin Netanyahu and Moshe Ya’alon were so reluctant to begin a land incursion. They did so only after several Hamas attempts to infiltrate kibbutzim and spill blood there – after the tunnel hazard could no longer be deferred for a future showdown.
It was Hamas that forced Israel’s hand. After Iron Dome had thwarted Hamas’s plans to pulverize Israel’s densest population centers, it resorted to its other major weapon – the tunnels.
Israel had known about their labyrinthine extensions (Gilad Schalit’s abduction in 2006 was facilitated by one) but there was no quick painless remedy. It’s easy to carp about nothing having been done for years but we can only imagine the uproar that would have been generated – both domestically and internationally – had the IDF reentered Gaza with no palpable pressing provocation.
Disengagement is the original sin which enabled Hamas to invest all of Gaza’s resources in these fortified subterranean mazes. Once the Philadelphi corridor was relinquished, its few smuggling tunnels burgeoned unhindered into massive networks.
The short stint of the Muslim Brotherhood at Egypt’s helm boosted the tunnel construction monstrously. Hezbollah engineers and supplies flowed in unobstructed and Qatar footed the bills. Hamas simultaneously enjoyed sustenance from Iran, ostensibly at cross-purposes to Qatar. Hamas was spoiled for choice until Mohamed Morsi was deposed.
And all the while, Hamas nurtured the pretense of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. There was piteous wailing about the lack of cash and even of cement to construct housing and rebuild what was destroyed in clashes with Israel. The pressure to “break the blockade” on Gaza was fierce. Israel was even coerced to ease its ban on cement and building materials for Gaza.
We now see what all that was used for. We also know where the colossal contributions solicited internationally were sunk. They all went to construct an underground tangle of tunnels intended only for murder and abduction.
It’s time for the foreign donors and governments, for international organizations from the UN to biased NGOs – for all those who amplified Gaza’s pretended plight – to beat their breasts in contrition. In the end they contributed to today’s Gazan disaster. It was homemade but avidly abetted from abroad.
Netanyahu inherited this fait accompli in 2009, by which time no facile fix was possible. He was justifiably not trigger-happy. He sent troops in only when no other alternative existed. Foreign statesmen and opinion molders need grasp that this wasn’t a decision taken lightly by an adventurer.
At home all those who went along with Disengagement owe us to tone down their criticism. Contrary to their rosy predictions, Gaza squandered its opportunity for independence and prosperity. It propelled Hamas to power, brazenly choosing belligerence over coexistence.
Those who disseminated these predictions are the very ones who’d have raged against the notion of invading Gaza and they are the very ones who just recently began campaigning for negotiations with Hamas – on the grounds that ISIS is worse.
But in reality Hamas is as bad as it gets.
Israel’s task now is to expose and destroy every tunnel it can – along with the buildings atop all points of origin. Beyond that – no matter how shrilly the world protests – we must rethink our policies regarding what materials we allow into Gaza and whether we should continue to supply electricity to its tunnel constructors and rocket manufacturers.