September 21, 2014
Special for The Herald: A disproportionate response? by Ambassador of Israel in Argentina
By Dorit Shavit / Ambassador of Israel in Argentina
Special for The Herald
Only Hamas is liable for the victims
About a month ago, June 12, three Israeli youngsters, students from rabbinical schools were abducted and murdered cold-bloodedly. Almost immediately after the assassination and even before discovering the bodies, Hamas initiated the launch of missiles, rockets and mortar shells from the Gaza Strip against the civilian population of Israel.
This organization, recognized as a terrorist entity by most of the countries of the world, has deliberately targeted the missiles toward densely populated cities in order to kill as many Israelis as it could. This situation put 3.5 million citizens, in other words 40 percent of the whole population of Israel, under fire and forced them to run to a secure shelter.
Imagine yourself: 15 seconds to enter this secure shelter.
Now imagine: 15 seconds for children, elderly people, persons with physical difficulties, pregnant women.
At this point I would like to remind the readers that almost 10 years ago Israel withdrew completely from Gaza, evacuating every single soldier or Israeli civilian and leaving every millimetre of that region to the Palestinians. With this decision and its internal cost, Israel also left behind several thousands of greenhouses that had produced fruit and flowers for export. The idea behind this evacuation was to enable the Palestinians to exercise autonomy and to establish their institution as a preamble for gaining their independence as a stable and flourishing state living in peace and security, side by side with the State of Israel.
However, that scenario has never materialized: as soon as Hamas won elections in Gaza, it expelled the more moderate elements of the Palestinian establishment and started launching missiles against Israel.
Since 2006 until today, and on three different occasions, the State of Israel has faced this challenge and has protected its citizens, an obligation that every government has toward its citizens.
In order to fulfill this obligation, Israel developed the “Iron Dome.” A system built to intercept missiles before reaching the ground, exploding and killing innocent people or inflicting damage. Thus Israel succeeds in saving life and minimizing the number of casualties, while Hamas has put all its energy into elaborating or purchasing better missiles with longer range in order to inflict more damage and to kill a greater number of human beings. Hamas excavated and built tens of tunnels (emanating from under innocents’ houses) with the aim of reaching Israeli territory and killing Israelis or abducting them.
Back to the kidnapped teenagers. The State of Israel did not respond immediately to this provocation. It showed restriction for over three weeks, during which over 1,500 missiles were launched against its citizens. Only after this period of time, and after exhausting all other possibilities, Israel decided to begin the “Protective Edge” Operation, with the sole purpose of restoring calm to its citizens, inter alia by destructing the tunnels.
Therefore Israel directs its fire against military targets, and only military targets, but the terrorists of Hamas deliberately hide behind civilians and use them as “human shields.” They also place their strongholds and arms factories and storages in hospitals, schools and mosques.
Only as an example, yesterday UNRWA complained with worry that the terrorists concealed arms in one of theirs schools. Knowing this cruel mode of action, Israel does its utmost to warn civilians, calling them by phone, or by pamphlets or even through Hamas’ radio station El-Aqsa to evacuate a place and to find secure shelter before bombing such a stronghold. An important number of Palestinians take this advice, many others, unfortunately, stay where they are, either because of fear from the “hamasnicks” or in order to be martyrs.
All these facts evidence that the State of Israel plans, manufactures and uses an anti-missile system to protect Israeli citizens, while Hamas uses its citizens to protect its missiles.
That’s the difference.
Moreover, Israel tries to save as many lives as possible, Israelis and Palestinian. Meanwhile, Hamas tries to kill as many people as it can, and purposely endangers the life of Palestinian citizens. Unfortunately, there are civilian casualties, whom the State of Israel deeply regrets, but it is definitely not the purpose of the operation. In any event, responsibility for the loss of life lies upon Hamas.
This is the real meaning of a “disproportionate response.” Should the State of Israel abandon its duty to protect the lives of its citizens and not invest in the “Iron Dome” and let more Israelis die? Would it have been better? Would it have satisfied the international community more? Would it have been fairer? More ethical? The answer is of course “no.” Every civilized human being should give that answer.