People involved with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – particularly Brits – tend to get a bit anxious when one compares it with Northern Ireland. Having read Alex’s post on van Creveld’s lessons from Northern Ireland (especially points four, five and six), however, I can’t ignore comments made today by the Israel Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi. Ashkenazi said that if Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel continue, Israel will have to “take action”, and that a major ground operation in the Gaza Strip would be necessary to halt rocket fire.
This is all quite familiar. Last summer, Israel conducted a major ground and air offensive on Gaza following the abduction by Palestinian militants of an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. The operation, which lasted several months, was intended to secure the release of Shalit and end Palestinian rocket attacks. Using jets and helicopter gunships, the IDF bombed the Gaza power station, roads, bridges, ministries and other infrastructure. Israeli artillery units fired thousands of shells across Gaza’s borders. The navy shelled Gaza from the sea. Hundreds of Palestinians were killed, including many children.
Today, Palestinian militants continue to fire rockets, and Shalit is still being held in Gaza. Obviously the Government of Israel cannot tolerate continued rocket firing into Israel. But in light of recent experience and van Creveld’s lessons, it seems unlikely that another IDF ground operation will really help.