A bit more on van Creveld’s lessons

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.

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About Elizabeth Sellwood

Elizabeth Sellwood is non-resident fellow at the Center on International Cooperation. She is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and has worked for several years in the Middle East region. She was Special Assistant to the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process from 2005-07, and prior to this she worked for the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territory. Between 2001-03 Elizabeth was an adviser to the Foreign Affairs Committee in the UK House of Commons. She also worked for Oxfam in the Balkans in the aftermath of the Kosovo war, and in 1995-99 held research positions at Chatham House and Cambridge University.