Using specific intelligence, the defense establishment assassinated the mastermind of the next terror attack just before Shabbat. This terror attack was planned in a way that would not only directly hurt Israelis but would also pressure Egypt to withdraw from its peace agreement with Israel. Everyone agrees that this was a precise preempting of terror, making justified and measured use of Israel’s right to defend itself.
Israel’s defense systems were successful. Iron Dome intercepted some 90 percent of the rockets fired at populated areas and only three projectiles managed to strike Israeli towns. In addition, the Israel Air Force eliminated a Gaza rocket launching cell in action. And still, there is a sense that Israel’s operation capabilities are failing to create adequate deterrence. The enemy still manages to disrupt the lives of a million Israelis, forcing Israel to invest financial, as well as other kinds of resources, in order to achieve this result.
Deterrence works only if it prevents decision makers on the other side from employing the means at their disposal. The use, as successful as it may be, of defense systems is not deterring, so it seems. The question of “what do we do next” has the unhealthy tendency of compelling the public to demand that the government “stick it to them,” while the term “stick it” isn’t clearly defined, nor is it entirely clear who “them” are.
Israel’s government needs to think outside the box in order to come up with a solution – one that will increase deterrence. For this purpose I would like to refer the readers to the international terror problem that existed hundreds of years ago – pirates. Attempts to annihilate their bases were futile because they didn’t have a standing army nor did they have an organized fleet that could be targeted and vanquished. Ultimately, Britain was able to eliminate this threat by painstakingly apprehending every pirate ship captain and executing them all by hanging, after putting most of them on trial.
The time may have come to enact international law and carry out the same kind of painstaking work that Britain did. Not instead of what is being done today, but alongside it. After all, the firing of rockets while targeting civilian populations with the express intent of harming innocent lives is considered a crime against humanity which is forbidden under the laws of war. Therefore, anyone who plans, orders, funds or aids such fire is in violation of international law and can be put on trial. Maybe it is time for Israel’s government to violently arrest the heads of Gaza’s terror organizations, publicly try them in Israel, demand capital punishment for the guilty, grant the defendants the right to appeal but ultimately exhaust the appeals process and carry out the sentence.
This kind of individual deterrence, together with the resulting avoidance of large scale offensives over every little thing, will boost deterrence because it will force the enemy’s decision makers and policy makers to take their own fates into account.
By: Ze’ev Jabotinsky