The latest round of violence between Israel and its neighboring terror organizations saw 450 rockets launched at Israeli towns and villages within 48 hours, targeting civilians throughout the south of the country and terrorizing hundreds of thousands. The Israel defense Forces (IDF) retaliated by surgically targeting the terrorists and launchers. After two days of violence, three dozen terrorists were killed and a number of Israelis lightly injured. Our anti-missile Iron Dome system once again proved to be a game changer, invalidating the tens of thousands of rockets that terror organizations have used and will likely continue to use against us.
The skirmish followed a more or less "traditional" pattern in which each side played a role which served the strategic interests of both, but at the sad cost of their respective populations.
The terror organizations have a long-term goal and a short-term objective. In the long term, they are looking to destroy the state of Israel and rid the Middle East of all Jewish presence. The idea of the creation of a Caliphate that will engulf the entire Middle East (and later - the world) is as old as Islam itself and its implementation is measured in centuries. It still has many adherents among terror groups and beyond. In the short term, terror organizations must maintain the struggle in which they need to satisfy their society as well as their patrons in Tehran or in the Persian Gulf.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other factions are not looking for all-out war in which they could be wiped out. They need limited campaigns that gain them financial support and global sympathy. For them, Iron Dome serves a purpose of limiting the negative effects of even hundreds of rockets. They know that the rockets will not kill enough Israelis to provoke the ire of the IDF and an all-out campaign to eradicate them. They can maintain the "struggle" indefinitely, assured that if Israel sustains minor damage and little loss of life, they will not be made to pay a price that they cannot afford.
For Israel, too, there are long-term goals and short-term objectives. In the short term, Israel would like to limit the damage inflicted by terror organizations and to allow them to disrupt daily life as minimally as possible. Iron Dome and a widespread distribution of shelters in every home and building ensure that the damage caused by rockets is to a large extent, negligible. Israel's objective is to deny the terrorists the ability to pressure our leadership into territorial concessions.
The problem is that Israel's long-term goals are not clear and are subject to the political considerations of whichever government is in power at any given moment. As in every democracy, alternation in power also means that long-term policies are sometimes subject to change. In the absence of a clearly defined and long-range policy on the Palestinian issue, Israel must necessarily conduct a short-term policy of containment and crisis management rather than crisis resolution.
In the absence of a strategic game-changer, Israel follows a tried and tested pattern of action. When rockets are launched at Israel, Iron Dome kicks in, the population heads to the shelters, and the IDF hits terrorist targets in Gaza. The mirror image of the terror organizations' attempt to limit the damage inflicted on Israel in order to avoid escalation is the IDF's attempt to limit the damage it inflicts on the terrorists. Often, the IDF warns residents of buildings in Gaza ahead of a bombing in order to avoid casualties. In other cases, the Israel Air Force bombs terror installations in the middle of the night in order to destroy property only. The terrorists need to contain events and avoid escalation, and Israel abides by the unwritten rule that says that too much damage caused to the Palestinians will lead to unwanted escalation.
In this almost scripted play, where one scene follows the other and one act leads to the next, the leadership on both sides follows a pattern that serves short-term goals and delays long-term resolution. The tragedy is that the heaviest price is paid by the population on both sides. The people of Gaza are hostages of homicidal radical groups which pay no attention to the plight of their own citizens. Even worse - for terrorists, civilian casualties represent PR successes to be used against Israel. Sometimes, our surgical strikes either miss their target or harm innocent civilians because of poor advance information. The lack of long-term resolution denies the people of Gaza autonomy, freedom and development.
For Israelis living under almost 20,000 rockets for the past decade and a half, the knowledge that Iron Dome is 90 percent efficient is not enough to bring calm and tranquility. Every single Israeli born after 2005 and living in the south has grown up with weekly and sometimes daily sirens sending them to the shelter, sometimes with as little as 15 seconds to make it to safety. Most children suffer post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), their emotional scars permanent. For them, there are no short-term or long-term considerations. They are paying a price that will affect them for life.