Sunday 25 January 2009

A Hindsight View of the War

All events in history seem different when they are looked at with the benefit of hindsight. This is not only because new information comes to light after the event which allows us to judge the event more fairly, it is also due to the fact that things always seem to look different when they are considered from a distance. I am not exactly sure how much time is required to pass until this different view can truly be seen, I have, however, discovered that after only one week since the ceasefire has been in effect following Operation Cast Lead, there are some things that I am already seeing in a different light.

Before examining the things that I see differently, there are some things about which my views have not changed. Firstly, my admiration for the IDF and for all the reservists and standing soldiers has not changed. I feel immense gratitude for the bravery shown by all of these people. The willingness on the part of reserve soldiers to drop their lives and run to the front line in defence of our homeland is an act of patriotism that defies all expectations. All Israelis, and Jews around the world, owe these men and women and their families a debt of gratitude. It is my contention that there cannot be another holocaust whilst we have a strong Jewish army. I feel strong in my belief that a holocaust is surely a long way off with this Jewish army. The lessons of the Second Lebanon War were learned, and we have seen the signs of this.

The second thing that my views remain the same about, is my admiration for the fortitude and resilience of the citizens of Israel, particularly those in the south who came under daily rocket attack. The way in which they kept the home front strong under extremely difficult circumstances, supported the efforts of the army and refused to give up when weaker people would have surrendered bodes well for the future of our country and our people.

The third thing that I have not changed my views about is Hamas. The choices that they make and the tactics that they use to try to destroy Israel and its people seem to sink to lower levels every day. They way in which they make use of the civilian population, women and children especially, to try to exploit Israel's sensitivity to getting civilians involved in war, and to try to create negative headlines when civilians get caught up in the war should be despised by all decent humans. Reports emerging from the war zone that Hamas has considerably inflated the numbers of their civilian casualties for the purpose of negative press against Israel, reinforce my previously held contempt for this organisation.

I do, however, regard the ceasefire implemented a week ago in a different way. This reflects my view of the political establishment and the job that they have done in managing the events of the war, and the way in which it was ended. I wish to make it clear that I fully support the decision made by the politicians to go to war, and I believe that their conduct during the war was exemplary. It is clear to me that they too learned the lessons of the Second Lebanon War.

When considering the decision to declare a unilateral ceasefire, however, I am not fully in agreement. What seemed like quite a good idea a week ago, in the interests of getting our soldiers out of Gaza as soon as possible, now looks like a flawed decision. When the IDF was sent into Gaza at the start of the operation, the pretext was the ongoing rocket fire aimed at Israeli towns and cities around the Gaza Strip. This rocket fire, whilst substantially reduced during the course of the war, was not stopped. I accept the fact that Hamas had plans to dramatically increase the rocket fire and also to extend the towns and cities that were targeted in the event of a war. This plan was very effectively snuffed out by the IDF. And yet, we were unable to stop the rocket fire completely. I wonder whether we can honestly say we have achieved our objectives when rockets were still being fired in the period immediately following the ceasefire.

Also linked to the decision to declare a ceasefire is the not-so-small issue of our kidnapped soldier, Gilad Shalit. It feels incomprehensible to me that we can send the might of our army into Gaza where Gilad is being held, and stop fighting before we have him in our hands. I desperately wish to believe all the reports that that negotiations for his release are progressing, and have been greatly enhanced by the war. In my view, if Gilad is not released under some sort of deal within the next month, I will judge the political decision to declare a ceasefire a failure.

I am delighted with the government's decision to go to war, and with the way in which the army executed its responsibility. The rocket fire, albeit still a threat, has stopped for now. What remains is to bring Gilad home.

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