Yes, elements in Hamas have been bombing Israel for the last year with relatively ineffective "boring" rockets that nonetheless terrorize Israeli citizens. Yes, I accept that Hamas is becoming more brazen and starting to deploy more effective weapons that need to be stopped. Some level of right-to-defend is justified. Yes, there are a great many people in Gaza with fundamentalist attitudes that demand the destruction of Israel.
Even relatively moderate Gazans now live a life where their anger and hatred is being stoked, as they live in increasing destitution.
If the world is supposed to believe that Israel is a mature democracy, can't Israel try other tactics. Some of the following come to mind:
- Call for United Nations resolutions every time they are bombed.
- Instead of bombing with explosives, bomb with millions of 'propaganda' leaflets explaining to the Gazans how evil the Hamas bombing is. Or bomb with devices that have loudspeakers that explain to Gazans what is going on.
- Unilaterally stop the tit-for-tat for a few days to see what happens. If Hamas rockets continue, give a burst of intense response at a pre-announced time, but then stop again. Accelerate this, but always show more restraint than Hamas.
- Call on elder statesman from other countries (US, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan) to get together to help figure out how to get Hamas to stop the provocation and rhetoric.
- If they have to bomb (perhaps because they have intelligence about more sophisticated weapons), announce 10 minutes before where they are going to bomb, so people can escape but relatively little military hardware can.
- Parachute in water and extra humanitarian aid to let the people of Gaza think a little about their intentions.
- Post on an interactive website exactly where they aimed, and what they intended to hit, for the world to see.
Some of these ideas may be impractical. But surely there most be something other than pure intense military response that is vastly greater than the rockets that Hamas has been using. Israel has so much stronger an army, superb anti-rocket military defences, powerful friends around the world. They don't have to destroy their reputation and foster ever more hatred among neighbouring countries by overdoing their responses.
There is just no way that the current action will serve as a 'deterrent'; angry people are not deterrable. If anything the current action will just stoke up more attacks on Israel for years to come and risk wider war and more Israeli deaths. It is clear that the action must be aimed at destroying weapons Israel knows or suspects to be present. And perhaps they have to be careful not to reveal the source of their intelligence, hence precluding some of my ideas above. Nonetheless, showing restraint and waging an intense propaganda war surely must be viable.