Threats to Israel’s Homefront
Threats to Israel’s Homefront Requiring New and Effective Strategies
By Sarah Ann Haves
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Jerusalem, Israel
“You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day; nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness; nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look and see the reward of the wicked.” Psalm 91:5-8
Can these scriptures be interpreted based on a modern geo-political analysis of the current Middle East conflict? Could this passage suggest missiles being launched by enemy armies during the day? Could there eventually be bio-chemicals released by demonic forces operating during the night? Could this be the cause of destruction and waste at the noon hour? Would these thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of rockets reach cities and towns in all of Israel?
The fact that God would deliver His people from the hand of the enemy and judge those who dared to attempt such actions is reassuring. But, with enemy forces possibly hitting Israel on several fronts in a future rocket bombardment, is the current Israeli government seriously considering new defense strategies to deal with possible threats of this kind?
A few months ago this writer went to a seminar hosted and attended by some of Israel’s most decorated army generals and air force commanders. During the seminar, a diagram was shown that revealed Israel’s vulnerability to missile attack. Presently, almost every inch of the land is within reach of missiles that could be launched by Israel’s enemies, including Iran and Syria. These nations, considered part of an evil of axis by the U.S. Bush administration, are reportedly working feverishly to acquire the technology for adding a bio-chemical or nuclear warhead to these already lethal weapons.
During the Second Lebanon War of 2006, Hezbollah’s terrorist army launched Katyusha rockets and other types of Iranian-made missiles, from southern Lebanon, threatening l/4 of a million people in the north of Israel. Currently, Kassam and now Grad rockets, launched from Gaza by Hamas and Palestinian terrorist groups there, reach into the western Negev towns of Sderot and Ashkelon.
Ely Karmon, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel states, “I think it is quite clear, in the attacks against Sderot and Ashkelon, and in the (past) war in Lebanon, that the missiles are a serious threat to the population. Hezbollah, not only Syria and Iran, has missiles that can arrive to any populated place in Israel. I think that Israel, as was shown in July 2006, was not prepared for this. More should be done to prepare the civilian population.”
Reports indicate that since the war of 2006, Hezbollah has dramatically increased its arsenal, despite UN Resolution 1701, which prohibits the terrorist organization from re-arming, and prohibits the flow of missiles from Iran through Syria into Lebanon.
Analysts say that Hezbollah has acquired 30-45,000 rockets, now available for future launchings against Israel’s population. This is up to three times as many rockets as Hezbollah had in its arsenal prior to the Second Lebanon War. Hezbollah is beefing up its terrorist forces for another war against Israel, despite the presence of UN peace-keeping forces in southern Lebanon.
Meanwhile, since the breach in the Gaza-Egyptian border a few weeks ago, Palestinian terrorist squads have been able to acquire more sophisticated rockets to add to their arsenal. Some IDF officials claim the new rockets can reach as far as the city of Ashdod on the Israeli coast. Thousands of rockets have been smuggled in through Egypt’s porous border since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip two years ago.
Analysts believe the rocket war has only just begun. Though Israel’s military arsenal contains adequate anti-missile systems to deal with medium and long range missiles, Israeli skies still remain vulnerable. This is due to a lack of adequate anti-missile defense systems that can respond to the shorter range rockets which continue to hit Israeli border towns.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government does not have immediate solutions to the problem of persistent rocket attacks against Israel’s southern population. Defense officials say that they will have a workable solution within 18 months to two years. Israel is looking to purchase a U.S. system that could be available sooner. Israel and the U.S. began to develop a join anti-missile defense system between 1995 and 2005, but both countries ended the program, concluding that there were other more important defense priorities to invest in. Now, Israeli officials regret that decision and are working hard to find a quick and efficient way to stop the rocket attacks.
According to recent Israeli defense intelligence assessments, the perception by Arab countries is that Israel cannot be defeated in a conventional war, and that Israel has air superiority. But, they also believe that Israel can be weakened through a short range rocket war aimed at the home front. This perception is causing Iranian and Syrian proxies – Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups — to learn from each other how to refine short-range rockets for the purpose of more precise and targeted attacks.
Israel’s current deterrence policy requires a fresh look at new strategies. To date, Olmert seems to be assessing whether it’s best to enter into a temporary cease-fire with Hamas and other terrorist groups; whether to root out the terrorist groups and target their weapons arsenals by launching a full-scale ground invasion into the Gaza Strip; or, whether to continue the inadequate policy of surgical strikes against terrorists launching attacks.
The current strategy does not seem to be working, as new terrorists replace those who have been killed. Rockets continue to fall on schools, buildings, homes, and businesses in Sderot, maiming and killing some Israelis. Rockets are also falling near security installations in Ashkelon, wounding Israelis in that city, as well. Miraculously, the death toll has been minimal considering that hundreds of rockets have targeted these border towns. Citizens live with the trauma of falling rockets on an almost daily basis.
Karmon says, “It is very difficult to destroy and neutralize this Kassam infrastructure. The main objective should be to stop the enhancement of these kinds of weapons.” Karmon does not believe that Israel can stop all the rockets even with an anti-missile defense system in place. He says Israel needs to develop a strategic deterrence policy aimed not only at terrorist proxies, but at Syria and Iran, as well.
WHAT ABOUT A TEMPORARY CEASE-FIRE?
Despite Israeli government assurances that there are no back channel discussions going on with Hamas, both Israel and Hamas are independently talking with Egyptian officials about a way to stop the current escalation. Hamas wants a temporary cease-fire which includes not only Gaza but the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). They also want control over all main border crossings into Gaza.
Publicly, Israel has not agreed to these conditions. Israel is demanding that Egypt take control of the Egyptian-Gaza border, while looking for a solution to the problems at other border crossings. A temporary cease-fire would be an excuse for Hamas and Palestinian terrorist groups to quietly re-arm. Karmon says the Olmert government is divided over the issue, but he thinks a truce will give Hamas a great advantage. “If they achieve this goal to arm themselves with longer-range missiles, they will deter Israel, and Israel will have difficulties to attack them in this case.”
Karmon believes that Israel should temporarily send troops into Gaza in order to eliminate the terrorist infrastructure. ” I think that Israel should occupy the southern border with Egypt and perhaps part of the northern border, because these are very close to the cities that are hit (Sderot and Ashkelon). I think if we do it while targeting Hamas leadership, this would not destroy Hamas, but it will be a bad situation for them.”
Yet, this type of deterrence strategy cannot occur if a temporary cease-fire is in place. A truce would allow Hamas to smuggle in more advanced weapons through underground tunnels, and to build up its current missile infrastructure, while sending its members to Iran and Syria for more training in how to use the missiles against Israel. Hamas is also looking for a way to gain control over the West Bank, which could happen if Israel agrees to a truce. They are already exploiting the divisions between Fatah groups who are part of the forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Meanwhile, Olmert and Abbas are under pressure from the U.S. and other countries that are encouraging a cease-fire in order for the diplomatic process to continue towards a future Palestinian state.
ARE INTERNATIONAL PEACE-KEEPING FORCES A SOLUTION?
While Olmert’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, is exploring ways to stop the current Hamas rocket war against Israel, Foreign Minister, Tzippi Livni, is visiting countries to discuss the idea of putting an international peace-keeping force in Gaza to maintain calm and order.
Dan Dyker, Senior Policy Analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs is not supportive of third party forces on Israel’s borders. “Even though Israel is exploring that position, the forces have not proven effective in southern Lebanon.” Dyker claims the idea is unpopular among some officials in Israel because international troops could get in the way of Israel’s ability to prevent terrorists from infiltrating through border crossings.
It further presents a possible challenge to Israel’s sovereignty over the West Bank, especially settlement cities, if troops are extended into that area. A multi-national force could be caught in a cross-fire between the IDF and Palestinian terrorists operating there.
Karmon also referred to the southern Lebanon UN peace-keeping force as a current model. “They are not able to do much. They retreat quickly… The last UN report clearly shows Hezbollah is stronger, and Syria and Iran have not stopped the flow of weapons.”
Yet, the Olmert government, considering a major incursion into Gaza at some future time, needs an exit strategy that will appeal to the Israeli population, which is skeptical of Olmert leading the nation into another war. Moreover, he is also looking at such a multi-national force being implemented after a withdrawal from West Bank territory, as part of his negotiations towards a comprehensive peace settlement with the Palestinians.
If diplomacy advances on this track, Israel could find foreign troops on its northern border in Lebanon, southern border in Gaza, and eventually along the eastern border in the West Bank.
The question is whether these international forces would be used in a future scenario when the nations gather together in a battle over sovereign control of Jerusalem. Only time will tell. (Zechariah 12:2-3).
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting from Israel on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues affecting the nation.
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Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.