Israeli airstrikes killed Ahmed Jabari, the senior commander of the Ezzidine Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, and several others on Wednesday in response to the 150 rockets sent from Gaza to southern Israel this past week.
Michael Oren, Israeli Ambassador to the United States, said, that "Israel has the right and duty to defend itself from terrorist attacks designed to kill thousands of its citizens." But is retaliation the best way for Israel to defend itself?
While Israel declares that it has the right to defend itself, the Palestinians undoubtedly feel the same way. They're not going to want to sit idly by as Israel kills their top military commander. They're inevitably going to promote someone else as military commander and come full force against Israel for retribution.
Hamas targets civilians in southern Israel with its rockets (which is why the organization is labeled as a terrorist group by Israel, the U.S., and others) whereas Israel targets terrorist groups. But it would be extremely naive to say that the actions of the Israeli Defense Forces only affects the terrorist groups in Gaza since lots of civilians have been killed. When the IDF initiated Operation Cast Lead in the winter of 2008-2009 as a response to Hamas' rockets, 13 Israelis died, and somewhere between 1100 and-1400 Gazans died, with hundreds of them being civilians (the numbers range depending on the source) in the mere three weeks of the war. This past weekend, four teenagers in Gaza were killed. It's rare when the repercussions of Israeli retaliation do not involve innocent civilian casualties.
The U.S. condemns the fact that Hamas has fired over 12,000 rockets into Israel over the past 12 years. However, these primitive rockets oftentimes cause no casualties and have caused more cases of PTSD than in deaths, which numbered 22 up until 2009 (there have been a few additional casualties since). I'm not convinced that these few unfortunate deaths should warrant such another strong retaliation such as the likes of Operation Cast Lead, which would put Israeli military members in harm's way (which is far more dangerous than sitting in Sderot or Be'er Sheva, two Israeli cities frequently targeted by Hamas rockets).
It seems as though the number of Israelis who die from the defense of their country in border operations to stop the rockets is far greater than the number of Israelis who die from the offense of the Palestinians' primitive rockets. Because of this, retaliation measures are inefficient by the numbers, along with the fact that each death keeps the cycle of hate and violence alive. Israelis and Palestinians both "tend to see themselves as victims," and the feelings of anger and violence ensue. These feelings, and the retaliation that incites them, are counterproductive to peace.
I think it's impossible to unilaterally create peace, just like it's a bad idea for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to make a unilateral bid for statehood at the UN (which he did last year and is trying to do again). Peace is a two-way street. When Israel chooses to retaliate, it deters and discourages Palestinian leaders from accepting Israel and the two-state solution because of the feelings of hate and revenge that are the products of the retaliation. Basically, retaliation leads to anger and violence, which diminishes the chance for peace. Peace needs to be bilateral and come from both sides, and once the leaders of both sides don't have to worry about defending their people (i.e. prevent insurgent attacks and stop retaliating), then they are more likely to accept one another and come to a viable solution.