First-Strike Advantage

The diplomatic corps needs to prepare for war.

Danny Hershtal,

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Arutz 7
In any military conflict, their are major advantages to the party that makes the first strike. The most obvious is that the ensuing battle is fought on the terms and scope of the side that makes the first strike. However, another major advantage is on the diplomatic front. The party which makes the first strike should also have an advanced step on
The party which makes the first strike should also have an advanced step on getting its message out.
getting its message out and having its diplomatic and public relations corps prepared in advance of the actual occurrence.

In the current military conflict in Gaza, Israel essentially has the first-strike advantage. Even though the Gazans have been launching rockets incessantly for some time now, they were not sure exactly when this would lead to a full-scale conflict. That choice remains solely in Israel's hands. In the past (such as the Second Lebanon War, or the previous Gaza operation), Israel's diplomatic corps was not informed of the impending military operation and thus had to quickly catch up to the army when the fighting started.

This lack of military-diplomatic coordination meant that defense ministry personnel had to offer the first media response, which is what led an Israeli cabinet member to refer to a defensive action against repeated rocket attacks as an "holocaust". These comments caused irreparable damage to Israel's image, as they were quickly scooped up by our enemies, who launched a professional and co-ordinated public relations campaign against Israel.

By the time the diplomatic corps stepped in, Israel's PR effort was purely defensive and reactionary.

The IDF may have a concrete plan to end rocket fire on southern Israel and strike a severe blow to Hamas and other terrorist groups. However, the operational timeline for military action is dependent on diplomatic and public relations successes. In these fields, Israel must not waste its first-strike advantage.

If any of us are to find ourselves during the course of the coming military campaign, formally or informally representing Israel in any setting, here are a few "talking points" which may be useful to the amateur hasbaranik.

Some things not to say:

* Do not make machismo, chest-beating threats such as, "We will crush Hamas" or, "They will remember the name Amir Peretz." Actions speak louder than words.

* Do not apologize to Gaza's civilians or to anyone else when unarmed people are killed. The government must firmly attest that civilian casualties are a direct result of Hamas soldiers quartering in civilians' houses. (This particular phrasing is the intentional antithesis of the US Constitution's third amendment.)

* Do not refer to Hamas operatives as "terrorists", because the word terrorist gets redacted to "militant" in most media. Better to refer to them as "soldiers" since they are an organized army using military means (launching rockets into cities). On the one hand, this lends respect to the enemy, but in media terms it shows the "proportionality" of Israel’s actions - soldiers fighting soldiers.

Points which should be made include:

* Soldiers quartered in Gaza use residential areas as staging grounds for rocket attacks against purely civilian Israeli populations.

* These attacks intensified considerably after Israel completely removed its civilian and military presence from the entire Gaza Strip.

* Hamas, the elected ruling power in Gaza, as well as the vast majority of the population, denies the right of Jews to live anywhere in the region.

* Due to the abovementioned Arab violations of the Geneva Conventions (intentionally targeting civilians and denying Jews freedom of religion), Israel has no obligation to abide by the Geneva Conventions against Arab military actions (see Article 2 of the Fourth Geneva Convention).

* International law specifically allows an army to fight enemy combatants in civilian areas (Article 28 of GCIV).
The word terrorist gets redacted to "militant" in most media.

* International law specifically allows blockading an enemy territory from vital supplies, if those supplies may create the opportunity for enemy attacks against civilian targets (Article 23(c) of GCIV).

Therefore, Israel has every right under international law to fight and occupy Gaza, even if this puts Gaza’s civilian population at risk. Furthermore, anyone engaged in military activity: producing weapons, arming combatants, indoctrinating or training others for violence, can be considered a combatant and a legitimate target.

Beyond this, Israel's government has the obligation to protect its own citizens from attack.

It may also be useful to remember that Gaza in particular was once part of the Palestine Mandate, over which Israel alone declared independent sovereignty. This territory was then captured by Egypt in 1949. It was recaptured by Israel in 1967 because it was used as a staging ground for numerous terrorist strikes against Israeli citizens. In 1994, Gaza was given autonomy under the Oslo Agreements, offered complete independence at the 2000 Camp David II summit and alleviated from any Israeli presence after the Gaza "disengagement" of 2005.

Personally, I am not fond of the last point, because it highlights some of Israel's colossal mistakes of the last couple of decades. However, it does show that, with complete disregard for its own citizens, Israel has done everything it can to create an independent Palestinian State in Gaza, and our only "reward" has been more intensive terrorist and ballistic attacks.