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The Politics of Airstrikes

By Michael Freund
12/27/2008, 12:00 AM


the obvious question that comes to mind is: what took so long for Israel to act?
Israel today launched Operation Cast Lead, with a series of airstrikes against dozens of Hamas targets throughout Gaza. Initial reports indicate some 200 Palestinians were killed, and government officials said the operation would continue.

It is of course refreshing to see the Jewish state finally taking action to defend itself after Palestinian terrorists in Gaza had made life unbearable for tens of thousands of Israelis in the south of the country.

Since the start of the year, Palestinians in Gaza have fired more than 2,900 rockets and mortar shells at Israel. That is an average of eight rockets per day, every day, since January 1. This is simply intolerable, and no country in the world would put up with such a situation.

So the obvious question that comes to mind is: what took so long for Israel to act? Why wasn't more done to stop the rocket fire 3 or 6 or 9 months ago?

And the equally obvious answer is: elections are looming in just over 5 weeks, and if the polls are accurate, Defense Minister Ehud Barak's Labor party is going to get walloped. Barak's approval ratings are remarkably low, and he is immensely unpopular with the public. And there is no better way to boost those poll numbers than by flexing some muscle and appearing firm in the fight against terror.

One can only hope that Israel will not bend to international pressure and cut short the operation before it achieves its goals. And those should be nothing less than the toppling of the Hamas government and the reassertion of complete Israeli military control over Gaza. That, after all, is the only way to prevent a renewal of the threat to the south.

But don't hold your breath - because as much as the current campaign is militarily-motivated, it is being guided by politicians. And as we know all too well, they have a tendency to put their own interests before those of the country they were elected to defend.