Published 03:07 11.03.12Latest update 03:07 11.03.12
The cyclical ritual of bloodletting between Israel and Gaza always prompts two questions: 'Who started it?' and 'Whose is bigger?'
By Gideon Levy
Here we go again - a targeted killing; retaliation; retaliation to the retaliation. Here we go again - The reflexive act; the harsh rhetoric; the blindness. The Israel Defense Forces carries out a targeted killing. The Palestinian organizations avenge it - and it's the Palestinians instigating war and terrorism. MK Danny Danon (Likud) has, of course, already called for "all of those in possession of weapons in the Gaza Strip" to be targeted because of the "million people living under fire."
Those million people, in case you failed to get it, are the residents of southern Israel. Only they live under fire. By yesterday afternoon, the bodies of 15 Palestinians were already laid out on the other side of the Gaza border. There were eight people injured on this side, and the Iron Dome antimissile system chalked up the successful interception of 25 rockets.
This cyclical ritual of bloodletting always prompts two questions: "Who started it?" and "Whose is bigger?" It's as if both questions were straight from some preschool playground. The response to the first question is always mired in uncertainty, while the answer to the second is always razor-sharp.
Who started it? The IDF and the Shin Bet security service did. The impression is that they carry out the targeted killings whenever they can, and not whenever it is necessary.
When are they necessary? Do you remember the debate on targeted killings sometime in the distant past? Then, it seemed the targets had to be "ticking time bombs" en route to carry out their attacks. In any event, such a vague standard no longer applies. In 2006, in his last court ruling handed down before his retirement, then Supreme Court President Aharon Barak barred such killings when they were meant to be "a deterrent or punishment."
The latest target killed was Zuhair al-Qaissi, the secretary general of the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza. IDF sources said he was responsible for the terrorist attack on the Egyptian border last August - which would make his killing an act of "deterrence or punishment." But to be on the safe side, it was also noted that he had "led and directed plans to carry out a terror attack within Israel, which was in its final stages of preparation."
This convoluted announcement by the IDF spokesman was enough to get the Israeli public to accept this latest regular dose of targeted killing with automatic understanding and sympathy. And who knows what the late al-Qaissi had planned? Only the Shin Bet does, so we accept his death sentence without unnecessary questions.
Did he really lead and direct plans? And what are "the final stages of preparation"? The military reporters said so, and the military reporters know. Even the question of the effectiveness, rather than the legality of the killings, is no longer a subject for debate. What benefit will it bring Israel, other than more people injured, and additional days of fear in the south? Did this targeted killing really head off a terrorist attack? We won't know. It's enough for the news presenters to know. (And they don't. They just obediently spout what they get from the defense establishment. )
The second question - "Whose is bigger?" - is even more ridiculous and superfluous, of course. It's the best equipped army in the world against a ragtag army of rocket launchers. Nonetheless, this has to be proven to everyone, both to them and us, over and over.
You have the score right here in front of you. As of yesterday afternoon, it was 15-0 in Israel's favor. If we measure it by the results of the IDF's Cast Lead operation in Gaza at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009 - when it was one Israeli killed per 100 Palestinians - then from a statistical standpoint there's been backsliding.
And imagine if, God forbid, there were 15 Israelis killed over the weekend? Cast Lead 2 and regional war, with a politically different Egypt as a backdrop. But the killing of 15 Palestinians is allowed, eliciting just a yawn. In another day or two, we should hope that calm will again prevail. And actually, the commentators have been saying that "neither side is interested in a confrontation." A nameless mediator will handle the negotiations and the weapons will again be locked up.
Until the next round. At that point, the juvenile questions will be asked all over again. Again, Israel will not restrain itself from carrying out additional targeted killings. Again, the Palestinians will not restrain themselves from avenging the killings, both sides locked in their stupidity. Because that's the routine in this insane asylum.
For those on the inside, everything appears normal and routine - as is always the case among such psychotic patients. So Iran is compared to Auschwitz and, in a blind reflex, a target killing is carried out in Gaza in the middle of a period of calm that had benefited everyone.
The rising star candidate as head of the opposition, Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), who is the winning alternative to the current government, has already welcomed the targeted killing, as did Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already contacted the mayors in the south in a show of support. This, too, is part of the standard ritual. Residents of the south sit in shelters while the rest of the country cluck their tongues and tell themselves "That's how it is"; "Nothing else can be done"; and "Way to go, IDF!" And then they take an afternoon snooze in the wonderful springtime weather.