Gaza and Israeli civilians

An item today in AT points the reader to The Israeli Project's (TIP) update marking the one—year anniversary of the 'withdrawal' of Israelis from the Gaza strip. The lives of nearly 9,000 civilians were turned upside down by the evacuation, and naturally, they and others opposed to the operation will remind us how this 'withdrawal' was a very bad idea.

Last year, I explained how the Gaza evacuation was a calculated tactical maneuver to consolidate the IDF's defensive perimeter, and by removing the 9,000 or so Israelis, would allow a massive military response without the fear of civilian casualties or having to worry about a ready—made hostage pool.  In other words, evacuating the Israelis in the Gaza Strip where they were surrounded by over 1.4 million Palestinians was a wise move.

The Israeli Project's statistics and the terminology commonly used by those opposed to the 'withdrawal' actually muddy the waters.  'Withdrawal' and 'disengagement' are military operational terms.  TIP does not explain what forces actually withdrew from Gaza, nor do they detail how civilians were 'engaged' in the Strip.  Were the Israeli citizens a pawn in the overall plan to secure Gaza?  How many IDF troops were required to provide security for the settlements, or were the civilians counting on the good graces of a million Palestinians to maintain their business as usual lifestyle?  Also, the largest settlements sat on strategic terrain that would severely limit IDF operations, unless of course, the civilians were evacuated in the middle of a fight while under fire.

Understandably, most of the negative effects in TIP's statistics concerning the so—called 'withdrawal' focus on the financial and emotional impact on the families involved and the disruption to a significant chunk of religious and social services.  TIP provides a few examples of suicide and rocket attacks launched from Gaza, but do not provide the figures for attacks before the evacuation.  If rocket attacks have actually increased, then what is the correlation of having a relatively miniscule number of Israeli citizens in Gaza in helping prevent these attacks?  Were they sitting on the launch sites?  Or were some of the 9,000 organized into local militias?  How about some factoids to answer the obvious tactical considerations?

So, TIP provides some sobering numbers, but very little context or comparison of the operational value to the evacuation.  Militarily, Sharon's Gaza maneuver has already paid off by allowing the IDF to attack and seize key chokepoints in the Strip in its operation to rescue a kidnapped soldier.  The application of airpower, ground firepower and tactical movement in Gaza would have been severely limited had the settlements still been in place.

There is another important military consideration in light of recent operations in Lebanon.  Even though the performance of the IDF and the Olmert government was poor to mediocre, think of the much bigger problem the IDF would have faced if it did not have the ability to secure its southern flank with a smaller troop contingent in an economy of force role.  Instead of kidnapping a few soldiers, Hamas would have had a ripe opportunity to capture or kill thousands of Israeli citizens to draw the IDF into a southern battle.  This truly would have put Israel between the hammer and the anvil.

Sharon was right about Gaza.  It's too bad he wasn't around to lead Israel in its latest campaign in the north.

Douglas Hanson   8 15 06

An item today in AT points the reader to The Israeli Project's (TIP) update marking the one—year anniversary of the 'withdrawal' of Israelis from the Gaza strip. The lives of nearly 9,000 civilians were turned upside down by the evacuation, and naturally, they and others opposed to the operation will remind us how this 'withdrawal' was a very bad idea.

Last year, I explained how the Gaza evacuation was a calculated tactical maneuver to consolidate the IDF's defensive perimeter, and by removing the 9,000 or so Israelis, would allow a massive military response without the fear of civilian casualties or having to worry about a ready—made hostage pool.  In other words, evacuating the Israelis in the Gaza Strip where they were surrounded by over 1.4 million Palestinians was a wise move.

The Israeli Project's statistics and the terminology commonly used by those opposed to the 'withdrawal' actually muddy the waters.  'Withdrawal' and 'disengagement' are military operational terms.  TIP does not explain what forces actually withdrew from Gaza, nor do they detail how civilians were 'engaged' in the Strip.  Were the Israeli citizens a pawn in the overall plan to secure Gaza?  How many IDF troops were required to provide security for the settlements, or were the civilians counting on the good graces of a million Palestinians to maintain their business as usual lifestyle?  Also, the largest settlements sat on strategic terrain that would severely limit IDF operations, unless of course, the civilians were evacuated in the middle of a fight while under fire.

Understandably, most of the negative effects in TIP's statistics concerning the so—called 'withdrawal' focus on the financial and emotional impact on the families involved and the disruption to a significant chunk of religious and social services.  TIP provides a few examples of suicide and rocket attacks launched from Gaza, but do not provide the figures for attacks before the evacuation.  If rocket attacks have actually increased, then what is the correlation of having a relatively miniscule number of Israeli citizens in Gaza in helping prevent these attacks?  Were they sitting on the launch sites?  Or were some of the 9,000 organized into local militias?  How about some factoids to answer the obvious tactical considerations?

So, TIP provides some sobering numbers, but very little context or comparison of the operational value to the evacuation.  Militarily, Sharon's Gaza maneuver has already paid off by allowing the IDF to attack and seize key chokepoints in the Strip in its operation to rescue a kidnapped soldier.  The application of airpower, ground firepower and tactical movement in Gaza would have been severely limited had the settlements still been in place.

There is another important military consideration in light of recent operations in Lebanon.  Even though the performance of the IDF and the Olmert government was poor to mediocre, think of the much bigger problem the IDF would have faced if it did not have the ability to secure its southern flank with a smaller troop contingent in an economy of force role.  Instead of kidnapping a few soldiers, Hamas would have had a ripe opportunity to capture or kill thousands of Israeli citizens to draw the IDF into a southern battle.  This truly would have put Israel between the hammer and the anvil.

Sharon was right about Gaza.  It's too bad he wasn't around to lead Israel in its latest campaign in the north.

Douglas Hanson   8 15 06