The road to Gaza runs through Tehran

It looks as though Hamas's patron, Iran, has decided to respond to Israel's attacks on Iranian military interests in Syria with attacks on Israel from Gaza.  Over 100 rockets and mortar shells were fired from Gaza into Israel over this past weekend.  It's a clever strategy for Iran, since it keeps up pressure on Israel but avoids pulling Israel into Lebanon and putting Iran's agent Hezb'allah at risk while Iran needs Hezb'allah to fight for the Assad regime in Syria.  Using Hamas to attack Israel also limits Iran's liability as Israel always responds against Hamas in Gaza but never against Iranian interests anywhere else.

In addition, Iran knows that Israel cannot risk taking too many Arab lives in Gaza, as the media consider terrorists civilians and fighters carrying assault rifles nonviolent.  If Israel uses its great military force against them, the world will turn against Israel.  So Israel has been put into a position of damned if she does respond with force in Gaza and damned to continuing terror attacks if she doesn't.

This strategy also gives Iran some small measure of deniability since it can claim not to dictate tactics to Hamas.  It would be a fraudulent claim: Iran saved Hamas from economic collapse last year, and it, a Shi'ite nation, certainly did not do that out of compassion for the Sunni Muslims of Gaza, whom Iranian Shi'ites see as heretics.  No, the Iranians had other motives in mind.  

Iran now owns Hamas just as it owns Hezb'allah in Lebanon and Syria.  That means that an attack on Israel from Hamas in the south is now an attack by Iran just like an attack from Hezb'allah in the north.  Yet Israel doesn't retaliate against Iranian interests.  Yes, from Iran's point of view, this is a clever strategy.

What can Israel do about this state of affairs?  The current strategy is simply to deal with Iranian attacks from Hamas in a tit-for-tat way that resolves nothing and fails to deter attacks in the future.  Yet if those same attacks came from Hezb'allah in the north, Israel would invade Lebanon and tear the entire country apart.  Both Lebanon and Hezb'allah know this, so they avoid attacks on Israel from Lebanon.

So what does Israel have to do to achieve equivalent respect along its southern border with Gaza?  

Some suggest that Israel could push the Gazans into the Sinai and be done with them.  But that would undoubtedly turn Egypt into an enemy state once again, which would not be to Israel's advantage.  Others suggest that Israel could re-conquer Gaza, but that would mean a costly invasion and occupation (costly in terms of Israeli blood) of land that most Israelis do not want to annex.  Others suggest that Israel cut off all contact with Gaza, which currently pretends to be subject to a full blockade while it is really subject to only a military blockade that allows civilian merchandise to enter.  But that would serve only to infuriate an already bigoted and anti-Semitic world into condemning and boycotting Israel.

Are Israel's hands tied?  Not necessarily.

Now that Iran has bought Hamas, it's time for Israel and her friends to focus on the true cause of attacks from both the north and the south: Iran.  Only by going after Iran's interests can we solve the problem in Gaza.  After all, without Iranian money and weapons, Hamas is just a local gang of thugs, not an international terror organization.  

It's important to realize that there are alternative avenues available for Israel to maneuver in this situation.  With Israel's superior ability to project military force, Israel could increase pressure on Iran in Syria when attacks come from Gaza as Israel does if attacks come from Syria.  Such attacks would hold Iran directly responsible for attacks by its Hamas agents.  Israel could also increase pressure on Iran by arming and training Iran's Balochi and Kurdish minorities, both of which want independence from Iran, and utilizing them, our natural allies, to put pressure on Iran as well.  Israel could also begin or continue a program of assassinations of Hamas and Iranian leaders as it is accused of having done in the past.

Whatever Israel does, it must make the Iranians understand that Israel is not a victim, but a strong, independent actor who will not shy away from defending her citizens and her sovereignty regardless of the location from which attacks originate.  

Pete Cohon is a retired attorney living in Tel Aviv, Israel.

It looks as though Hamas's patron, Iran, has decided to respond to Israel's attacks on Iranian military interests in Syria with attacks on Israel from Gaza.  Over 100 rockets and mortar shells were fired from Gaza into Israel over this past weekend.  It's a clever strategy for Iran, since it keeps up pressure on Israel but avoids pulling Israel into Lebanon and putting Iran's agent Hezb'allah at risk while Iran needs Hezb'allah to fight for the Assad regime in Syria.  Using Hamas to attack Israel also limits Iran's liability as Israel always responds against Hamas in Gaza but never against Iranian interests anywhere else.

In addition, Iran knows that Israel cannot risk taking too many Arab lives in Gaza, as the media consider terrorists civilians and fighters carrying assault rifles nonviolent.  If Israel uses its great military force against them, the world will turn against Israel.  So Israel has been put into a position of damned if she does respond with force in Gaza and damned to continuing terror attacks if she doesn't.

This strategy also gives Iran some small measure of deniability since it can claim not to dictate tactics to Hamas.  It would be a fraudulent claim: Iran saved Hamas from economic collapse last year, and it, a Shi'ite nation, certainly did not do that out of compassion for the Sunni Muslims of Gaza, whom Iranian Shi'ites see as heretics.  No, the Iranians had other motives in mind.  

Iran now owns Hamas just as it owns Hezb'allah in Lebanon and Syria.  That means that an attack on Israel from Hamas in the south is now an attack by Iran just like an attack from Hezb'allah in the north.  Yet Israel doesn't retaliate against Iranian interests.  Yes, from Iran's point of view, this is a clever strategy.

What can Israel do about this state of affairs?  The current strategy is simply to deal with Iranian attacks from Hamas in a tit-for-tat way that resolves nothing and fails to deter attacks in the future.  Yet if those same attacks came from Hezb'allah in the north, Israel would invade Lebanon and tear the entire country apart.  Both Lebanon and Hezb'allah know this, so they avoid attacks on Israel from Lebanon.

So what does Israel have to do to achieve equivalent respect along its southern border with Gaza?  

Some suggest that Israel could push the Gazans into the Sinai and be done with them.  But that would undoubtedly turn Egypt into an enemy state once again, which would not be to Israel's advantage.  Others suggest that Israel could re-conquer Gaza, but that would mean a costly invasion and occupation (costly in terms of Israeli blood) of land that most Israelis do not want to annex.  Others suggest that Israel cut off all contact with Gaza, which currently pretends to be subject to a full blockade while it is really subject to only a military blockade that allows civilian merchandise to enter.  But that would serve only to infuriate an already bigoted and anti-Semitic world into condemning and boycotting Israel.

Are Israel's hands tied?  Not necessarily.

Now that Iran has bought Hamas, it's time for Israel and her friends to focus on the true cause of attacks from both the north and the south: Iran.  Only by going after Iran's interests can we solve the problem in Gaza.  After all, without Iranian money and weapons, Hamas is just a local gang of thugs, not an international terror organization.  

It's important to realize that there are alternative avenues available for Israel to maneuver in this situation.  With Israel's superior ability to project military force, Israel could increase pressure on Iran in Syria when attacks come from Gaza as Israel does if attacks come from Syria.  Such attacks would hold Iran directly responsible for attacks by its Hamas agents.  Israel could also increase pressure on Iran by arming and training Iran's Balochi and Kurdish minorities, both of which want independence from Iran, and utilizing them, our natural allies, to put pressure on Iran as well.  Israel could also begin or continue a program of assassinations of Hamas and Iranian leaders as it is accused of having done in the past.

Whatever Israel does, it must make the Iranians understand that Israel is not a victim, but a strong, independent actor who will not shy away from defending her citizens and her sovereignty regardless of the location from which attacks originate.  

Pete Cohon is a retired attorney living in Tel Aviv, Israel.