Thursday, January 14, 2010

Israel visit -- Part 2

After visiting the Israeli school just outside of Gaza, we met with Major General Yoav Galant. Depending on your perspective, he is either a hero or villain. Things are like that in the Middle East. Very view people do not have a strong opinion. (Full disclosure: I put him in the first category.)

General Galant is in charge of the Israeli Southern Command and was responsible for coordinating Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in mid-2009. This series of attacks was carried out in response to over 8000 rockets from Gaza being launched on Israeli civilian areas over four-year period.

I recognize that people will disagree over the merits of Israeli and Palestinian political and negotiating positions, but I think most people would agree that it is the responsibility of a nation to protect its citizens from these kinds of attacks. The difficulty in this situation is that rockets are launched and war materiel is stored in an urban setting. Indeed, the military installations in Gaza are often in the very same buildings as residential, education, or health care institutions.

Much has been written on this operation, pro and con, with lots of descriptions. General Galant made a very persuasive case that it was carried out in a way to minimize harm to noncombatants. He also made the case that the invasion was necessary to disrupt and disarm the Palestinians, who were accumulating rockets with longer fly ranges, which would be able to get beyond the rural villages and reach larger population centers.

Since the operation, the number of rockets being launched towards Israeli communities has been reduced by 95%. "The area is quiet," reports the General.

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