An exit plan identifies the moment you should stop something. Today, people talk about an ‘exit plan’ for Israel. They ask, when will Israel stop its military attack against Gaza? Since many who demand to know Israel’s exit plan are also those who didn’t want her to attack in the first place, one might assume that their focus is more ‘exit’ than ‘plan’.
Others, who believe that Israel waited too long to attack Gaza, are not concerned about an exit plan. They worry about an exit disaster where, as in 2008, Israel attacks, doesn’t finish the job and reaps international condemnation for inflicting ‘disproportionate’ casualties.
If 2012 becomes a repeat of 2008, they argue, we gain nothing. Rockets into Israel will not stop. Arabs will again conclude that killing human shields so terrifies Israel that she becomes a cowardly lion.
If Israel exits ‘too soon’, Arabs will have incentive to continue using human shields to control the Jewish Goliath.
Therefore, if Israel stops too soon, she’ll see no peace. Instead, she’ll have to re-arm.
Hamas, meanwhile, will surely celebrate a victory over Israel. Hamas might also conclude that she can fire rockets anywhere she wants—and Israel cannot stop her. This might suggest the future: Hamas never stops the rockets and then, when Israel attacks again, uses human shields to frighten the cowardly lion.
If Israel stops too soon, Arabs will have no motivation to change. They will have every motivation to ‘continue as usual.’
What should Israel’s exit plan be? It should be realistic. If we do not intend to shut down Hamas completely, we should not intend to over-expose our troops.
Therefore, Israel’s exit plan should be quick—but not too quick; soon, but not too soon.
Israel should deal with Hamas later.
That doesn’t sit well with many Israelis. It leaves Hamas standing. In an ideal world (for Israel) that’s a bad idea. But this isn’t an ideal world for Israel. ‘Finishing’ Hamas today is not a plan. It won’t work. It likely requires a World War Two-style invasion or expanded bombings. Both strategies create high casualties. Israel may not yet be prepared to tolerate high IDF casualties; and--right now--the nations will not tolerate high civilian casualties in Gaza so Israel can have peace.
The nations do not believe in peace for Israel. They believe in ‘proportionality’.
Israel can benefit by avoiding disproportionality—for now.
Gaza exists in a context. That context should dictate Israel’s decisions because, for better or worse, Israel must deal with other nations; besides, the time is not ripe for Israel to stand alone.
That time will come. But it is not now, not today.
Gaza is a bump in the road, not the road’s end. Nevertheless, it is a bump that can help Israel.
Gaza can validate that Israel has the right to protect itself against an irrational enemy. A smart exit plan is important because the nations have given Israel a moderate ‘pass’ right now. But their patience is not unlimited. Israel must give them reason to trust her.
Then, Israel can ask for something in return—a carte blanche to pound Gaza every time Gaza attacks.
To get that carte blanche, the nations should first be challenged: you don’t want Israeli boots in Gaza? Then convince Hamas to stop the rockets.
Of course, that won’t work. Therefore, Israel can explain to her peers, she must act as you would--to protect her population.
The exit plan can then be based upon three goals:
(1) Pound Gaza mercilessly with precision strikes to degrade weapons storage and launching facilities;
(2) Create a sealed Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the border with Gaza and a pre-determined distance inside Gaza (Ed. note: we had that, it was called Gush Katif);
(3) Destroy as many tunnels as possible;
Once those three goals have been met, Israel can announce that her mission is complete. She will cease her attack—unless Hamas continues.
If Hamas continues, Israel should inform the nations that the rules have changed. As a sovereign nation, she is not required to tolerate terror attacks on her sovereign territory—and she no longer will.
If Hamas continues the rockets and the nations cannot convince Hamas to stop, Israel will continue the attacks. The burden will shift from Israel to Hamas and the nations. They will bear the responsibility for war, not Israel.
The nations have become accustomed to pressuring Israel. Now, they see what Israel faces. For the moment, they hesitate.
That hesitation—brief though it is--gives Israel an opportunity. Israel should use that opportunity to fight, yield—and then declare it will defend itself aggressively until Hamas changes.
An exit plan can work only if it is presented as a gesture of good-will that is also a warning for the future; for example, every Hamas rocket into Israel will trigger 100 Israeli air attacks--until the nations pressure Hamas to change.
Israel’s exit plan should come with a caveat: sovereign Israel will no longer tolerate terror against its citizens.
Of course, that point is not made when Israel exits. It’s made in the future, when Israel truly strikes 100 targets for every Hamas terror attack.
Perhaps we shouldn’t call this an exit plan. Perhaps we should call it, ‘speak softly but carry a big stick’.