A justified target, a strange timing
By Alex Fishman
Is it possible that somebody in Israel’s high political and military echeleons wanted to deliberately sabotage the chances for a cease-fire? God forbid. Such a thing is unthinkable in our country. But then, how to explain that exactly an hour and half after the Tanzim heads agreed upon the text of their call for a unilateral ceasefire, Israel liquidated in such a clumsy way the head of the Hamas military wing in the Gaza Strip, thereby also liquidating a chance – faint as it may have been – to calm down the region? Is it just coincidence? Or are we locked upon the concept that any Palestinian move is always a lie or conspiracy?
The target was more than justified: Shehadeh was an arch-terrorist who should have been liquidated years ago. But the timing of the liquidation is very strange, and the clumsy implemetation very untypical of Military Intelligence and the Air Force. As if somebody was in a very big hurry to carry it out right this moment, no matter what.
Shehadeh was a target whose “targeted killing” was aproved many months ago. The collection of intelligence about him involved an enormous effort. Just two weeks ago it was found out that he had moved to a new house, the same where he was yesterday liquidated. Already last Friday the missile sights were turned upon him, but the attack was called off when it turmned out that a female relative of his was nearby. As far as the armed forces were concerned, there was no doubt – this was a legitimate target approved by the political echelon. But what would have happened had the political echelon decided to postpone the liqudation and wait to see what would come of the Tanzim/European initiative?
Military Intelligence has no confidence in the Tanzim cease-fire initiative, still less in Tanzim’s ability to get Hamas involved in that initiative. But Military Intelligence makes no more than recommendations. It was for the political echelon to consider and decide upon the importance of that declaration. After all, Tanzim declaring a unilateral cease-fire would amount to declaring the failure of the Intifada. It could have amounted to a victory of Ariel Sharon’s policies. But somebody’s finger seemed to itching on the trigger.
It is reasonable to assume that a pinpoint liquidation of the man alone would not have aroused the would agner against us in such a way. But a plane with a bomb can go wrong. In this case, the pilot made no mistake – he landed the bomb exactly where he was instructed to land it. The mistake was in another place, in the basic considerations – and not only those of the armed forces. For almost two years, the Air Force is carrying out attacks in the Territories.
Pilots involved in targeted killing speak proudly – and present action footage to prove their point – of enormous effort invested and the many safety precautions taken before the trigger is pressed, in order to avoid harming innocent civilians. So far, the Air Force and the IDF kept this ethical code in a most respectful way. And suddenly, exactly yesterday, Intelligence gave wrong information which led to wrong action.
This is no small “intelligece discrepency”. It is a very big hole in the intelligence-gathering process. Mistakes always happen, but the liquidation of Shehade was no tactical move of liquidating yet another local terrorist. It was a strategic move.
Where was the Minister of Defence, who is supposed to be a balancing factor between the policial and miltary echelons and weigh carefully all the considerations before taking such a significant military move? So, instead of trying to measure the seriousness of the Tanzim’s intentions to declare a cease-fire, we are prepaping ourselves to absorb a new wave of suicide bombings, which will require of us more painfiul and justified reactions. Did we already talk of the conquest of Gaza?