Unfortunately, too many commentators and international diplomats seem to believe that in Israel’s case there is a moral equivalence between a democratic country seeking to protect its people using lawful military means and terrorist groups directing indiscriminate explosive attacks against civilians.
The EU‘s call for both sides to act ‘proportionately’ is an example of this. Israel must of course do so – and from my observations was scrupulous in its efforts to minimise civilian casualties and to focus only on attacking terrorist leaders, their attack teams and their munitions.
Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad on the other hand should not conduct their attacks ‘proportionately’. Their attacks are illegal and should be stopped altogether.
That is Israel‘s demand, plus the requirement to cease the stockpiling of munitions, many from Iran, that has continued relentlessly over several years.
No country in the world would accept anything less and nor should Israel. Watching the build-up of the IDF around Gaza in the past few days I was in no doubt its members meant business.
But among Israeli military commanders and government officials there was a great reluctance to launch a ground offensive.
I am confident the IDF would have taken every possible step to keep casualties among innocent people to a minimum. But they know only too well a land assault involving massed infantry, tanks and artillery is a blunt instrument and increased civilian deaths would have been inevitable, along with equally-inevitable Israeli military casualties.
Israel, however, may have had no choice. Until the ceasefire, there was a case that if a lasting and verifiable end to hostilities could not have been achieved, the IDF might have had to go in on the ground until sufficient pressure was applied to Hamas to come to terms.
But stopping rocket fire is just part of the equation. Preventing and verifying that new munitions are not smuggled in over the long term is far more demanding.
Ultimately, I do not believe the current conflict will do more than buy perhaps a few years of relative calm around Gaza.
Now the intensive combat has ceased, international politicians, diplomats and human rights groups have a moral obligation to intervene if Hamas and other Gaza-based groups should resume their ballistic terrorism.
The fact that those members of the international community who were intent on bringing about the ceasefire ignored years of Hamas attacks against the Israeli population contributed to the horrific situation we have just experienced.
• Colonel Richard Kemp is a former commander of the British armed forces in Afghanistan.Learn more »