Milliband strongly criticized British Prime Minister David Cameron, arguing that he was “wrong not to have opposed Israel’s incursion into Gaza.”
It’s not clear whether this ill-advised statement was merely a political cheap shot or whether it reflects Milliband’s actual views regarding a nation’s need to defend its citizens against terrorism.
Recall that Israel’s “incursion” into Gaza occurred only after Hamas had sent death squads into Israeli territory using its network of close to 40 sophisticated tunnels illegally dug under the Gaza-Israeli border.
According to Israeli intelligence sources, Israel concluded that unless it shut down these tunnels of death Hamas was planning to send hundreds of terrorists into Israel to kill and kidnap civilians and soldiers.
I was in one of those tunnels just before Israel’s incursion into Gaza. A Beduin tracker who worked for the Israel Defense Forces discovered an air hole which led Israeli soldiers to finding the hidden exit to the tunnel, which was in close proximity to an Israeli kindergarten attended by over 50 children.
The purpose of this tunnel was to kill and/or kidnap as many of these children as possible.
As soon as I entered the sophisticated tunnel, with railroad tracks, communications equipment and places to store explosives, it became clear to me that Israel would have to send troops into Gaza to find the entrances to such tunnels and destroy them.
Israel knew where some of the entrances were because its satellites could track the removal of large amounts of dirt. But even Israel’s most sophisticated devices could not track the direction of the tunnels or their numerous secret exit points.
Some of the tunnels had several entrance and exit points – offshoots of the main underground shaft between Gaza and Israel. These tunnels could not be destroyed from the air. Nor could their exit points be found. The only two options were allowing them to continue to exist, thus endangering thousands of Israelis; or ordering an incursion into Gaza, designed to locate and destroy the tunnels from their entrance points.
Israel did not send troops into Gaza in order to stop the thousands of rockets Hamas was firing at its cities, towns and airport. It relied instead on its Iron Dome, which was only 85 percent effective, on its network of shelters located in and around every populated area, and its GPS-guided missile attacks against the rocket launchers. It was the discovery of so large a network of tunnels and the reality that Israel had no technology comparable to Iron Dome to prevent them from being used against its citizens that led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally to order the ground incursion.
My challenge to Ed Milliband: What would you have done if you were the prime minister of a country that faced comparable threats? It is easy to criticize the British prime minister for not having opposed Israel’s incursion into Gaza but, as The New York Times reported (10/23/14), Milliband “did not outline an alternative security response.”
Now he must. Would he have waited for dozens of death squads with hundreds of terrorists to enter Israel and wreak havoc on cities, towns and kibbutzim near the Gaza border? Would he have tried to attack the tunnel entrances from the air, despite the fact that many of them were located in mosques, schools, hospitals, private homes and densely populated civilian areas? The question British voters should ask is: What would prime minister Ed Milliband have done? What would he do if Britain were faced with comparable threats? His country, unlike tiny Israel, is an island separated from its traditional enemies by bodies of water. But one can imagine Scottish independent radicals digging tunnels into northeastern England. Or Irish radicals firing rockets into English cities on the West Coast? As opposition leader would Milliband criticize the current prime minister for trying to stop these attacks against British civilians? As prime minister would he do nothing and simply call for a cease-fire and the resumption of talks, as he did with regard to the Israeli-Hamas conflict?
Milliband also rebuked Cameron for his “silence on the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians caused by Israel’s military action.” But Milliband himself has remained silent on Hamas’ deliberate use of human shields that has been the main cause for why Palestinian civilians were killed. As British military expert Richard Kemp said, “No army in the world acts with as much discretion and great care as the IDF in order to minimize damage. The US and the UK are careful, but not as much as Israel.”
Kemp then provided specific ratios: “Israel’s ratio [of] military casualties in Operation Protective Edge was only one-fourth of the average in warfare around the world. [D]uring the operation, there was approximately one civilian casualty for every terrorist killed by the IDF, whereas the average in the world is four civilians for every combatant, and that, when taking into consideration Hamas’s use of human shields, this shows how careful the IDF is.”
I challenge Ed Milliband to criticize Great British troops for “the killing of innocent… civilians” in their wars against terrorists.
I await answers from the man who would be Great Britain’s next prime minister – answers that assure British voters that he is neither a hypocrite nor a leader unwilling to do what has to be done to protect his countrymen from terrorism.
A shorter version of this op-ed was published by The Times of London.
Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post