How does Israel confront the Gaza of below, without causing unnecessary anguish to the Gaza of above?

When the clear strategy of Hamas is to locate itself within the civilian population, it is agonising to resolve


There are two Gazas. The first is the Gaza of the Palestinian people; of men, women and children who wish to work, play and live in peace; the Gaza we see on our TV screens; today a place of genuine pain and suffering.

But there is a second Gaza, subterranean Gaza. It is a web of hundreds of fortified tunnels, constructed for smuggling weapons and cross border attacks. It is a massive complex of thousands of storage basements and bunkers, below schools and mosques, filled with tens of thousands of launchers and missiles, whether short-range rockets constructed in Gaza, with electricity provided by Israel's power plant in Ashkelon, or long-range weapons shipped in from Iran on boats, like the KLOS-C intercepted by Israel earlier this year. It is a network of terrorist leaders, many trained alongside Hezbollah and other terrorists in Iran, now returned, taking up their cowardly positions in command centres within and below the heart of civilian areas, and most cynically of all in the basement of Shifa, Gaza's central hospital.

It is from this second Gaza, this Gaza of below, that over 1000 rockets have been fired on Israel in the past week, over 11,000 since Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005. As the number of missiles has risen, so has their range, so that today more than 3.5 million Israelis are within reach, and must live their lives within seconds of bomb shelters.

Read more: Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
As an ex-soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces, I've seen how shockingly we treat Palestinians
War is war: Why I stand with Israel

The dilemma that Israel has faced this past week is simply put. How to confront that Gaza of below, without causing unnecessary anguish to the Gaza of above? Simple to put but agonising to resolve, particularly when the clear strategy of Hamas has been not only to locate itself within the civilian population, but also to force that population to serve as human shields. As Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Al Aqsa TV, the official Hamas television channel, last week: “The people oppose the Israeli fighter planes with their bodies alone... We, the [Hamas] movement, call on our people to adopt this method in order to protect the Palestinian homes.”

Israel's response to Hamas provocation has been twofold. First, it sought to avoid confrontation altogether. For years residents of Israel's south have lived with the threat of terrorist attacks, while Israel has limited its response to building shelters and developing Iron Dome, a passive missile defence system which shoots down rockets after they leave the Gaza Strip. Even over the past three weeks of continued escalation, Israel's repeated message to Hamas was to step back from the brink. Quiet would be met with quiet. Yet Hamas was bent on escalation. In the seven days before Israel reluctantly decided to launch Operation Protective Edge, Hamas fired an average of seventeen rockets per day.

Second, when it could fail to respond no longer, Israel made strenuous efforts to focus its attacks on the terrorist infrastructure, successfully targeting 3000 rockets and 800 missile launchers. At the same time it took extraordinary measures to limit the damage to the civilians above and around these targets. One is hard-pressed to find an example of another conflict in which a military used phone calls, text messages, leaflets, and warning shots to alert residents to impending strikes. Where civilians remained in spite of these measures—often under instructions from Hamas—attacks were frequently aborted.

Notwithstanding these efforts, there has been a heavy civilian toll on the Palestinian side. Since Israel uses its arms to protect its civilians, whereas Hamas uses its civilians to protect its weapons, there has been a predictable asymmetry of casualties. But proportionality is not a tit-for-tat numbers game. Only perverse logic would deem Israel's actions more proportionate if Israel allowed more of its civilians to be killed. Proportionality is measured with regard to the threat one faces. In Israel's case this threat is a stockpile of thousands of rockets and missiles, threatening the bulk of Israel's population, in the hands of a terrorist regime committed to Israel's destruction.

Two Gazas. The Gaza of above is held tragically hostage to Gaza of below. But there is a third Gaza: the Gaza that could have been. In 2005 Israel uprooted more than 8000 Israelis and more than twenty settlements from Gaza, in the hope that Gazans would build a prosperous society, with tourists flocking to its beautiful beaches and agriculture flourishing in the greenhouses Israel left behind. Since then the greenhouses have been smashed and Gazan society brutalised by the Hamas regime.

When this terrorist regime is finally disarmed and dismantled, this third Gaza may yet become a reality.

Daniel Taub is Israel's Ambassador to the United Kingdom

Read next: Is this reshuffle really going to persuade women to vote Tory?
It’s ability that should count – not age or gender
A ban on the niqab is contrary to British values  

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions