There is no Iron Dome against the terror tunnels. They can't be intercepted. The threat of the tunnels is tangible, it's real, and so the ground incursion the army launched yesterday evening is both appropriate and justified.
But Operation Protective Edge must wipe out the roulette wheel of terrorism from Gaza and its entire terrorist infrastructure. And no only destroy the tunnels, but also arrest terrorists and collect intelligence, demolish structures used by Hamas leaders and members, eliminate terrorist hotbeds, weapons making operations and hiding places, and more.
The experience of the past proves that this is possible. In 2002, during the Second Intifada, the citizens of Israel woke up to suicide bombings every day. Operation Defensive Shield smashed terrorism in the Judea Samaria region. There is no question that the residents of southern Israel cannot be left to face terrorism from the Gaza Strip. For 13 years, they've woken up and lived their lives playing Russian roulette: Will it happen today, or not? Will they fire rockets, or will there be a short lull?
Exposing the tunnels even broadened the range: Would terrorists surprise Israeli civilians, pass through the tunnels dug in Gaza, and make their way right into their own backyards?
Thus far Gazan terrorism has taken the form of short and long-range rockets fired at communities throughout Israel, but in the past few days an additional aspect has been revealed: The tunnels, dug deep beneath Gaza and reaching Israeli territory with one goal -- to allow large terrorist forces to gear up for a surprise attack and execute a killing spree, murdering Israelis in any way possible and vanish back into the Strip armed with civilians or soldiers as hostages. The air roulette (rockets) is now joined by an underground roulette -- the tunnels. Both of them can be eliminated in with strategic action.
The Strip is one big sand table, 127 square miles, with us on three sides. The Egyptians have actively blocked off the fourth side this year (the Philadelphi Corridor.) So when we analyze all the reasons to launch a strategic action to wipe out the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza -- the threat to Israeli citizens, which Hamas still wields -- rockets, tunnels and other methods that haven't been used yet, the situation in Arab nations and their involvement with Syria and Iraq, and Iran as another relevant state -- there is more than operational and diplomatic logic for a strategic move to destroy the roulette wheel of terrorism from Gaza.
Now that the Egyptians have defined Hamas as a terrorist organization, it is possible to launch an operation like this without concern about how the Egyptian regime would respond, unlike in Operation Pillar of Defense, when the Muslim Brotherhood was in power.) These terrorist groups can no longer enjoy immunity.
Avi Dichter was head of the Shin Bet security agency during Operation Defensive Shield, public security minister during the Second Lebanon War, and homefront defense minister during Operation Pillar of Defense.