Israel’s President, Shimon Peres, says:
Israel’s aim, he said, was to provide a strong blow to the people of Gaza so that they would lose their appetite for shooting at Israel.
The other aim was to prevent an Iranian takeover of Gaza and Iranian weapons from entering Gaza. He supported the idea of food being sent from Iran to Gaza, but not rockets or explosives.
“We have to stop the smuggling of arms, but someone else has to stop the provision of arms,” he said.
Most Arab states are even more worried than Israel about Iran, Peres asserted, because they don’t want to be governed by Iran.
Getting back to civilian suffering in Gaza, Peres said, “it gives us no pleasure to see people suffering.”
He says it gives him “no pleasure” to see people suffering, but he also says that the main point of the operation is to provide a strong blow to Gaza’s population to teach them a lesson. So that’s kind of a disingenuous protestation of displeasure. And of course in his remarks, Peres is echoing New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s explanation of Israeli strategy which, in turn, echoed Friedman’s own rationale for invading Iraq—that we needed to send a “suck on this” message to the Arab world. It also seems related to what Jonah Goldberg has termed the “Ledeen Doctrine”, the view that “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.” Israel being much smaller than the United States, it presumably needs to pick up a smaller and crappier place like the Gaza Strip.
Israeli officials are hardly alone in embracing this sort of morally hideous behavior. Indeed as noted there’s reason to believe they’ve imported these ideas from the hawkish camp in the United States. And of course policies oriented around collective punishment and reprisal targeting of civilian populations are hardly unheard of in human history. But they’re wrong and a substantial body of international humanitarian law is dedicated to making them illegal.