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Could Israel’s Gaza operation be declared a war? – economic analysis

CM 19/05/2021

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 As the IDF’s military campaign against Hamas in Gaza continues, with no clear end in sight, when does a military operation become a war?

Operation Guardian of the Walls has reportedly killed over 160 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists during the 10 days of fighting in the Gaza Strip. More than 3,000 rockets have been fired into Israel since the fighting began, with many deflected by the Iron Dome.
A military operation is generally defined as a campaign to achieve pre-defined goals or objectives. Operations are often planned with specified budgets and timeframes, and usually come with a code name. Wars, on the other hand, are often open-ended until a ceasefire is reached, or victory or defeat is achieved, and are generally much broader in scope.
Those definitions are malleable, and can be changed while fighting is still underway. Israel’s Operation Kadesh in 1956 became known as the Sinai War, even though it lasted only eight days, and 1982’s Operation Peace of the Galilee ultimately became known as the First Lebanon War.
Usually, the change in status refers to the number of casualties incurred fighting, explained Uri Bar-Joseph, professor of Political Science at the University of Haifa. Bar-Joseph said that in both 1956 and 1982, the conflicts were first defined as operations in order to try to limit the political scope of Israel’s interests. In 1956, this was necessary because of Israel’s cooperation with France, and in 1982, there were conflicting visions of the extent of the planned attacks, Bar-Joseph noted.
In many countries, there can be a significant difference between a military operation and a war in economic terms. Under generally accepted definitions, a country might not liable to compensate victims for much of the damage to businesses and private property in the case of a military campaign, while its responsibility would be much greater in the case of war. Among the complicated distinctions to be made are between direct damage, such as the cost of restoring a building that was destroyed by a missile, versus indirect damages like lost workdays and reduced profits. These considerations can change what might otherwise be a technical distinction into a matter of billions of shekels to the state’s coffers.
However, in Israel, that distinction is not always so clear-cut. During Israel’s 2014 Operation Protective Edge campaign in Gaza, there was heated debate as to whether the fighting, which ultimately lasted seven weeks, could be classified as a war or not. Ultimately, the Tax Authority ruled that it would not be held accountable to those definitions. Rather, the authority said, compensation would depend on one’s location. According to the ruling at the time, businesses within seven kilometers of the border with Gaza were entitled to compensation for indirect damages like lost profits and wages, while those between seven and 40 kilometers from the fence could sue for the wages of absent workers only. Businesses 40 kilometers or more away from the Gaza Strip could only claim direct, physical damages.

Regarding the current campaign, there is effectively no connection between a declaration of war and people’s rights to compensation, according to Col. (res.) Adv. Liron Libman, a research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute.
“The law regarding compensation for damage to property has two categories,” Libman explained. “In the case of direct damage to property due to military action, whether the damage was inflicted by the enemy or the IDF, the owner is compensated with the cost of repairs, or the value of the damage to the property. The law requires the owner to do his part to keep that cost on the lower side.”
“Regarding indirect damages, like a loss of income, it is possible to get compensated, but it is complicated. There are limitations based on one’s location, and the damage must extend for a minimal amount of time. You can’t get government compensation for a missed day or two.”
“Most importantly, there needs to a declaration of a special situation on the home front, where the defense minister declares that certain business activities must be closed in specified areas. If that’s the case, the business may be eligible for compensation for indirect damages. If there is just a recommendation about closures, the same rules wouldn’t be in effect.”
Finally, Libman said, there can be certain temporary measures that can be put into place at different times as circumstances change. “Regarding the current round of fighting, we don’t yet know what will be final economic arrangements, because they may change,” he said. 

Source: Jerusalem Post

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