In case you didn’t know, Meretz’s call for a military strike against Gaza reminds us we’re in the middle of an election campaign. It also reminds us of the utter bankruptcy of the national political process. If you speak forthrightly about what must be done for peace, you lose votes. If you pander to nationalist-security sentiment, you may not gain votes (especially if you’re Meretz), but you won’t lose them.
Every reasonable person both inside and outside Israel knows what will stop the rain of Qassams descending on southern Israel. Hamas has told them what it wants: lifting the siege. If Israel agrees to end its depraved policy of suffocating Gaza, then Hamas would renew the tahdiya and there would be, if not peace, at least calm. In the long term of course, Israel would have to negotiate at least indirectly with Hamas for longer-term & more comprehensive peace agreements.
Hamas, of course, rejected renewal of the ceasefire on Israeli terms, which essentially gave Israel peace and Gaza ongoing misery. The rocket barrage unleashed since the end of the ceasefire is unpardonable, especially since the longer it lasts the more likely it will lead to the death of an Israeli civilian. But if Israel listened to reason and common sense, it would realize the siege hasn’t worked and won’t work (not to mention that it is morally indefensible and a violation of international law); and would lift it. Then there would be no missile barrage, hence no military incursion.
An indication of the delusional thinking affecting Israeli politicians is this statement:
Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tzahi Hanegbi [said]…”If the Qassam [rocket] fire does not stop, the Israel Defense Forces will fight you with the same might with which it fought Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War,” said Hanegbi (Kadima), speaking to Army Radio.
Hanegbi is under the illusion that threatening Hamas with what Israel served up to Hezbollah is a deterrent. Someone ought to tell him the news: the IDF failed in Lebanon just as it will fail in Gaza. The only people the IDF frightens is unarmed civilians.
It is, of course, politically bankrupt for Meretz to call for an incursion. It signals that even the left has lost its bearings in Israeli politics. If you can’t speak plainly and clearly and find a place in the political process, what is that process worth? The process has led to disaster after disaster. The coming operation, if it does not end with the deaths of Israeli soldiers and Gaza civilians, certainly will do absolutely nothing to end the Qassam barrages. They may stop for a day or a week. But they will resume as they always have after this type of military action. It will be the same old cycle of misery and failure into which Hamas and Israel have sunk themselves.
While I find myself sometimes in strong disagreement with Brad Burston, he’s hit the nail on the head in this week’s Haaretz column, with his own characterization of this imminent offensive, Can the First Gaza War Be Stopped Before It Starts?
He quotes Brig. Gen. Shmuel Zakai, former IDF Gaza commander, with some sensible ideas about ending the Qassam fire. The fact that they are sensible means, ipso facto that there will never receive serious consideration by the Israeli powers-that-be:
“The state of Israel must understand that Hamas rule in Gaza is a fact, and it is with that government that we must reach a situation of calm.”
Israel must also understand that Hamas is a pragmatic organization, Zakai continues. “The moment that the organization understands that Qassam fire is contrary to its interests, it will stop the fire.
“We need to work in an integrated manner. The situation is a complex one…”An integrated approach, on the one hand, includes demonstration of military might…and on the other hand, also using a carrot, to cause Hamas to understand that refraining from firing exactly serves their interests.
In Zakai’s view, Israel’s central error during the tahadiyeh, the six-month period of relative truce that formally ended on Friday, was failing to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians of the Strip.
He believes that Hamas would have – and still would – accept a bargain in which Hamas…would halt the fire in exchange for easing of the many ways in which Israeli policies have kept a choke hold on the economy of the Strip.
“…The carrot is improvement of the economic situation in the Gaza Strip. You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they’re in, and to expect that Hamas will just sit around and do nothing. That’s something that’s simply unrealistic.”
In the end, Israel must realize that “we can’t impose regimes on the Palestinians. We can’t cause the Palestinians [to decide] who will rule over them. Hamas took over the Gaza Strip. This is a fact. I do not believe that the state of Israel should cause another ruler to come to power in Gaza borne on the bayonets of the IDF. ”
“It’s just like after the disengagement. We left Gaza and we thought that with that troubles were over. Did we really think that a million and a half people living in that kind of poverty were going to mount the rooftops and begin singing the Beitar hymn? That is illogical.”
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.