The heavy missile barrages launched at the State of Israel on Saturday night and on Sunday increased the public and political pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to send the Israel Defense Forces into Gaza “to stop the firing on Israel once and for all.”
After hundreds of rockets have been fired all over the country, the fear Israelis are experiencing now is understandable, as is the demand to take action to put an end to what has become a tense routine punctuated by the rush to protected spaces. It’s too bad that these feelings are being exploited by some members of the coalition, like the Habayit Hayehudi MKs and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who are calling to “go all the way,” – i.e., launch a broad ground operation in the Gaza Strip “to clear it of missile launchers.”
Before the security cabinet sends IDF soldiers into the heart of Gaza, it should stop and weigh how and if a ground operation will serve Israel’s interests. The rocket fire from Gaza cannot be totally halted, and a terror group cannot be wiped out through endless assassinations. The killing of innocent people, which the IDF presents as unavoidable “collateral damage” when targeting terror operatives, pours more fuel on the cycle of hostility with the Palestinians and undermines the legitimate right of the State of Israel to defend itself.
Those extremist elements pushing the government to launch a ground attack are misleading the public. To “clean out” the Gaza rocket launchers would require reoccupying Gaza and staying there for at least several months with our troops suffering injuries and deaths, and reasserting Israel’s control over 1.8 million Palestinians. It’s doubtful that those on the right are really interested in that scenario.
Rather than being dragged after Hamas and letting it dictate the intensity and character of the confrontation, Israel must be proactive and seek diplomatic solutions that will serve its interests. At this point, even declaring a cease-fire for a few hours would serve Israel’s interest by restoring its international legitimacy, which is fast running out as images of Gaza’s dead are being broadcast all over the world.
The prime minister has until now demonstrated restraint and measured judgment, and has avoided being swayed by the agitators in his government. He must hold to this course to save lives on both sides. A leader is not someone who is moved by thugs and mobs, but someone who guides his people toward the best possible solution. A ground incursion into Gaza is not the solution he seeks.
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