Beit Lahiya, July 19.
A Palestinian inspects the damage at his relatives' apartment, destroyed by an Israeli strike, in Beit Lahiya, Saturday, July 19, 2014. Photo by AP
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Israel’s ground operation in the Gaza Strip, which is the second phase of Operation Protective Edge, has chalked up some achievements, but at a cost: casualties among its troops and a sharp increase in the number of Palestinians killed. The delusion, held by some, that a ground operation would be quick, easy and cheap was replaced within hours by a more bitter reality.

We can understand the efforts to find tunnels Hamas has dug under the border fence and uses to assault Israel’s sovereign territory and launch terror attacks on civilian communities and troops. The exposure and destruction of a dozen or more such tunnels will dull Hamas’ spearhead. This action is essential, but it carries the risk of more escalation, which can already be seen as the Israel Defense Forces makes its way into densely populated urban areas.

Meanwhile, the IDF continues to advance through Gaza’s densely packed citiesto get to the rockets that can reach central Israel. But to avoid harming the civilian population living in these areas, the IDF is urging these people to uproot themselves from their homes and move south, which is exacerbating the humanitarian problem.

So far, more than 300 Palestinians have been killed during Operation Protective Edge, 60 since the IDF launched the ground phase. Thousands of others have left their homes and fled northward. The fact that the international community is still not exerting significant pressure does not mean that the wholesale killing of civilians has been sanctioned. Even the Egyptian wink and the American nod are not carte blanche to occupy Gaza for an unlimited time. From the moment Israel entered Gaza, it is also directly responsible for humanitarian aspects.

After World War II and the surrender of Britain’s enemies, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hero, advocated “in victory – magnanimity.” Despite the growing frustration as the war continues, Israel must strive for a cease-fire, granting Hamas an achievement in terms of the population’s welfare, livelihood and freedom of movement. A good, sound agreement must reflect a convergence of the interests of both sides. Such an agreement must take into consideration the deep distress of 1.8 million people over many years, which enabled Hamas to grow in strength. A magnanimous solution for the daily distress of Gazans would allay frustration toward Israel, would allow them to live honorably and could stop another violent round in the near future.

This is the time for level-headed, moderate, magnanimous and responsible leadership, which understands that there is no contradiction between the welfare of Israelis and of Gazans.