I just read a heartrending post from a friend. Adele Raemer is a longtime resident of Kibbutz Nirim. A few hundred people within clear sight of the Gaza Strip and, for the last 15 years, well within range of Hamas mortars and rockets.
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The kibbutz has just been informed that as of New Year's Day, the army was abruptly removing its troops from the kibbutzim and moshavim on the Gaza border.
"Absolutely shocking to think this could happen so soon," Adele wrote, "and before any real change in our security situation has been implemented or agreements with the Palestinians have been made."
"And then people wonder why those of us who live here feel abandoned. Where is our 'Protective Edge' now?"
The summer war struck Nirim again and again, and tragically. Just before the conflict came to its still-unresolved conclusion in late August, two veteran members of the kibbutz, Shahar Melamed and Ze'ev Etzion, were fixing damaged electrical lines when a mortar shell fired from Gaza took their lives. The explosion also took the legs of another Nirim resident, Gadi Yarkoni.
The decision to withdraw the troops – a move concealed from residents and even elected regional officials until two days before implementation - is but the latest of the manifold ways in which the Netanyahu government's policies have played into the hands of Hamas, often at the direct expense of the security, well-being, and future of Israelis.
Time and again, Netanyahu coalition policies have rescued Hamas from deepening domestic unpopularity in Gaza, while doing for Hamas what Hamas could not manage to do on its own: weakening Israel – in this case, by causing Israelis to feel betrayed by, suspicious of, and despairing at the actions of their own government.
"And so we end 2014," Adele wrote on Wednesday. "Obedient citizens of Kibbutz Nirim in the Western Negev. We remained when we were able to, when we were of use. We listened to and followed directives. We continued going to work, to school, teaching, helping friends, colleagues, fellow members of our community. We welcomed warmly the resident soldiers who were here during the war as much as we could, whenever we could "
"What did we get in return?
"Well - we lost Zeevik and Shachar. Our Gadi lost his legs."
"And now we are losing the final 'Protective Edge' - the trained combat soldiers who were left here as first responders in the event of missile attacks or infiltration (still real, imminent threats). To replace them, we have our dedicated friends who live here: Arnon, Ohad, Marcello, Nitzan, and the others: citizens, parents, grandparents, themselves, in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and yes - 60s, who are now left with the task of securing our community so our children and parents can sleep soundly."
Kibbutzim like Nirim have always been Hamas' worst enemy. They violate the narrative. They were founded by the strongly leftist Mapam movement, a forerunner of the dovish Meretz party. Their members have traditionally and unapologetically supported an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Since the war, their members have been active in urging the government to opt for diplomacy rather than ramp up high-profile expressions of military confrontation.
Nirim violates the narrative in other ways as well. Its founding well precedes that of the State of Israel. It was the first village or town in Israel to be attacked by the invading Egyptian army when Israel declared independence in 1948.
In a sense, the decision to withdraw Israeli troops from border communities does exactly what Hamas in its most fervent dreams, desires: Bringing back 1948. Returning the Israel of pre-1967 borders, to the threat, the horrible uncertainty, and the do-it-yourself defense of 1948.
A year ago at this time, Hamas was in a dismal state. Its popularity was flagging badly. Gazans had begun to openly criticize its rule over the Strip. Hamas' coffers were depleted. Its support abroad was at a low ebb. It was at odds with Egypt, which had begun to choke off the supply tunnels at the heart of Hamas' financial, military, and administrative power.
Finally, in barring a range of rival armed organizations from firing rockets and mortars into Israel, Hamas had also begun to take flak from Palestinian hardliners, accusing it of acting as a two-faced, spineless collaborator with Israel.
A year ago, it would have taken a miracle to turn things around for Hamas.
Either that, or an Israeli government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu.
Small wonder that on Election Day 2015, Hamas would like nothing better than to see Netanyahu win. It's not lost on Hamas that while withdrawing troops from places like Nirim and failing to build a security barrier there for lack of funds, Netanyahu's defense ministry has found the wherewithal to help expand two West Bank settlements by taking over more land and relocating two existing army bases.
Why else might Hamas want the incumbent Israeli premier to win re-election?
1. Netanyahu has isolated Israel internationally, his policies constituting a key driving force in the recent growth of the BDS movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. Had he chosen diplomacy over escalation, he might well have prevented the summer war and its horrific consequences.
2. By driving a wedge between Israel's Jewish and Arab citizens, most recently by endorsing the most extreme and explicitly anti-Arab version of the Jewish Nation-State Law.
3. By openly and repeatedly driving a wedge between Israel and its most crucial allies, the United States and Western European powers.
4. By driving a wedge between Israel and its most crucial Diaspora supporters, the increasingly alarmed and angered American Jewish community.
5. By refusing to assist in, and in some cases directly hindering, the reconstruction of the devastated Gaza Strip.
6. By undermining, inciting against, and doing everything possible to weaken Hamas' rival, the pro-two-state Palestinian Authority – in part by erasing any vestige of the pre-1967 border in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and beginning to turn Israel into Hamas's vision of a one-state Palestine.
A year ago at this time, Hamas desperately needed a friend. It found one in Netanyahu. It certainly doesn't want to lose him now.