First of all: Congratulations, Hamas. This is the second week of your most significant achievement of the past year: Israeli soldiers are back in the Gaza Strip again. It’s a safe assumption that a large part of the Israeli public doesn’t see it this way, but Israel’s incursion is the best thing to happen to Hamas in a long time.
You probably realize that too. After all, the Gazans didn’t choose you, but they are the ones paying the price of the rockets being fired at Israel. And in the uproar over the abduction and murder in June of the three Israeli teenagers, Hamas clearly had a need to reaffirm its relevance. Because if the most talked-about Palestinian act of protest and revenge in recent times was, as we have learned, a crime of opportunity, then why do we need a terror organization whose raisin d’être is to liberate Palestine? Surely you have asked yourselves the same question. Increasing the rocket fire would have been a pathetic response, particularly in light of the success of the Iron Dome anti-missile system, had the Israeli government not decided to cooperate with you.
The rising death toll in Gaza and ever-expanding swath of destruction in the territory are the perfect backdrop for the restoration of Hamas’ reputation. Now, like a Shakespeare villain, you can rise from the ruins and justify your existence and your rule over population, which did not choose you and whom you don’t represent. If Hamas needed an encore to regain the support of the Arab world and other states, in came Israel and set the stage. All that’s left for the moment is to wait for the curtain to rise on your redoubled strengthen in the Gaza Strip, against the backdrop of the moaning Palestinian street.
In reentering Gaza, Israel is betraying not only the Palestinians but also its own soldiers, whose body count is rising almost daily. Like the Palestinians, they are being sacrificed in order to perpetuate the bloody conflict and block any possibility of negotiating. This will surely surprise you, but I worry about them as well. I have Israeli friends, many of whom report for duty even though they disagree with the goals of the military operation. Up until two weeks ago, many of them took part in demonstrations around the country against the rising tide of racism and harassment of Arabs. What is to be their fate? How many of them will return? And when they do return, how many will still believe in demonstrations?
About those demonstrations: We are unquestionably witness to a moment of truth for Israeli coexistence. Never have the state’s Arab and Jewish citizens been asked to take such a clear stand in favor of living alongside each other in peace. In the absence of an official declaration to this effect from influential government figures, responsibility for protecting the delicate social fabric falls to the citizens. Now is the time to firmly counter the idea that Israeli Arabs as a group are dangerous. The time for tsk-tsking and for conciliatory dialogue with the extremists is over. Only widespread, systematic and prolonged condemnation will prove that the Israeli public is sick and tired of the warmongers inciting conflict between the populations.
After all, it was the rage of the vengeful that stirred in Israelis a feeling of impotence and created the justification, on the level of the society, of the ground invasion. For that, Hamas should thank Israel’s right-wing extremists. The cross-pollination between the extremists in both camps, the Jewish and the Palestinian extremists, has never been as clear or as perfect. Through their actions, each group justifies the need for the other’s existence. Without Baruch Marzel, there would no longer be a need for Palestinian terrorists; without MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud), perhaps there would be no need for MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad), and without the horrifying military attack on Gaza perhaps there would no longer be a need for Hamas.
But the day after Operation Protective Edge ends, when we look around we will discover two societies whose internal fabric did not withstand this battle of forces. In Gaza, the frequency and intensity of the killing left the residents almost no choice but to be willing to sacrifice themselves for the slight possibility of future liberation. In Israel, the tensions between right and left, Arabs and Jews, citizens and refugees and between various socioeconomic groups, have turned its inhabitants into strangers who wish one another ill. You in Hamas can take partial credit for that too.
The present nightmare will pass, like previous dreams of this type, but when we wake up we will find ourselves, to our great misfortune, stuck with one another.
The writer is an author and a columnist.
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