Did Israel Really Think Hamas Would Turn the Other Cheek?

What exactly are 1.5 million people supposed to live on? Is there anyone who can explain why the blockade, even if partial, of Gaza continues?

Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Following the kidnapping of three teenaged Israelis in the territories and their murders, Israel wildly arrested some 500 Palestinians, including members of parliament and dozens of freed prisoners who had no connection at all to the kidnapping. The army terrorized the entire West Bank with a dragnet and mass arrests, whose declared aim was “to crush Hamas.” A racist campaign raged on the Internet and led to a Palestinian teenager being burned alive. All this followed Israel’s punitive campaign against the effort to establish a Palestinian unity government that the world was prepared to recognize, its violation of its commitment to release prisoners, a halt of the diplomatic process and a refusal to propose any alternate plan or vision.

Did we really think the Palestinians would accept all this submissively, obediently, and calmly, and that peace and quiet would continue to prevail in Israel’s cities?

What exactly were we thinking? That Gaza would live forever in the shadow of Israeli (and Egyptian) caprice, with the restraints sometimes loosened a bit, or sometimes painfully tightened? That the biggest prison in the world would carry on as a prison? That hundreds of thousands of its residents would remain cut off forever? That exports would be blocked and fishing restricted? What exactly are 1.5 million people supposed to live on? Is there anyone who can explain why the blockade, even if partial, of Gaza continues? Can anyone explain why its future is never discussed? Did we think that all this would continue and Gaza would accept it submissively? Anyone who thought so was a victim of dangerous delusions, and now we are all paying the price.

But please, just don’t act surprised. Just don’t raise hell about the Palestinians raining rockets on Israeli cities for nothing – such luxuries are no longer acceptable. The dread that Israeli citizens are feeling now is no greater than the dread felt by hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who in recent weeks waited in terror for the soldiers to break down their doors and invade their homes in the middle of the night, to search, trash, destroy, humiliate, and then snatch a member of their household. The fear we’re experiencing is no greater than the fear felt by Palestinian children and teens, several of whom were killed needlessly by Israeli Defense Forces fire in recent weeks. The trepidation Israelis feel is certainly less than that felt by Gaza residents, who have no Color Red warnings, no “secure spaces,” and no Iron Dome to save them, only hundreds of scary sorties by the Israel Air Force that end in destruction and the death of innocents, including the elderly, women, and children, who have already been killed during this operation, as it during all its predecessors.

The operation already has a childish name, “Protective Edge.” But Operation Protective Edge started and will end like all previous operations – giving us no protection and no edge. The media and public opinion want Palestinian blood and destruction, with the center-left supporting this, of course, as it always has at the beginning. But what comes next has already long been written in the chronicles of all the senseless and bloody Gaza operations through the ages. What’s amazing is that from operation to operation, nobody seems to learn anything, and nothing changes except the weapons.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indeed acted with restraint at first, and was duly praised for it – but it was impossible for him to hold back in the face of the Gaza rocket fire. Everyone knows Netanyahu wasn’t interested in this confrontation.

Is that so? If he really wasn’t interested in it, then he should have seriously pursued diplomatic negotiations. But he didn’t, so it’s clear that he really was interested in confrontation. The headline of his newspaper, Israel Hayom, declared, “Take it to the finish.” But Israel will never achieve the insane “finish” desired by Israel Hayom, certainly not by force.

“There’s no way to evade punishment for what’s been happening here for almost 50 years,” writer David Grossman told the Israel Conference on Peace this week. That was only a few hours before the next punishment in the series of crimes and punishments landed on Israeli civilians, who are so innocent and blameless.