Israel Must Let the Gazans Live

The Strip is a powder keg waiting to explode, and zero-hour is not far off.

A new round of violence is underway. A Palestinian sniper from Gaza shot and killed Saleh Abu Latif of Rahat, who was working for the Israel Defense Forces near the border fence, and brought on a powerful retaliatory attack on the Strip that killed a three-year-old girl and wounded 10 people.

This round began last Friday, when the IDF killed a Palestinian who approached the fence; two days later another Palestinian was shot and wounded on the grounds that he intended to plant explosives. “I suggest that you don’t test us; if it’s not quiet in Israel it won’t be quiet in Gaza, either,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, and was quick to fulfill his promise.

But quiet and occupation cannot coexist. For years, the Gaza Strip has been in dire straits because of the blockade Israel has imposed on it, which was recently joined by Egypt. There are 1.7 million Palestinians trapped in one of the most densely populated areas of the world. No new jobs are being created, and the sources of funding for Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, have dried up. The Sinai-Gaza tunnels, which in addition to being routes for smuggling weapons were also a lifeline for transferring goods, have been mostly destroyed. There is almost no chance of passage between Gaza and the West Bank, and the export of goods from Gaza is restricted.

Although Israel holds Hamas responsible for the situation in Gaza, Israel actually controls the outer perimeter, and thus dictates Hamas’ ability to conduct normal life in the Strip. This creates a paradox replete with contradictions. On the one hand, Hamas is required by Israel to keep the peace in Gaza and, as far as Israel is concerned, is responsible for security, which means Israel is implicitly recognizing the Hamas regime. Yet the State of Israel continues to maintain a chokehold policy that weakens Hamas in the eyes of rival organizations, which in turn challenge Hamas’ solitary rule by launching attacks against Israel.

The government must reevaluate its policy toward Gaza and do what is necessary to allow its people to live a reasonable life. Gaza is a powder keg waiting to explode and zero-hour is not far off. Even senior security officials, among them Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, understand this, with Ya’alon recently ordering the blockade somewhat eased.

These officials understand that shows of force and the bombing of “infrastructures” only foster the illusion that Israel has some magical solution for preventing Palestinian attacks.