Gaza War Gives Netanyahu a Great Opportunity

The conflict may have opened new options for the peace process. If the leaders of Hamas went to war in order to accumulate power and backing in the future Palestine, they lost.

Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus
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Palestinian men inspect destruction in Gaza City on August 6, 2014 while Israeli and Palestinian delegations meet for truce talks in Cairo.
Palestinian men inspect destruction in Gaza City on August 6, 2014 while Israeli and Palestinian delegations meet for truce talks in Cairo. Credit: AFP
Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus

A small confession: I really don’t feel like crying at the sight of the suffering the heads of Hamas brought down on their people. Those scenes of demolished houses, hundreds of thousands of homeless people rummaging with teary eyes through the ruins of their homes in the hope of finding mattresses and personal items are truly harsh. It could be that those tenants had put their apartments at the disposal of Hamas – either for money or because of mild physical persuasion – for the purposes of building openings to one of the hundreds of tunnels aimed at a mega-attack on the civilian population in Israel. Or maybe they did so simply out of fear of Hamas thugs.

All this makes no difference. The world is seeing these sights and is shocked. But this mass ruin would not have happened had Hamas not started attacking Israel with rockets and missiles, while at the same time preparing a tunnel system for a mega-attack in the heart of population centers (don’t ask – we did know, we didn’t know). In Israel, people joked that had we known they were so good at tunneling in Gaza, they could have balanced their budget by building the Tel Aviv subway.

It’s our luck that we intercepted this potential mega-murder by means of Operation Protective Edge, one of the most successful of the operations we have carried out in similar circumstances. “One of the most justified of Israel’s wars,” as Ariel Sharon said in 1998 of the first Lebanon war. With one difference: This time our reaction was not only justified but also effective, both with respect to the defense of the population by means of the wonder called Iron Dome, and with respect to the aerial and naval attacks on the Gaza Strip.

We are pretty good at inventions for defense, including the Windbreaker system, which prevents direct hits on tanks. The Jewish mind, for a change, proved here time that not only our muscle works.

This time, it was war in every sense of the word. Some 82,000 reservists were called up, plus the standing army in all its ranks. They seemed to be hewn from a new kind of rock, tenacious with regard to the goal and volunteering for difficult missions.

Many of them, especially among the younger ones, looked like embodiments of the gever gever – the “man’s man” from Shaul Mofaz’s lexicon of the Hebrew language. Anyone who thought that the main threat to Israel is Iran’s nuclear bomb, and that there would be no more conventional wars, has discovered, yet again, that we are still fighting face to face for our very right to exist.

In the type of wars we are facing, there is no absolute victory. This is because the other side is prepared to suffer. They can absorb a death toll of 10,000 without blinking an eye. We cannot pay prices like that. The conclusion is that there is no alternative but to seek a diplomatic solution.

This war may have opened new options for the peace process. If the leaders of Hamas went to war in order to accumulate power and backing in the future Palestine, they lost. They have come out of it weakened. The Egypt of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi loathes them.

Sissi was the first to feel the threat of the tunnels and closed them in Rafah immediately upon taking power. Hamas has breathed new life into the frozen peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. Both countries have an interest in preventing the strengthening of radical Islam on their borders and in their midst. Both countries want to have Fatah rule the Gaza Strip.

Ever since the abduction and murder of the three Israeli teens, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is looking like he has been eating his spinach and is aspiring to be the representative of all Palestine, including Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it must be acknowledged, managed the operation intelligently. It’s not easy to conduct a life-or-death operation with types like Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman or Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who complain in television interviews about his hesitancy. But that will not avail them. The defeat of Hamas strengthens Abbas as a serious partner and as the light at the end of the tunnel.

The prime minister’s well-wishers will advise him to cash in on this achievement by renewing the diplomatic negotiations with Abbas. Go for it, Netanyahu.

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