The working assumption of Israel’s government over the past eight years has been that only a military solution can calm the Gaza Strip. Worn slogans like “destroy the terror infrastructure,” “send Gaza back to the Stone Age” or “kill the leadership” fed more just the last election campaign and public discourse during Operation Protective Edge. They also penetrated Israeli consciousness as the indispensable foundations of the security of the State of Israel.
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It is ironic, therefore that it is the Israel Defense Forces, and not the politicians, that has initiated a new, rational and practical strategy, which assumes that a military solution alone is no guarantee of quiet along the borders.
Senior IDF officers have recently formulated a number of recommendations, including the opening of border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip, granting permits to thousands of Palestinians to work in Israel, allowing Palestinians to travel from Gaza to Jordan via the Allenby Bridge and increasing the volume of goods entering and leaving the Strip.
The practicial effect of the proposals would be the almost complete lifting of the blockade on the Strip.
It is a welcome approach, which should be adopted and implemented immediately. The logic behind it is that the achievements of Operation Protective Edge could dissipate if they are not leveraged for the long-term by giving the residents of Gaza an economic horizon. Because, with Gaza unemployment at 40 to 50 percent, rebuilding going slowly and students not able to complete their studies or expect proper employment near their homes – no local government will be able to prevent the next violent outburst.
The recommendations of the senior IDF officers make crystal clear that the IDF has a different and broader definition of the situation in the Gaza Strip than that of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who recently said there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The same IDF that counted the calories that Gaza residents were getting and compiled a contemptible list of foods that would be allowed to be sold in the Strip, now understands that Gaza is not really cut off from Israel.
Responsibility for the future of Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants, and not only for what’s on the shelves of its pharmacies, hospitals and supermarkets, must be part of the army’s strategy, as the entity responsible for the security of the state.
The necessary implementation of the recommendations of these top security officials is not a replacement for a comprehensive diplomatic solution. Nor will it annul the national Palestinian dream of an independent state. But precisely because Israel’s government is fixated on short-term solutions, the lifting of the siege on Gaza will serve the government’s own purpose.