Some men are screaming from the screens and threatening us, the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades on one side and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Gen. Yoav Mordechai, on the other. Who should we fear more? You don’t even need a second to answer – of course, Mordechai and the well-oiled military machine he represents. That being the case, is it right to implore the weak Palestinians not to be tempted by provocation? It is not right, but it is necessary.
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“The enemy must know that he will pay a price for breaking the rules of confrontation with the resistance (forces) in Gaza,” read a pamphlet of the military wing of Hamas, which is also grumbling that Israel interprets its restraint as weakness. Meanwhile, the COGAT’s Facebook page states: “Gaza residents, do you not understand that irresponsible terrorists drag you into escalation before the winter, when the distress in Gaza increases? ... Continued rocket fire will lead to a tough and painful response by the Israel Defense Forces, and Gaza residents will be forced to pay the price. Do not try to test our strength.” Despite the military apparatus knowing well that Hamas is not the one that fired rockets at Sderot, Mordechai explains precisely why the IDF attacked it: “Hamas bears responsibility for Gaza. Wake up because time works against you.”
It is not clear if the IDF, which enjoys military superiority, wants genuinely to warn or rather hopes to annoy and provoke the Palestinians. What will Hamas achieve in particular and the Palestinians in general if they fall in the trap and get provoked? As Mordechai’s “prophecy” hints – another attack, another war, another broad military operation.
We are situated on the thin dividing line between continuing the popular demonstrations, which do not draw the masses, and having them peter out. However, it is also the thin border whose crossing means slipping into scattered individual shootings. Frustration about the small number of demonstrators and the failure of the diplomatic option, indignation over routine Israeli violence and personal fury about socioeconomic gaps easily drive some youths to get mixed up with a Kalashnikov or a rocket or a knife (as happened over the weekend and on Sunday). “It’s our right,” you could hear them repeating the well-known mantra, which silences any skeptic who hears it.
Hamas invested a lot of effort, ingenuity and thought, manpower and money in arming itself and in digging tunnels for economic and military purposes. It also invested a lot in fostering popular illusions about its ability to weaken if not defeat Israel by force of arms and the tunnels. The uncovering of another tunnel on the Gaza-Israel border is testimony that the military and technological ingenuity of Hamas will always trail that of Israel. Perhaps it will cause some of the dreamers to regain their composure.
War can only serve Israeli politicians and generals as well as the Israeli arms industry. It does not benefit the Palestinians and their homeland. Mordechai’s boss, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, explicitly threatens the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Wars are always good for large- or small-scale population transfers. Netanyahu has problems that the war can bury. A broad operation in Gaza or cutting off the West Bank enclaves from one another would be a great help to the settlers and Habayit Hayehudi.
Palestinian restraint is not weakness but rather wisdom. True, the diplomatic path of Abbas and his predecessor Arafat failed, lacking an Israeli partner. The military path that some Palestinians chose in different periods since 1994 only helped Israel fulfill its plans to bisect Palestinian territory. It is national irresponsibility to hallucinate about a successful struggle using inferior weapons, without a united leadership and without one political plan, against an organized military juggernaut. They must not give the Israeli right-wing coalition the pleasure of another war.