The demonstrations organized by Hamas in the Gaza Strip claimed at least 15 Palestinian lives on their first day, in a clash planned to continue for six weeks. The reason for these protests is well-known. As predicted by the army and the security agencies, the harsh conditions in which 2 million Gazans live under an Israeli closure amid a diplomatic solution nowhere in sight have prepared the ground for a mass eruption in which tens of thousands of people took part, people who’ve lost all hope for a better future.
So far the army has managed to prevent a breach of the border fence and the risk of thousands of Gazans entering Israel, but it would be misleading to picture the events in Gaza as a localized military incident where the winners and losers are measured by the number of deaths and an intact border fence.
The arena of this campaign isn’t limited to Gaza. On the diplomatic front Israel will now have to deal with international pressure and countries, some of them friendly to Israel, and some that don’t embrace the Israeli script considering Hamas responsible for the civil uprising. The longer the confrontation on the southern border lasts, the greater the chances of East Jerusalem and the West Bank joining in. Jordan, Egypt and other Arab states are concerned that these protests might trickle into their own territory.
The army may have prepared for every scenario but it’s not authorized to set policy or exceed the principles dictated by the government. These principles and policies have fed the Palestinian protests and are endangering Israel’s security and standing.
The confrontation in Gaza shows that it’s groundless to distinguish between short-term solutions such as blocking the border protests and long-term solutions that include a continued closure while waiting for a final diplomatic resolution. The short term dictates the long term and not the other way around, and now it demands the adoption of a new policy.
The government is pleased that the U.S. administration totally agrees with it to hold the Palestinians responsible for the deadlocked peace process. But the U.S. administration doesn’t have to deal with the tens of thousands of Palestinians at the border fence, the citizens of Israel do. Still, the cabinet prefers to delude people into thinking that a few dozen Israeli snipers near the border will lift the threat.
“The solution is not a military one,” the military chief of staff repeatedly claims, but it doesn’t seem anyone in the cabinet is listening to him. Reason demands that snipers shouldn't be the ones to solve a deep-rooted problem, and that fighting over prestige, winners and losers shouldn't be allowed. The events as well as the apathy shown by the Israeli government demand that Israel’s allies exert their influence to show the government the path it must follow.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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