On Saturday Gaza saw another round of attacks, bombings, rockets and airborne firebombs. Residents of Gaza-area communities are once again in shelters and reinforced rooms. Gazans, meanwhile, are counting the dead and wounded, while Israelis long ago lost count of the number of clashes in recent months.
Each round has its own explanation. This time it was a soldier wounded by a grenade thrown from the Gaza border. The Pavlovian response wasn’t long in coming: major bombing – “the largest since Operation Protective Edge,” as the Israel Defense Forces spokesman put it, referring to the assaults on Hamas bases during the 2014 Gaza war. As if right out of the playbook, Hamas responded with rockets.
The IDF’s tactical response relies on an utter lack of policy or strategic vision. The eighth most powerful country in the world refuses to recognize that the confrontations in Gaza aren’t a campaign against an organization or children making incendiary kites; it’s not a campaign against people who intend to conquer Israel or threaten its existence. Rather, the fighting is the product of despair, distress, horrific poverty and a lack of an economic or diplomatic horizon.
The thought that long-term deterrence, like that achieved after Operation Protective Edge, can replace a solution to the root of the problem has been hit hard in recent days. It’s doubtful that the Israeli arsenal has a means for deterring 2 million people under brutal closure for 11 years now – which was made worse by the closing of the Kerem Shalom crossing last week. Deterrence can help when people or their leaders have assets that could suffer. In Gaza, there are none.
The residents of Gaza-area communities have realized that each round of assaults only takes more bites out of their sense of security. They feel all too well not only the results of the confrontation, but also the disconnect between them and their government.
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There’s no better proof of this neglect than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to visit the kibbutzim and moshavim that have sustained millions of shekels in damage and whose inhabitants live with anxiety every day. When Netanyahu has no real solution to this front on fire, he flees to the World Cup in Moscow, or to summits where he can boast about his statesmanship.
Gaza demands an immediate diplomatic response. The people there need livelihoods, electricity for their hospitals, fuel to run their factories, and generous investments in a rapid emergency reconstruction plan. These aren’t gestures that Israel needs to make, but moves that could calm the border. Israel’s security interests, and certainly humaneness, require that these actions be taken. Quiet on the Gaza border depends on them.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.