Editorial |

Listen to Eisenkot, Not to Bennett

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Gadi Eisenkot chats with his predecessor Benny Gantz during a visit to the Western Wall, February 16, 2015.
Gadi Eisenkot chats with his predecessor Benny Gantz during a visit to the Western WalCredit: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP Photo

A puzzling dialogue is taking place between the Israeli military and the country’s political leadership. The push by certain politicians for a comprehensive war of choice in order to end the incendiary kites and balloons being launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel has so far been stopped by the army, but it’s doubtful that it can withstand the pressure of the warmongers.

Until recently the Israel Defense Forces and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot have made it clear that there is no military solution to the struggle being waged by 2 million Palestinians against the closure and the dire hardship of the Strip. The IDF urged the government to adopt a lenient policy, to allow goods to enter the territory and Gazans to leave for work in Israel and the West Bank. That, in order to at least remove the economic catalyst for the uprising. This wise advice was thrown out in the battle for political prestige being fought between leaders of the right.

The army apparently recognizes the limits of its power to persuade the cabinet to listen to reason, so it is trying its hand at political persuasion. Paradoxically, the IDF is forced, in violation of its own position, to ask the government to actually increase the economic pressure on the Gaza Strip in order to convey an additional message to Hamas — as a last measure before war. It’s doubtful the government has any remaining economic punishments to impose, after closing the Kerem Shalom crossing and restricting the goods allowed to enter the Strip to staple products and medicines.

The army doesn’t set policy, but it repeatedly sends a clear message: The closure will not be effective in stopping the confrontations, and kites and fire balloons are not a cause for war (Amos Harel, Haaretz Wednesday). It is good for Israelis to hear this position, in light of comments by bloodthirsty politicians such as Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett, who at a recent security cabinet meeting suggested to the chief of staff that he drop a bomb on groups launching kites and balloons. “It’s against my operational and moral positions,” Eisenkot replied.

Those chomping at the bit for a military operation to end the attacks from the Gaza Strip “once and for all” should recall the previous glorious campaigns such as Operation Pillar of Defense and Operation Protective Edge. They provided periods of calm but did not eliminate the roots of the conflict.

There are partners who are willing to help Israel and the Palestinians to reach understandings over the confrontation in the Gaza Strip. Sustainable plans that could yield long-term quiet are on the table. After the end of every military operation or war that Israel conducts in Gaza, those same plans will be on the agenda. The government must advance these plans before and instead of rushing into war. The Israeli public doesn’t need a grand show that begins with a horrifying display of force and ends with destruction and the loss of life.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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