Israel should view the bloody events on the Gaza border, in which 15 people have been killed and 758 wounded so far, as a warning of what is to come and make efforts to prevent an escalation that could deteriorate into large-scale conflict.
Once again, we have seen that the moment Israel feels “victorious” over the Arab side in the conflict, and its leaders tell the public that our situation has never been better and that “the world” is busy with other issues, the “defeated” Arabs refuse to comply with this definition and find an Israeli weak spot. That’s what happened on the eve of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, before the first intifada in 1987 and before the second intifada in 2000, and it’s liable to happen again now.
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Ever since Donald Trump became president of the United States, the Israeli right’s dream seems to have come true. The two-state vision disappeared from both the Israeli and the international conversation; the American embassy is on its way to Jerusalem; criticism of settlement expansion has been toned down; Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is approaching the end of his reign with no achievements; and Hamas is isolated between the Israeli siege and the Egyptian closure. A real paradise, to borrow a favorite expression of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who promised Sunday to intensify Israel’s response if the Palestinians continue their “March of Return.”
But in reality, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet colleagues have avoided any serious discussion of Israel’s policy toward the Gaza Strip. They have hidden behind the Goldin family, which is demanding that any easing of the siege be conditioned on the return of their son’s body, and behind a general rejection on the right of anything seen as “concessions to the Arabs.”
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They have ignored army Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot’s warning of a possible outbreak of violence on the Palestinian front. And they have sent the Israel Defense Forces to use military force to defend a dead-end diplomatic path in the hope of breaking the Palestinians, plain and simple.
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The government has also failed by ignoring and weakening Abbas while strengthening Hamas in the internal Palestinian arena. And above all, it has once again become clear – just as happened after Israel stationed metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount – that Israel doesn’t know how to respond to a new form of protest when the other side doesn’t resort to violence, terror or rocket fire.
Now is the time for the government to come to its senses. Instead of threatening the Palestinians with additional unnecessary killing and waiting for a catastrophe to force a change in Israeli policy, as has happened in the past, Netanyahu must prevent an escalation of the conflict. He must lower the flames, ease the cruel siege of Gaza and resume diplomatic negotiations with Abbas.
Such proposals sound like a fantasy in the era of an extreme right-wing government drunk on its “victory” over the Palestinians that tries to solve every problem by military means. But there is no other way of avoiding the Gaza trap.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.