The two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip will be transferred from “the world’s biggest prison,” as the Strip is sometimes called, to the world’s biggest solitary confinement cell. The prime minister and the defense minister, with the consent of the army’s chief of staff, have made a final decision to close the Kerem Shalom crossing, the only conduit through which Gazans can obtain goods and export a few of their own. Only food and medicine will be allowed through.
Pulling this cruel decision out of Israel’s bag of tricks for ending the struggle against it attests not only to the frustration of the most powerful country in the Middle East at the failure of its war against incendiary kites, but above all to its flight from a concrete solution that even the army previously believed might reduce the confrontations. Israel has adopted a tactic centered on a years-long hermetic blockade accompanied by airstrikes, with the goal of forcing Hamas to stop the attacks on Israel. This is presumably the last step before direct firing at civilians or the targeted assassination of the Hamas leadership.
No one disputes that Israel cannot accept daily deliberately set fires in the fields of Negev communities, a disruption that threatens the lives of their Jewish residents and causes millions of shekels in damages. But the complete disregard for proposals that are already on the table, such as helping to develop the Strip, significant economic recovery, a long-term tahadiya — cessation of hostilities — and the generous allocation of Israeli work permits, means Israel is trapped in the delusion that only a military solution will bring calm. This delusion was created after Operation Protective Edge in 2014, which led to nearly four years of relative quiet. It also led to diplomatic idleness and a sense of complacency, which in turn gave birth to this crazed intoxication with power.
Israel apparently expects Gazans, who are well-versed in misery, to exert pressure on Hamas’ leaders so that they, with a wave of the hand, will end the attacks on Israel. In other words, what brutal military operations did not achieve, isolation will.
But that is highly unlikely to be the result. Even if Israel has ceased to fear international pressure, increasing the pressure on Gaza is liable to push Hamas into a violent response, and perhaps even into another round of large-scale military conflict.
This, however, is not divine decree. Israel could and should revoke its immoral decision to lock Gaza’s gates; launch an effort to coordinate with Hamas, via Egypt or any other country willing to help; replace its Pavlovian military responses with a policy of development and rehabilitation and see Hamas as part of the solution. Otherwise, the government will be unable to convince the public that it did everything it could to prevent war.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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