Haaretz Editorial

In the Absence of Policy

An Israeli policeman stands by a wall damaged by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in Sderot, Israel, on Friday, November 1, 2019. 
Tsafrir Abayov,AP

The rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel last week and the Israeli response have reignited the ranting political rhetoric, and with it, the militant hue of the coalition talks. The standard bearers of the “forceful and decisive response” camp were quick to switch on the political megaphones to demand that the prime minister strike Hamas. Kahol Lavan’s Yair Lapid threatened targeted killings, saying, “Terror must be countered with force and not with suitcases filled with dollars.” Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu pronounced the recent escalation to be the “result of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s policy of capitulation. Labor-Gesher’s Omer Bar-Lev echoed him, declaring that the agreement between the prime minister “and Qatar is another failed strategic move by Netanyahu that leads to war.”

None of these men has a viable action plan and no political party has an answer to the rockets, apart from slogans based on failed responses from the past. One wonders how these warmongers would react if Netanyahu were to accede to these hollow calls and launch an all-out war, including a ground invasion deep into the Gaza Strip. They would be quick to accuse him of exploiting the security situation to improve his political and perhaps even legal standing, and their colleagues would be sure to explain that an interim government does not have the authority to make a decision as consequential as going to war.

Rocket fire on Israel must be met with a response that makes it clear to the terror organizations in the Strip that even in its fragile political situation, Israel will not allow its civilians to become targets or pawns in the intra-Palestinian dispute between Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which is presumably responsible for the most recent rocket salvos. At the same time, the Gaza Strip cannot be permitted to dictate political measures in Israel by dragging it into war.

That being the case, the prime minister was right to order a measured, limited response that does not go beyond the rules of the violent dialogue between Israel and the terror organizations of the past few years. It is the only reasonable policy available to Israel, given the lack of a political and public consensus and the connection between the threats in the north and the south of the country. Israel has internalized the fact of its balance of deterrence with Hezbollah, a product of the government’s unwillingness to wage a comprehensive war in Lebanon.

In the absence of a policy on the Palestinian issue in general and on Hamas in the Gaza Strip in particular, including a constructive policy that involves lifting the blockade and putting in place a new relationship with the inhabitants of the Strip, Israel is also forced to maintain a balance of deterrence vis-a-vis Gaza, and each time be dragged into another round of fighting and impair the lives of the residents of southern Israel.

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