Once again, as if in an inevitable cycle, rockets are flying toward Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip, residents of these communities are hiding in reinforced rooms, Iron Dome batteries are intercepting missiles to the best of their ability, air force jets are being sent on bombing runs, clouds of smoke are towering over Gaza, dramatic consultations are being held in army headquarters, empty boasts are being heard on both sides, and reports of dead and wounded are beginning to mount.
As always, the latest flare-up had its own localized reason. This time, an army operation in Gaza went wrong, resulting in one Israeli officer and seven Palestinians being killed. The Pavlovian response by both sides naturally wasn’t long in coming: rocket fire toward Israel, and in response, extensive Israeli air strikes.
This destructive cycle must be stopped immediately – not by threats to destroy Gaza, and certainly not by pointless remarks like those made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference in Paris on Sunday. “No political solution exists for Gaza, just as there isn’t one with ISIS,” he said. Netanyahu knows very well that Hamas isn’t the Islamic State, and the proof is that negotiations are taking place, albeit indirectly, between Hamas and Israel on a long-term cease-fire.
But more importantly, the prime minister of Israel must not relate to two million people living under siege in miserable conditions as if they were an incorrigible gang of terrorists. To do so demonstrates shockingly irresponsible leadership.
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Netanyahu understands quite well that the clashes in Gaza are the result of despair, distress, poverty and the lack of an economic horizon. Therefore, the solution isn’t military, but political. Gaza residents need jobs, electricity for hospitals, fuel to operate factories, generous investments and an emergency plan for rapid reconstruction. Quite aside from the humanitarian aspect, both Israel’s security interests and quiet for communities near Gaza require the fulfillment of these conditions.
In the short term, Israel must restrain its response and not get dragged into a large-scale military operation, which would cause unnecessary deaths on both sides while also wreaking destruction that would only make Gaza’s situation even more intolerable. Even though he is surrounded by far-right, war-mongering ministers, Netanyahu must filter out the background noise and insist on implementing what he said two days ago: “I’m doing everything I can to prevent an unnecessary war. Every war claims lives. I’m not afraid of a war if it’s necessary, but I’m trying to prevent one if it’s not necessary.” A war with Gaza definitely isn’t necessary.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.