The events of Jerusalem Day on Monday needlessly escalated to the point that rockets were fired at Jerusalem and southern Israel adjacent to the Gaza Strip, while hundreds of Palestinians and police were injured in clashes on the Temple Mount. The big fear is that this is the first step toward what the IDF is terming a campaign against Gaza that could last several days, if not longer.
Flare-ups don’t begin in a single day; they are not natural disasters. A chain of events, which include the confrontations in Sheikh Jarrah, the police barriers erected at the Damascus Gate, the clashes on the Temple Mount and the plans for the Flags March, were nothing but provocations planned in advance to demonstrate mastery and control. They have carefully marked a path that has led to violence and could drag Israel into a war.
All of this could have been avoided, but intelligence officials, the army and the police, who warned what the results would be, were faced with a caretaker government, without legitimacy, at whose head stands a prime minister who’s lost his mandate and views events through the prism of whether they can be of use to him or can harm his political opponents. It comes as no surprise that Netanyahu’s mouthpiece, MK Miki Zohar, explained the events as the “Arabs” trying to test the “government of the left about to be formed.” The source of Zohar’s wisdom is well known.
Only at the last minute, and too late, Benjamin Netanyahu was convinced to move the planned route of the flag carnival, and only after it was already clear to him how he could take advantage of the situation. “Terror groups in Gaza crossed a red line on Jerusalem Day eve and attacked us with missiles on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Israel will respond with great force” was the entirely expected response from Israel. Needless to say, a lot of red lines were crossed in the past, including rockets fired at Jerusalem, and powerful responses failed to achieve real success.
It was agreements and understandings reached with Hamas through mediators that have produced periods of peace and quiet. The citizens of Israel don’t need another costly, senseless test or another demonstration of lethal muscle-flexing. The safety and security of the Israelis living adjacent to Gaza should have been at the forefront of decision-makers’ considerations when they saw how events were unfolding in Jerusalem.
A caretaker prime minister has the authority and obligation to thwart existential threats to Israel’s security, but he doesn’t have the authority to drag Israel into a war that’s just a contest of honor. The government’s giving the green light to the IDF to act forcefully in Gaza will not solve the Jerusalem problem, but diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the escalating tit-for-tat could bring quiet.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.