Kahol Lavan’s Braggadocio

Benny Gantz near the Gaza border, August 2019.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Kahol Lavan's chairman, Benny Gantz, has a detailed and dangerous method to solve the “Gaza problem.” “The next time something happens here – we’ll make sure it’s the last round. We won’t accept an arrangement, but bring about a decisive military victory over Hamas. If necessary – we’ll act to take Hamas’ heads off,” Gantz said, outlining his security strategy to journalists this week.

His colleagues, Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi, added their own threatening dosage. Ya’alon vows that “any provocation, from a balloon, kite, certainly a missile – must be answered with a harsh retaliation by us, otherwise – Hamas will have to pay the full price. That’s what we’re striving for.”

Ashkenazi expanded and elaborated: “We’ll subdue Hamas’ reign. We’ll strike headquarters, storehouses, activists. The IDF knows how to do this – we’ll know to give the order.”

These are hollow, irresponsible words that cannot convince the public. None of the three former chiefs of staff succeeded in bringing about a complete halt of hostilities during their terms. Even the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, also known as Operation Protective Edge, which Gantz points to as a turning point in generating calm in the Gaza Strip, failed to do the magic trick.

Some of the moves made during the operation (“Black Friday”) were classified as war crimes by Amnesty, Israel was subjected to scathing international criticism for killing civilians and the relative quiet collapsed with a lot of noise about three years later.

It was the army that made it clear in the course of all the clashes that there is no military solution in Gaza. The residents of the communities along the Gaza border realized some time ago that any military action in Gaza does them harm, first of all, damaging their quality of life and personal security.

The extrajudicial assassinations of Hamas leaders have created a new, more belligerent leadership and the inhumane blockade has not engendered the civil uprising Israel had expected against Hamas’ leadership. Quite the opposite. It has produced a desperate, hopeless population that is willing to die on the fences of the ghetto within which it is imprisoned, to make Israel and the world set it free.

The Israeli public has no reason to believe or trust the braggadocio of the three former chiefs of staff. It expects the Kahol Lavan party to propose a viable, political long term alternative to the violent arm-twisting contests Israel has been conducting against Hamas. The Gaza issue isn’t an election slogan; it’s a security threat awaiting a political solution.

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