Israel woke up Tuesday morning to the sound of a rocket-siren alarm clock. A week before the expiration of Benny Gantz’s mandate to form a government and just hours before the swearing-in of a new defense minister, Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the assassination of the commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the northern Gaza Strip. According to reports, he also ordered the assassination in Damascus of a senior Islamic Jihad official, which failed.
In a joint statement with military chief Aviv Kochavi and Shin Bet director Nadav Argaman, Netanyahu said: “We have proven that it is possible to attack murderers with minimal harm to innocents. Whoever thinks it is possible to hurt our citizens and evade our long arm is mistaken.” Even if we ignore the fact that the wife of Baha Abu al-Ata also died in the attack that killed her husband, and that in Damascus a son of the target was killed, the only thing “proven” is that the only guarantor of the security of Israeli citizens is the Iron Dome anti-missile system, and that there is nothing targeted about the IDF’s targeted killings, since they were followed by rocket barrages on Israel and the paralysis of nearly the entire state.
The army called its strike “surgical” and reassured the public that there was no intention of returning to “the policy of assassinations,” and that this was a pinpoint operation. But what exactly is “surgical” about canceling school in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and communities in southern Israel, keeping no less than 1 million children at home, while in addition classes were canceled at Sapir College outside Sderot and at Tel Aviv University? And what is “pinpoint” about canceling work for millions of Israelis and disrupting commerce and public transportation in half the nation? If that’s what a targeted IDF operation does to an entire country, what would happen if Israel, God forbid, were to find itself facing more complex military challenges?
Netanyahu loves to present himself as “Mr. Security,” who sacrificed his foreign-policy initiatives on the altar of security and who, with his supposed historical realism, knew to settle for preserving the status quo. This is a total illusion. Netanyahu did not maintain the existing situation, he distanced Israel from both peace and security and made rocket fire on Israel routine, in the south all the time and with increasing frequency in the center. The distance between this situation and catastrophe is called Iron Dome.
In times of emergency such as these, the tendency is to wrap oneself in a sense of national unity, and this time it can also be translated into a unity government. But that would only be an attempt to escape reality. The patent on Israel’s precarious security situation is held by the man who has headed the state for a decade now and will not let go. There’s no peace, no security and no reason to join up with Netanyahu. We need a change of government.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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