The Security Cabinet has decided to work toward a unilateral end to Operation Protective Edge, without negotiations for a cease-fire, without an arrangement with Hamas and without Israeli officials discussing a cease-fire in Egypt.
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The cabinet’s decision to stop the fighting was based on an assessment by a senior officer that within 48 hours the tunnel threat would be neutralized. Assuming that no new tunnels are discovered and Hamas doesn’t surprise Israel with more incidents like the capture of 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, the cabinet’s decision is based on sound logic and a correct assessment of the dangers.
The Israel Defense Forces and the political leaders are right in refusing to let the troubling results of the Rafah fighting – two soldiers dead and the capture of Goldin – divert them from ending the operation. Restraint is justified considering the heavy price in soldiers’ lives, the disruption of everyday life in most of Israel and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which includes more than 1,600 dead, most of them innocents.
The cabinet has proved that it is not being steered by the arrogant remarks of right-wing ministers clamoring for an endless entanglement in Gaza. The tunnel threat will still require many more resources; exhausting battles in the alleyways of Shujaiyeh or Rafah could sabotage these efforts.
At the same time, the justified efforts to end the operation do not mean the diplomatic front should be abandoned. Hamas flagrantly violated the cease-fire on Friday, an action condemned by the U.S. president, who also acknowledged that negotiations with Hamas could prove frustrating and ineffective. Despite all this, the true solution for Gaza lies on the diplomatic front, with cooperation from both Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.
After Israeli troops leave Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must focus on the diplomatic arena. Its neglect has led Israel again and again into military operations, whose cost in blood has become too much to bear. To prevent the next round of violence, Israel must join Egypt and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in finding a way to rebuild Gaza and improve the quality of life there.