It’s Time for an Israel-Gaza Cease-fire

Haaretz Editorial
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An Israeli artillery unit fires toward targets in Gaza Strip, on Thursday.
Haaretz Editorial

A raft of victory photos hang on the walls of Israel’s Hall of Glory. They haven’t been won in the current round of fighting, waiting for a “victory” of its own. Ever since Israel imposed a suffocating blockade on the Gaza Strip, it has notched one victory after another. It won the Pillar of Defense air offensive in 2012, Operation Cast Lead in the winter of 2008-09, Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and Operation Black Belt against Islamic Jihad in 2019, as well as hundreds of smaller clashes.

In all these operations, thousands of people were killed or wounded, many of them innocent bystanders, including women and children. The mutual damage is enormous, with houses destroyed, factories shuttered, Gaza turned into rubble and Israelis losing their sense of personal security.

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Each time anew, Israel’s leaders have vowed to “topple Hamas,” “deter the terror organizations” and “achieve long-term calm.” Each time these operations have ended with a set formula: “calm in exchange for calm,” something that has infuriated the warmongers striving for a decisive blow (even if this means wholesale bloodletting on both sides), something that would entail the occupation of Gaza and the elimination of all Hamas’ leaders.

Further campaigns aren’t needed to prove to the public that attaining these goals is destructive wishful thinking. Israel realized years ago that it’s unwilling and incapable of directly ruling Gaza due to the heavy costs this would incur. Unlike the West Bank and East Jerusalem – which to Israel are an inseparable part of the country, viewing its rule there as the fulfillment of a messianic historical dream justifying any price – the Strip is perceived as foreign territory, as if it were unrelated to the occupation.

But Gaza has repeatedly made clear that a separation between the two parts of Palestine exists only in the mind of the State of Israel. Despite this, even now, Israel clings to an illusion that its strategy – Hamas as its subcontractor in Gaza while giving up its ideological and political aspirations – can be entrenched with a further destruction of buildings and the killing of civilians or Hamas fighters.

Without a concrete objective justifying the continuation of the Gaza war other than a show of force and a harsh response to the firing of rockets, and in view of the evasiveness of politicians and senior officers in defining an elusive and remote victory, every new day of the war is a pointless day that endangers lives. The blood that’s increasingly being shed in Gaza and Israel must not be lost for nothing.

Talks and international pressure to stop the shooting and find a formula that will achieve calm – which apparently won’t differ from what was achieved in previous rounds – are the only practical way to stop the escalation, which has evolved into a competition for prestige. Israel’s government has no clear and attainable goal other than a continuation of the pulverizing. It must begin to negotiate a cease-fire that will allow life to return to its routines.

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

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