The public debate on Operation Pillar of Defense has been slightly more restrained than during similar operations in the past, giving the impression that Israeli society has matured and moderated. Interior Minister Eli Yishai is the notorious exception. In the past few days he has missed no opportunity to rant, rave and rile people up.
Yishai has urged the Israel Defense Forces "to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages" and destroy the enclave's infrastructure. Yishai supports a sweeping ground offensive in the Strip.
Of all the ministers, the one whose party represents a dark, medieval culture is inciting us to send Gaza back to those very days. Many of his party's elected officials and voters don't serve in the IDF, yet their leader is exhorting the IDF to get entangled in Gaza, kill and be killed.
Yishai isn't the only one making radical proposals. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and other politicians have said unacceptable things. But Yishai is the most prominent - he's a deputy prime minister.
Yishai makes these statements solely to curry favor with his voters. He has always done so, inciting and instigating, sowing hatred and fear against the migrants from Africa, gay people and other minorities. Society should have sent Yishai packing long ago. The prime minister also bears responsibility - he should have reprimanded his deputy. Yishai speaks for the government and the state.
Since 1948 Gaza has been a disaster area. Poverty, population density and misery ruin its residents' lives. Many of them are refugees - add to that the Israeli occupation, the severance from the West Bank and the blockade.
Destroying Gaza's already meager civil infrastructure isn't only inhuman and a war crime, it doesn't do Israel any good. Israel has tried it more than once. It has demolished roads and bridges, destroyed power stations and water supplies and turned the lives of Gaza's 1.5 million people into hell.
As a result, Hamas has only grown stronger, the people's suffering has worsened and with it the hatred for Israel. Israel should seek the complete opposite: Gaza's prosperity. So anyone who wants to "send Gaza back to the Middle Ages" is a despicable politician and a bad adviser.