The current Israeli offensive on Gaza is immoral and counter-productive and must come to an end.
The continuation of the offensive means innocent civilians on both sides will continue to suffer. The fact that Hamas operates in an urban environment is a given and Israel cannot change that. Saying that Gaza militants hide among civilians does not absolve Israel of the responsibility for the death of innocent civilians whose only crime is that they live or pass by IDF targets.
Even if one does not care about the rising death toll, Israel’s repeated offensives against Gaza are ineffective (the mere fact that they’re ‘repeated’ speaks to that). Insurgency cannot be defeated by military means as long as it has a base of support within its population. The ongoing civil war in Syria (as well as countless examples from the past) show that even an extreme level of brutality cannot defeat and insurgency that enjoys the support of the population. Even if Israel’s leaders were willing to target the civilian population, re-occupy Gaza and send IDF soldiers to torture children and rape women, as Assad’s forces have done, they will not be able to defeat the militant organizations in Gaza.
The only way to bring peace and quiet to Israel’s southern towns is to address the reasons Hamas enjoys certain support among the Gazan population, namely, the ongoing occupation of the West Bank and the control over Gaza. Through its control of the airspace and borders, Israel is strangling the Gazan economy by refusing to allow significant imports from the Strip. Ignoring the partners Israel does have on the Palestinian side has weakened them at the expense of Hamas and even more radical jihadist elements, which are seen as the sole actors still challenging Israel’s stranglehold over the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel’s actions should aim to prove that moderate elements are able to achieve more than the terrorists. Israel’s Disengagement from Gaza (as well as the one-sided withdrawal from Lebanon) have only strengthened radical elements who are, rightly, seen as the ones who forced Israel to withdraw. The PLO, on the other hand, never managed to even freeze the construction of settlements through negotiations, the most basic of trust-building measures. (The ten-month freeze under Netanyahu was achieved thanks to US pressure and it following it, construction is settlements quickly made up for the lost time).
There are some Palestinians, including armed elements, who will never accept Israel’s existence, but bombing populated areas will not decrease the appeal of their ideas. Each round of fighting generates additional mistrust, hatred and grief on both sides.
There is no denying the fact that it was Gaza militants who initiated this round of fighting by firing an anti-tank missile at an IDF tank. However, Israel significantly escalated the fighting by assassinating Hamas military chief Ahmad al-Jabari after a temporary cease fire was negotiated, and while a prolonged truce was being discussed. Keeping in mind the elections are only two months away, Israel’s decision to escalate the conflict at this time raises questions. Even if one ignores Jabari’s role in reigning in the jihadist elements in Gaza and thinks that Jabari should have been killed, the fact is that Jabari did not become a terrorist this week and there were previous opportunities to assassinate him. This escalation serves both the Netanyahu government and Hamas. The election campaigns, which until last week focused on social and welfare issues, have now been suspended. There is no doubt that if the operation ends without a significant number of casualties on the Israeli side, this government will see a boost in the polls and in the ballot boxes. Barak, whose HaAtzmaut party currently polls at below the election threshold of 2% is likely to benefit from a successful operation. Prior to Cast Lead, during which Barak served as the Minister of Defense, his Labor party polled at 6-8 seats. After the operation, the polls predicted the party will win 15-16 seats. The Labor ended up getting 13 mandates.
Other problems, such as the harm to Israel’s international and regional standing, and the fact that the operation has no clear objectives or end point, do not concern me greatly because the lives of innocents on both sides are my main concern, but these are factors that should be taken into consideration too.