I confess to a cavernous bewilderment at the events in and around the Gaza Strip. The Great March of Return has succeeded in shining a light on Gaza and bringing opprobrium on Israel. It’s also resulted in 200 dead Gazans and an intensification of the misery that already afflicts the place. They reached an apparent crescendo in these past two days with an exposed Israeli mission deep into the Strip that resulted in the death of one Israeli solider and seven Palestinians, one of them a Hamas leader. This resulted in Hamas retaliation.
Over the weekend the Netanyahu administration was instrumental in facilitating the delivery of $15 million in cash to Gaza from Qatar to pay workers who haven’t seen a salary check since the PA shut off the spigot some time ago with promises of more. This transfer of funds was supposed to have been accompanied by a ceasefire. But the IDF mission into Gaza precipitously ended the ceasefire and resulted in the release of hundreds of Hamas missiles into Israel. Israel responded by firing upon scores of specific Gazan targets.
Today, November 13, another ceasefire has been announced, which has been met by fury among Israeli residents of towns near the Gaza Strip.
Hamas can continuously claim victory over Israel, since the terror organization succeeds in keeping Israel on edge, burning cropland, frightening residents of nearby Israeli towns, in this instance killing two people (one of whom turns out to be a Palestinian from a village near Hebron), and injuring several more. But this victory Gaza continually touts would seem the very definition of a Pyrrhic victory. The gains in optics, one would think, are more than overwhelmed by the destruction and death wrought by the Israeli response to Hamas’s missiles. As long at there’s no war, it seems, Hamas believes it can claim victory.
Netanyahu declared this week in Paris that this situation beggars solution, and it would seem so.
Yet Israel has no stomach for a full scale invasion to recapture the Gaza Strip. It has little stomach for another short-term war, either. However, in the face of today’s ceasefire, with residents of Sderot angrily protesting, replete with burning tires (I never understand the utility of burning tires), we know what their choice of action would be were they asked.
A full-court invasion would force Israel to govern two million hostile residents. A war like Protective Edge (2014) would stave things off for a while, but only for a while. Beside the optics of such a war, a few Israelis killed against hundreds, perhaps thousands of Palestinian dead, not to mention the material damage such a war always brings–it’s war, stupid. Everybody loses something in a war.
Still, it’s a dreadful situation, which, to repeat, beggars a solution that Israel could tolerate.
How long will the current ceasefire last? How many more flaming kites and assaults on the border can Israel tolerate?
What about the residents of what’s commonly called the largest open air prison in the world? The residents of Gaza themselves seem able to endure the humanitarian crisis that is their daily existence: poor sewage, a few hours a day of electricity, an enormously high unemployment, undrinkable water, and God knows what else. Endure? What other choice do they have? But how long can such a condition be tolerated?
My bewilderment is genuine. Hamas’s radical neglect of the people it purports to govern is bewildering. My mind is bewildered by a mindset that believes hatred of Israel trumps everything else, that the wellbeing of their citizens is at best a second thought, that fighting Israel always unsuccessfully by any rational objective measure is nonetheless a victory. For this latter, the word “Orwellian” was invented. Defeat is always victory.
Yesterday in The Times of Israel David Horovitz wrote of the situation with Gaza, “Sooner or later, he said, “Hamas must be faced down. And in the battle between a sovereign state that is obligated to ensure security for its citizens, and a ruthless, cynical terrorist organization… committed to Israel’s destruction, there can and must be only one winner.”
Horovitz’s anger and frustration hang over the piece like fetid air. But it appears that that face-down is not happening today, perhaps not in the near future. Today this absurd and destructive status quo remains, a ceasefire almost certainly to be broken in a day, a week, a month, and more people killed, more crops burned, more destruction, more evacuations, more misery. It’s bewildering.