From the city of peace to a country on the brink of war

The premier and his staff headed home in the dead of night, under a shower of rain that dimmed the lights of his convoy.

November 12, 2018 23:29
3 minute read.
Security personnel check a damaged house in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, following a rocket attack

Security personnel check a damaged house in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, following a rocket attack from Gaza November 12, 2018. . (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)


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The guns of a possible Israel-Gaza war were fired less than 12 hours after church bells rang out throughout Paris at 11 a.m. on Sunday to commemorate the moment when the guns of World War I became silent exactly a century ago.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had come to Paris to celebrate the 100th anniversary of that peace, cut his trip short after an IDF military operation gone awry rekindled violence with Hamas.

The premier and his staff headed home in the dead of night, under a shower of rain that dimmed the lights of his convoy.

Earlier in the day, Paris provided Netanyahu with an apt background to speak with Israeli reporters about the unprecedented steps he has taken – including allowing the unregulated transfer of $15 million to Hamas in Gaza – to preserve the peace and avoid a “needless war” with Hamas.

For months, Israel and Hamas have hovered on the edge of war. Scattered outbreaks of violence have simmered down rather than sparked an all-out war, such as the one that occurred between the IDF and Hamas in 2014, known as Operation Protective Edge.

Netanyahu has resisted political and public pressure to choose war. Instead, he has opted for a series of restrained military moves and humanitarian gestures designed to prevent an all-out conflict.

The prime minister told reporters that Israel had been very close to war in the past weeks, but that it had been averted.

Then, in an unusual statement for an Israeli leader, Netanyahu said that there were no solutions to the situation with Hamas, and that the best that could be hoped for was a situation of calm.

The Gordian knot he described – a hard selling point for any leader who must soon run for re-election – ran counter to the otherwise successful stage that Paris provided him.

Netanyahu joined over 70 world leaders for a ceremony at the Arch de Triomphe that testified to the horrors of war and the blessings of peace.

The scene made for a successful pictorial backdrop for Netanyahu, particularly at a time when the indictments handed out to his associates in the “Submarines Affair” gave a new boost to his political opponents at home.

Netanyahu had a front row seat to Sunday’s ceremony, where he sat in the same very public row with some of the world’s top leaders: US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Netanyahu also held separate talks with Trump and Putin, complete with photographs to underscore his ability to speak to the leaders of the world’s top powers.

“Israel is a rising force in the world. If someone needed proof, I would say ‘come to Paris,’” he said.

The Paris ceremony was also a testimony to the success of the State of Israel, Netanyahu explained.

This was the city where the Dreyfus Affair unfolded. The antisemitism leveled against the French officer help fuel Theodore Herzl’s conviction that a Jewish state was needed. The fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I opened a historical window for Herzl’s vision to be fulfilled.

Netanyahu has always been blunt about his raison d’être to ensure the survival of Herzl’s vision and the state he created.

He left a city that had paused to reflect on the dangers of war, to return home and weigh the fateful decision of whether to continue the course of restraint or return to the guns of war.

But should he chose a military option, he does so having already declared that the conflict can be delayed, but not resolved.

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