Humanitarian Aid as a Deterrence

For months, the area surrounding the Gaza strip has been trying to cope with fires raging all over, in agricultural fields and nature areas. Hamas has found a new way to harass Israel and a suitable and effective response has not (yet) been found.
Hamas has been organizing mass demonstrations on the Gaza border and the army has been intensely occupied with keeping things under control while firefighters from all over the country are trying to cope with the fires.
Politicians and the press have been busy making the best of this difficult situation and are using the fires, the demonstrations and the population’s anxiety, to further their own political goals or those of their editors and/or owners.
The most depressing thing about this situation, that has seen fires for more than three months but which, in some form or another has been going on for more than four years now, is that everybody seems to have solutions but nothing is done and life goes on in Tel Aviv and Caesarea without real worries and even less action.
Two events in the past weeks, in relation to the situation in and around Gaza, did stand out in showing the absurdity that is Israel politics today.
The first one was the utterance a couple of days ago by Defense minister Avigdor Lieberman that “Hamas is forcing Israel into a wide scale and painful operation”. The reason for this, according to Lieberman is that “without an intensified response, Israel’s deterrence hangs in the balance”. In other words, if we do not start a war now, Hamas is going to believe we cannot or will not at all. Does Lieberman really think that after Israel launched three bloody, destructive Gaza wars in the past ten years, Hamas still would believe or being led to believe that we would not do it a fourth time? Does Lieberman really believe that Hamas would be “deterred” from anything at all, by such empty bombastic statements that are meant only to “reassure” the battered population in Southern Israel and to appease politicians that have been screaming for Palestinian blood for months and are accusing Lieberman of being weak?
The second remarkable event was the leaked, heated Cabinet discussion between Education minister Bennett and the Chief of Staff of the IDF, Gadi Eizenkot.  While a lot of ruckus was raised about the fact that the minutes of the cabinet meeting were leaked, which may very well have been a tactical response to draw attention away from the contents of the leak,  it is worthwhile pondering the things that were said and the comments that came after the leak was publicized. It seems to have started with Bennet asking the Chief of Staff why no lethal force was used against the youngsters who are launching the incendiary balloons towards Israel. Eizenkot replied that shooting children does not seem the correct response and after Bennett insisted and reiterated his demand that lethal force must be used, Eizenkot replied that that was against his operational and moral position.
This remarkable exchange teaches us several things. First of all, it appears that at least some politicians, including Bennett and Erdan (who has also repeatedly called for lethal action against the kite flyers) do not have a problem with Israeli soldiers shooting at children,  and at the same time, they think they know better how to handle military situations than does Israel’s top soldier. Is it only politics, only the strong urge to show voters how tough they are, or are they really so devoid of feelings for “the other”, that the only thing that ever comes to their mind when solving a problem is violence and more violence?
The fact that Eizenkot deemed it necessary to bring up not only operational aspects, but moral ones as well, reveals a lot about our Chief-of-Staff and about what he thinks about (some of) our politicians. It does give some reassurance that Israel will not enter into a destructive war against Gaza for the fourth time, at least not on the recommendations of political hotheads alone.
There have for some time been indications (albeit subtle ones) that the Israeli Army is attempting to impress upon the political echelon a different view of what is happening in the Gaza strip and what may be the solution. Israel does not need to show that it will be capable of occupying all of the strip, destroying the complete military infrastructure and holding down the population. Nor will anyone doubt that even without occupation, Israel will be able to lash out very severely against Hamas (and with that against the population as well). It was done three times before in the past ten years. The point that needs to be made now is that this will not solve the problem.  Protective Edge, in 2014, brought death and destruction upon the strip at a level that at least some, even in Israel were appalled by.  However, it did not solve anything. Four years have passed and we are where we were before Protective Edge and may be even worse. Hamas has recovered from the blows and come back with new energy and new tricks to harass the Israeli population in the border area.  So is it not time to look beyond the barrel of a gun? To try to find solutions that do not involve the Israeli mantra of “what cannot be done with force can be done with more force?”    
Humanitarian aid is not going to turn the Gaza population around immediately. Nevertheless, if sufficient time passes, and people are allowed to remember that there is more to life than aerial bombardments and destroyed neighborhoods, maybe two million Gazans will be able to convince or to force Hamas that enough is enough. Another question of course is whether eight million Israelis will be able to convince or force the Israeli government that enough is enough.
We did have enough, didn’t we?