It's a simple equation already summarized by Major General Yoav Mordechai, now exiting the role of Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT): when things deteriorate in the Gaza strip, the countdown begins until things explode. It really is that simple. The question is, do we Israelis want to fix this situation and work to build a different reality? Or do we want to keep on managing things from one explosion to another, from one escalation to the next, from one summer to the other until a rocket ends up striking a kindergarten teeming with children and then all hell breaks loose and we're pushed toward a ground assault to occupy Gaza? An occupation we never wished for (with the possible exception of Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich). The IDF was able to produce an impressive light show by striking 25 targets in the Gaza strip and was backed by an impressive tweet from Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who stated that "anyplace used by terrorists to fire on Israel is a legitimate target for Israeli Air Force strikes." Translated into layman's terms, this sounds a lot like the age-old statement that the IDF merely responded to enemy fire. Only this time, Liberman made sure only the air force is mentioned, refraining from any mention of a possible ground assault.This is the same Liberman who, during the 2014 Israel-Gaza operation, called for a ground assault on Gaza and berated administration heads for achieving what he viewed as poor results. Not that he's alone in this. His boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is the same person who stood near the gates of Ashkelon after the 2008-2009 Gaza War to pontificate that under his administration, such results would not be tolerated and he would order the IDF to achieve victory, uproot Hamas and end the terror attacks. And now they return fire.
Let's say Israel decides to invade Gaza, occupy the strip and uproot Hamas. What then? As Mordechai asks in his guttural Arabic, "vabadeen?" Is there a plan? To whom do we give the responsibility of government? What is going to happen? What does Israel want from Gaza? When the 2014 Israel-Gaza operation came to an end, the foreign minister at the time, Tzipi Livni, drafted a proposal to the Security Council that established a short-term management mechanism for Gaza and suggested short and long-term goals, nothing that would cost us too dearly but a way to break this Hamas-constructed catch-22. The Americans loved it, the Security Council was given the nod, former US State Secretary John Kerry pressured Netanyahu - but the prime minister declined. "What will I get out of this?" he allegedly asked Livni, who attempted to explain.
So the question is: what does the prime minister get from the way things are now? True, tearing down Gaza bought a few years of tranquility. But any sensible person with two functioning eyeballs should now this is about to end, every barrel has a bottom. The IDF, Shin Bet and the various branches of Israeli security recommend a long list of actions that would improve the living conditions in Gaza and would allow the people who live there a little hope. The artificial island to be built facing Gaza, originally suggested by Transportation Minister Israel Katz, has been placed on hold for so long it sank into the sea again. The IDF had taken the bold step of recommending 10,000 permits be issued to Gazan workers that would be able to work in Israel, under supervision of course, a move backed by the Shin Bet, which rarely stands on the side of those who support such measures. Why did it do so now? Because the only reason we did not see the recent knifing attacks grow into a full blown intifada in the West Bank were thousands of daily workers who commute to Israel to work and support hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. It's not brain surgery, and a similar move in Gaza might reduce the flames, but perhaps that is not what we really want. Livni is asking: "What's so hard about offering Gaza humanitarian aid? Why can't Israel call on the entire world to come to the aid of Gaza? To open a sewage disposal unit and a power plant, to promise we too will give a hand?" "Why not ask US President Trump for an American statement that Israeli soldiers exited Gaza and are no longer responsible for it? There's a ton of things we could do instead of just waiting for the next round." Livni has a point. Translation by Hagay Hacohen.