Another round of warfare in Gaza has ended. This was the umpteenth round. What has changed? Absolutely nothing. Israel killed six Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders – including those they claim were responsible for the Jihad rockets. But hadn’t Israel already killed them in previous rounds?
The IDF spokesman and retired generals reported that Israel did irreparable damage to the PIJ’s ability to hurt Israel. They said it was a mortal blow to PIJ as an organization and that now they will think 10 times before shooting more rockets at Israel.
But those commanders have already been replaced by others. Perhaps it will take them a few weeks or months to fully understand how to command their troops – but within a very short time frame, they will fully step into the shoes of those who were eliminated. There is no dearth of young Palestinian fighters who believe that they have the right, the responsibility, and the call of Allah to fulfill their mission of resistance.
Certainly, it will take time to replace the more than 1,000 rockets launched – but hundreds of thousands of unemployed skilled and semi-skilled workers in Gaza will not hesitate to answer the call to work. Between the Internet and the Faculty of Engineering at the Islamic University of Gaza’s trained and intelligent graduates, as well as assistance from Iran, the local arms industry in Gaza will be reactivated within a short time frame.
In Israel, hours and hours of empty talk by retired “senior” security personnel filled the Israeli TV channels with their studious analysis of the fighting, the ammunition, the number of Jihad fighters, the names of dead commanders, the thinking of Hamas leaders, the push-button control of Iran over the entire arena as they claimed – and of course, the word most uttered: “deterrence.”
One could simply have brought back the recorded videos of the same studios with the same former generals and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) seniors of the past from the previous rounds of fighting. It was the perfect déjà vu experience. I have only words of commendation for the news channels’ professional staff who managed to sit through all those hours intently listening to the same nonsense, over and over. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Netflix for providing the perfect escape from the boredom and frustration of having to live through the same war all over again.
And while in gratitude mode, I also wish to voice my appreciation for the brave people of the south of Israel who had the fortitude to leave their homes during the days of fighting – I know that it is not easy to leave everything behind which could all to easily be destroyed by the rockets from Gaza.
But also a cautious critique of many of those from the South who constantly called on the Israeli government and the army “to get the job done this time.” What exactly does this mean? Palestinian resistance to Israel will continue as long as Israel is the senior partner in the reality of the inhumane oppression that exists in Gaza and the West Bank.
Palestinians will not surrender their demand for the very same rights that Israel and other nations enjoy. And let’s not forget the millions of non-combatants in Gaza who live through hell without shelters and who suffer from extended decades of trauma – ongoing for 75 years.
Regarding deterrence, I’ve got news for all of the generals and politicians. There is no deterrence against people struggling for their freedom who have been taught by their enemy (Israel) that violence is the only tool to achieve something of value.
Do not be deceived, Hamas did not refrain from joining the conflict because they were afraid of Israel’s bombs. No-one wishes to be assassinated, but many of those leaders do not fear death. They are aware that someday they will probably be killed. Hamas did not participate because they have the burden of government on their shoulders.
It has to do with the 17,000 Gazans who work in Israel and bring back to Gaza more than $25 million each month. It has to do with the desire of Hamas to see 50,000 or 100,000 Gazans working in Israel. It also has to do with Hamas’s relationship with Egypt.
Gaza’s economy today is more heavily reliant on Egypt than at any time since 1967. The open door to Gaza from Egypt is essential for Gaza’s survival. It also says something that should not go unnoticed, that Hamas is in a slow, gradual process of becoming more pragmatic.
The latest Israeli-Palestinian round of fighting in Gaza was unnecessary and preventable
This round of warfare was unnecessary and completely preventable. It started with Israel’s decision to allow Islamic Jihad activist Khader Adnan to die in prison after 86 days on hunger strike. He may have wanted to end his life in this way, or he may not.
It was not his first time on a prolonged hunger strike. Khader Adnan, as was reported in Israel, was not part of the PIJ military wing. He was not a terrorist. He was a political leader of some importance in the Jenin area for PIJ.
Had Israel taken him to hospital – and even if he had died in the hospital, and not in prison – there is a very good chance that we would not have had this round of rockets and Israeli aggression in Gaza. But Israel wanted to demonstrate that it was stronger than a hunger striker on his 86th day of powerful resistance.
Even if this round had not taken place, it will only a matter of time until the next one. The results of the next round will be the same as in the past. That is Israel’s strategy – to continue to ensure that the Palestinian leadership is divided between the West Bank and Gaza, and to ensure that both Palestinian authorities are weak but strong enough to keep the current systems of governance in place.
But life in Gaza for more than 2.5 million Palestinians is intolerable. Gaza is a big open-air prison devoid of hope and a future. The overwhelming majority of Gaza’s residents are youth exposed to the outside world through their smartphones. They know that life can be better, and they consider Israel alone to be the cause of their suffering.
In their religious conservative political culture, many take refuge in the belief that their situation is God’s will and because they believe in the supremacy of Islam, they also have to believe that God has a plan and they will eventually be victorious. Life in the West Bank does not provide much more hope for young people there either. In the West Bank, there are many more confrontations with Israelis – soldiers and settlers. And those confrontations are never pleasant.
What is the bottom line? I have probably said this 100 times – this will never end until we sit down and talk with all of our enemies. There is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There may be little chance of genuine peace at this time, but there are many possibilities for bringing us to the path of significant improvement.
Israel must talk to everyone – all the factions, all the leaders. This can be done in secret and at first through emissaries. Eventually, it must be through direct contact. While that is being done, Israel leaders should begin, publicly, to remind the people of Israel that we don’t want to get to the next round, instead, we want to find a peaceful way for us all to live.
To the so-called friends of Israel who declare night and day that Israel has the right to defend itself (and it does), know that Israel also has the responsibility to find the path forward that does not involve more bombs and force. It is time to put Israel’s amazing intelligence apparatus to much more intelligent use – developing the strategies and means for avoiding future rounds of fighting.
The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to peace between Israel and its neighbors. He is a founding member of “Kol Ezraheiha-Kol Muwanteneiha” (All of the Citizens) political party in Israel. He is now directing The Holy Land Bond and is the Middle East Director for ICO – International Communities Organization.