Given the rising tensions on the Israel-Gaza border, it is time we ask Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman: How many times can you threaten Hamas? How many times can you say “Somebody stop me” before your credibility, as well as the military’s ability to effectively generate deterrence, will be completely eroded?
The Palestinians have marked significant propaganda achievements over the past seven months. Islamic Jihad has declared that its operatives will not allow any normalcy for the border-adjacent Israeli communities, and Hamas’s weekly border riots and arson terrorism campaign have severely undermined Israeli sovereignty on the southern frontier.
Israel may be willing to tolerate some things to avoid an unnecessary military conflict, but the fact that Palestinian terrorism dictates the daily routine of Israelis living near the border cannot be one of them.
Moreover, it seems Hamas has schooled Israel in the art of deceptive diplomacy. For months, Egypt and U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov have been trying to broker a ceasefire between Israel and the Islamist terrorist group, only to see Hamas leaders go back and forth.
Now, when Israel seems determined to take action, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh suddenly declares that progress has been achieved in the indirect talks. As a result, Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel plans to visit Israel and Gaza this week, so is this the right time to launch a military campaign in the coastal enclave?
Israel, it seems, has been made dizzy by the number of factors it must take into consideration. These include Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Iran’s regional ambitions, the “deal of the century” the United States is working on and for which Hamas’s leaders seem willing to sacrifice the masses hurling themselves at the security fence weekly and last, but not least, the looming Israeli elections.
The correct course of action would probably be to relinquish the futile attempts to understand the Palestinian mindset. A ceasefire deal may be brewing on the horizon, but it does not seem like a viable option at this time, especially when any mention of a truce always seeks to tie Israel’s hands.
Sometimes you have to go with your gut and experience has shown that the Israeli reaction must significantly exceed what appears necessary. Statements like Netanyahu made on Sunday, saying “If Hamas has any sense, it will cease its fire and its violence right now,” are a commitment. If we have passed the point of no return, then surely we have reached the point of “When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.”
Amnon Lord, is an Israeli journalist with the daily newspaper Makor Rishon. His articles and essays about media, film and politics have been published in The Jerusalem Post, Mida, Azure, Nativ and Achshav.