It’s important to have a grasp of what Israel and the Palestinians are fighting over in the Gaza Strip. I am not talking about a solution, because is none, nor am I talking about the prospects of a long-term political arrangement, about which our hopes never fail to be dashed. I am not even talking about any long-term deterrence, because in Gaza, any deterrent effect is always short-lived. The real issue at stake is the Arab and Palestinian solidarity with those who seek an armed conflict with Israel.
Israel has historically been able, after a lengthy and painful process, to isolate radicals and break this solidarity. When radicals are no longer mainstream, Israel can ignore them or attack them without much consequence. When radical forces manage to drag other Muslim, Arab or Palestinian elements into a confrontation with Israel, the threat they pose increases many times over, forcing Israel to expend resources that would have otherwise gone to other causes. Breaking pan-Arab solidarity has prevented a large-scale war between Israel and Arab countries for almost five decades and has led to the positive development of a thriving Israel increasingly integrated into the region as a Middle Eastern power.
The battle in Gaza is over hearts and minds. What Hamas tried to do in “Operation Guardian of the Walls” in 2021 and what Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) tried to do in the most recent flare-up is to rally Arabs in Judea and Samaria, Jerusalem and Israel itself to join the violent struggle against the Jewish state championed by radical elements. Extremists want to secure their position as the leaders of the Palestinian people and cast themselves as the defenders of that people and Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Islam who can deter the Jews via rocket fire.
The Palestinians want a violent leadership that can inflict pain on Jews and kill them, as well as humiliate Israel. These are the contemporary role models for the Palestinians. Israel wants calm and is willing to go a long way to avoid flare-ups. Had Israel been deterred from confronting the rioters on the Temple Mount or the terrorists in Jenin and the agitators in mixed cities and the south, the PIJ and Hamas would have attained their goal.
In the latest round of hostilities, Israel appropriately opted not to fall for the addictive allure of calm, choosing instead to forcefully dismantle this strategic paradigm. Jews went up to the Temple Mount and Israel continued to carry out its targeted killing of senior terrorists in the West Bank. Would-be Israeli Arab rioters got the message: If they disturb the peace in mixed cities, they will face ten battalions ready to confront them. In other words, Israel proved that those who show violent manifestations of their solidarity with terrorists in Gaza will pay a heavy price.
What’s left is just the leaders of the Joint List and their blabbering nonsense. Let them keep blabbering. The more they continue to expose their true nature, the more Israelis will be inclined to ignore them.
We face a long, often frustrating battle. But “Operation Breaking Dawn” has helped bring us closer, thanks to another form of solidarity: that of Israelis with each other.
Dan Schueftan is the head of the International Graduate Program in National Security Studies at the University of Haifa.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.