(December 2, 2018 / JNS)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently displayed his political savvy by avoiding elections. He outmaneuvered Education Minister Naftali Bennett and his Habayit Hayehudi Party, forcing them to blink first after Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s suddenly resigned two weeks ago.
Lieberman’s resignation and his party’s withdrawal from the ruling coalition left the prime minister with a one-seat majority. Working with such a small majority is feasible, but it’s unlikely that he can hold the government together until the end of the term in November 2019.
Unless he has a dramatic strategy up his sleeve, the tension between Israel and Hamas along the Gaza border may be Netanyahu’s undoing.
As far as our adversaries are concerned, this is déjà vu. Israel the superpower has been outmaneuvered by the terrorists, who can now claim victory. For six months, Hamas has been trying to break through our borders violently and has launched countless incendiary kites and balloons, destroying thousands of acres of Israeli land and impoverishing the resident farmers. Then they bombarded southern Israel with more than 450 rockets.
What was Israel’s response? Repeated hollow threats and the destruction of empty buildings. Israel’s power of deterrence has become a joke—and Lieberman is no less to blame than anyone else.
It is whispered that the rationale for this policy of passivity is that a war aiming to topple Hamas would result in horrific casualties, and that Israel has no intention of re-occupying Gaza.
The Israel Defense Forces’ leadership is also being quoted in the media as supporting a policy of “restraint,” which simply emboldens Hamas to intensify its acts of terrorism.
But it needs to be clarified that the IDF is an instrument of the state; it does not formulate policy. It only executes instructions. Its advice shouldn’t even be up for public debate.
That aside, a future war would likely involve Iran and Hezbollah and inflict massive casualties on Israeli civilians. The quantity of projectiles that the Israeli homefront would sustain would only be partially neutralized by Israel’s advanced defenses. But maintaining the status quo—Hamas continuing to receive sacks of cash from Qatar that will evidently not be used for humanitarian purposes—is surely irrational.
One of the principal obligations of the state is to provide security to its citizens. The residents of Israel’s south have been living like refugees in their own country in the face of Gazan aggression. All Israelis regard war as a last resort, to be prevented if possible. But the choice need not necessarily be between full-scale war or the current passivity.
I am no military expert, but I do appreciate that beyond a full-scale war—for which alas, we must always be prepared—there are intermediate stages in conformity with international law, such as bombing specific strategic targets even with the collateral risk of loss of innocent lives. There is also the option of assassinating the leaders calling for our destruction—ction used to good effect in the past.
But the government must coordinate with the IDF to devise an effective response if the truce is not fully maintained. Especially now when Israel has the full support of the United States under the leadership of President Donald Trump.
Let us not delude ourselves. The truce with Hamas is merely procrastination until such time as we are provoked and will have no choice but to take serious action.
Does anyone honestly believe that Hamas will change its violent ways? Its leaders are merely stalling for time. They shamelessly admit they are using the lull to strengthen themselves and accumulate more lethal weapons from the Iranians for a future confrontation. The ultimate destruction of Israel is part of their DNA. Enabling them to determine at what point they can inflict the greatest harm on us will undoubtedly result in a more violent conflict with far more Israeli casualties.
Some urge us not to press this issue and to rely on Netanyahu. Although I deem Netanyahu a worthy leader, on par with legendary Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, I do not accept this.
Israelis are a sophisticated people with a free and open press. We are a democratic nation and we realize that, for valid reasons, we may not be privy to all the sensitive intelligence that shapes our country’s defense policy. However, we must demand more than just feeble rationalizations of a truce. We need to restore our power of deterrence, as it used to be our principal strength but now appears to have lapsed.
After six months of this painful turmoil, if Netanyahu has a plan, we should demand that he talk to us directly and at least convey reassurance that he has a defined policy. Nobody is infallible, as Golda Meir proved in her tragic misreading of the situation prior to the Yom Kippur War.
There is no country in the world that would tolerate ongoing offensives and missiles launched by a terrorist entity located just across its borders. Netanyahu, your time is up. Speak to us now.
Isi Leibler’s website can be viewed at www.wordfromjerusalem.com. Email: email@example.com.