Hundreds of fires have reduced the Gaza periphery to ash in the last few weeks. The kite terrorism has painted black what used to be agricultural fields, natural forest and pastures. A government that evades making decisions, that ignores rockets that explode in uninhabited areas and kites that burn its land, and makes do with belligerent statements cannot truly be surprised when this happens.
The children of the Gaza periphery, who grew up in a world where their security is not equal to that of all of Israel’s other children, are not looking forward to summer vacation. They know that they will most likely spend the summer in a protected space rather than at the swimming pool. The Gaza periphery residents know what the cabinet ministers go to great lengths to hide from the public—in the absence of a clear policy for Gaza, the next round is just a matter of time. The residents of Sderot and Nir Am, Ofakim and Kfar Azza, look to the political echelon, which chooses, over and over, to avoid making a clear decision, leaving them with no solution and no security and only offers misleading reports about imaginary cease-fires.
Israeli policy for the Gaza Strip has been typified, for years, solely by tactical thinking, postponement and damage control, not by strategic thinking to prevent the next war and a long-term solution. This passive approach leads to a policy of reacting, which time after time leaves the ball in Hamas’s court. The security establishment has long since reached the conclusion that a change in approach is essential to prevent the cease-fire from collapsing again. It also submitted a variety of options to the cabinet, but all were blocked by the political echelon.
I would expect the Israeli government to learn, after three bouts of fighting in Gaza, after two bodies of soldiers and another civilian are being held hostage by Hamas, after 93 funerals of civilians and soldiers and more than 5,000 injured, that the time has come for an Israeli initiative. But no, Israel 2018—just like Israel 2014, 2012 and 2008 —prefers to react, to be dragged into reacting to the steps that Hamas takes at a timing that it chooses, to accept rocket fire at Israeli territory, bombs on the Gaza border and incendiary kites. The main thing is not to decide.
I would like to believe that there is not a single cabinet or security cabinet member who does not realize that the Gaza threat cannot be resolved by an F-35 or a Merkava tank. The members of the cabinet and the security cabinet surely know, as does every reasonable person, that the solution to the Gaza problem is a wise combination of military deterrence, economic steps and political initiative. But this understanding, as said, is not being translated into action.
Hamas, an organization that numbers only a few tens of thousands of armed men, manages to dictate the agenda of the strongest country in the Middle East, and to burn it while doing so. Mighty Israel is preoccupied with putting out the fires. This combination of damage to its image and damage to the morale of the Gaza periphery residents erodes our deterrence, weakens the security of the country’s citizens and brands Israel as a country with no policy.
Time after time, round after round, we observe the absurd: the Israeli government basically strengthens Hamas and ensures its survival, and simultaneously avoids giving a positive incentive to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip. Even though both the political and the security echelon recognize the importance of improving the economic situation in Gaza as a stabilizing factor, the government is not promoting even a single major initiative, and it makes do with negligible steps again and again. Where is the logic? Maybe the security cabinet members know.
And in the meantime, the agricultural fields are turning into ashes, the Gaza periphery children fear another round, the Gaza Strip residents continue to be held hostage, and Hamas realizes that by means of force and violence, it can score more achievements and improve its position. And the government? It avoids decisions like the plague and leaves the IDF alone at the front to do its work for it. That is not policy.
This article was originally published in Hebrew in Yedioth Ahronoth