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Israel initiates escalation, Gazans pay the price

The stronger Israel gets, the less it seems willing to search for diplomatic initiatives that would ease tension around its southern border

You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist in order to wonder what led Israel to initiate the current military escalation, which has taken the lives of at least 21 Palestinians in the last five days and had dozens more injured. Several Israelis have also been injured from rockets fired at southern Israeli towns.

Unlike in previous rounds of violence, even the official IDF timeline states that Israel was the first to act, when on Friday it assassinated two of the heads of the Popular Resistance Committees. No official explanation was given for the hit, except a claim that  Zuheir Al-Queisi was “responsible for planning a combined terror attack that was to take place via Sinai in the coming days.” Yesterday (Sunday), government ministers and the army spokesperson refused to give more details on the nature of the danger Al-Queisi posed.

There was also no information released on his alleged involvement in planning the August attack on Israeli soldiers and civilians near Eilat. As Yossi Gurvitz reported, security officials have released contradicting statements regarding that attack, claiming at a certain point that the perpetrators were already assassinated, and at another moment, that they were Egyptians from Sinai.

Hamas, it should be noted, is at a crossroads: the organization has lost its base in Damascus, and is caught in an internal debate regarding the future of the resistance, with several leaders publicly mulling on shifting to unarmed resistance. Contrary to Israeli propaganda claims, it seems that Hamas is not taking part in the shooting of rockets, and has asked the Egyptians to help broker a ceasefire. Meanwhile in Israel, pundits and public figures are calling to continue striking targets in Gaza, citing the diplomatic support Israel is receiving and international indifference to the killing in Gaza.

Theoretically, one could have hoped that with Gilad Schalit freed and with fewer casualties on the Israeli side – thanks also to the introduction of the Iron Dome rocket interception batteries – the Israeli leadership would be more inclined to stabilize the situation on the southern border and gradually lift the blockade on the Strip. There is no doubt that Israel enjoys the right conditions to do so now, when Hamas is at a low point and poses no serious strategic threat.

Yet what is so disappointing about Israel’s policy in the current decade or so is that at the height of its power, Israel becomes less likely to take part in diplomatic initiatives or agree to even mild concessions.

While the current government is very careful not to start large-scale military operations, it doesn’t seek channels of communication with the Hamas leadership, and seems determined to maintain the status quo through the occasional implementation of deadly military strikes. As is always the case at such times, Israeli public opinion supports whatever violent means its government chooses to use. Civilians on both sides – around 1.5 million Palestinians and one million Israelis – will continue to pay the [unequal] price.

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    1. Steve

      Do you think it would help if Gaza stopped firing rockets into Israel, if Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the collective Gaza entity finally declared a permanent peace with the Jewish state of Israel and ended terrorism against Israel forever?

      Or is it better to always just bash Israel for having trouble dealing with their crazy neighbors?

      Reply to Comment
    2. BOOZ

      I confess I like the setting of those 2 sentences : “which has taken the lives of at least 21 Palestinians in the last five days and had dozens more injured. Several Israelis have also been injured from rockets fired at southern Israeli towns.”

      Reply to Comment
    3. aristeides

      Noam, what do you mean by “Unlike previous rounds of violence, even the official IDF timeline states that Israel was the first to act?”

      That Israel isn’t usually the first to act – which is profoundly false. Or that this time they admit it?

      Reply to Comment
    4. AIG

      So the appropriate response to a targeted killing of a known militant with blood on his hands is firing rockets at civilians? Why is the retaliation against Israeli civilians and not against the IDF?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Shlomo Krol

      I tend to believe that Zuheir al-Queisi planned terror attack for few reasons. First of all, because he was a terrorist and it’s only natural, that terrorists plan terror attack. Second, because the organization he leaded is a terrorist organization, which declares openly that its ideology, strategy and tactics are terror. Third, because this organization commited terror attacks in the past. And fourth, because I have no reason not to believe to the military intelligence.

      Reply to Comment
    6. aristeides

      Shlomo Krol – I strongly suggest you take a course in basic reasoning.
      Unless your post is snark, meant to mock the idiocy of the typical pro-slaughter commenter, in which case it does this very well.

      Reply to Comment
    7. JG

      That’s snark.
      Here in the American media — as view it through the NYT and my Zionist-leaning Facebook feed, the origins of this escalation are obscured, and it’s just another episode of us vs. them, and choose your side. 😐

      Reply to Comment
    8. aristeides

      JG – with the general idiocy level so high, it’s sometimes hard to tell.
      As far as one can learn from the US media, it’s just Hamas firing rockets all the time for no reason, and poor little Israel just trying to defend itself.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Elisabeth

      Gaza is Israel’s bad conscience that will not go away: 70% of the people there descend from Palestinians that were chased from their towns and villages in 1948. And yet Steve expects them to declare “a permanent peace with the Jewish state of Israel and end terrorism against Israel forever”. So they can go back to work as underpaid day-laborers on the lands that used to be theirs, as they did before? Yeah, you would like that wouldn’t you?
      They are not “crazy” as you would like us to believe: They are justifiably angry, but this is something impossible to admit, isn’t it? Better to claim they have nothing to be angry about, and are just irrational hate-filled Arabs.
      I guess this whole “never forget” business does not apply to things Israelis long dearly to erase from their memory (and the memory of the world, if hasbara can achieve it).

      And AIG: I am sure that if the Palestinians were pampered with high-tech weaponry by the US as Israel is, they would love to aim at Israeli military bases instead of just being happy to succeed in lopping something over the fence into an empty field. (“Targeting civilans” you call this, funny…)
      You don’t want Israeli civilians to be targeted, do you? Then ask their forgiveness for all that has been done to them, offer them a generous compensation and get serious about making peace.

      But you explode with anger now, don’t you? APOLOGIZE?! To THEM?! They should apologize to US!!

      Those poor Israeli civilians you talk about hold all the cards in this deadly game, and they are blind to the Palestinian suffering. Something to think about?

      Reply to Comment
    10. Jazzy

      Noam: re: your subtitle – what are the “diplomatic initiatives” you have in mind?

      Reply to Comment
    11. jjj

      Hamas and Jihad have to stop firing rockets and planning terrorist attacks. That’s all there is to it.
      @Elizabeth: these ongoing falsifications of history, about descendants of forced refugees has only one meaning, which is the destruction of the zionist state, and probably doing something nice with the remaining Jews.
      Not that I owe you explanation – but for the readers: those refugees were chased away in an existential war, where the other option was a 2nd holocaust, and thus, these are victims of their own leaders, just like now.
      In that respect, nothing has changed.

      Regarding the 21 killed – unfortunate, but these were mostly combatants during preparations to fire rockets.
      And finally, as the spokesmen of Jihad and the committee have said, the rockets are fired to raise their own respect and moral, and their frustration with the Iron Dome, which ironically, helps prevent deaths of untold number of Palestinian lives, as the IDF still acts only at the rocket launchers, and not other targets intentionally concealed in dense civilian places.
      So – basically, these rocket fires serve no purpose than to terrorize.

      Reply to Comment
    12. AIG


      My grandfather was so angry at the Germans for killing most of his family that he went out and tried to kill German children, not.

      Gazans have a right to be angry. I would not trade places with them. But it still is neither effective nor moral nor honorable to target civilians. If that is the only thing they can do, they should do nothing.

      On a pragmatic level, do you really expect Israelis to be compassionate in the face of rockets today and suicide bombings in the past?

      Reply to Comment
    13. aristeides

      AIG – what is it that the Israelis always say – “We have to act. We have to retaliate.” Why should Gazans have to sit with folded hands and wait for death?

      Reply to Comment
    14. AIG


      Your argument would have some merit if shooting rockets at civilians was effective in even a small way.

      And it is not the Gazans who have to sit on folded hands. The attack was a pinpoint one against a terrorist organization, not against Gazans in general. Do you really think that the correct response of Islamic Jihad and the PRC was to shoot rockets at Israeli civilians? What is the argument for that? If they want to retaliate, they should retaliate against the IDF, that would make sense at least.

      Reply to Comment
    15. aristeides

      AIG – yes, it’s an ineffective response. But Israel has blocked off any other avenue of response from Gaza. I don’t think it’s the “correct” response, but it’s the only response they’ve got. Exactly HOW do you suggest the PRC retaliate against the IDF?

      And remember, that even without the assassinations – and by law, the victims were civilians even if Israel labels them “terrorists” – Israel’s blockade is an act of war. Israel makes war on Gaza and thinks Gaza has no right to make war back.

      And when Gazan civilians are killed in such large numbers, I’m not really inclined to care much who was aiming at whom. The IDF bombs civilian areas and thinks they’re covering their asses by claiming they only aim at “terrorists.” No more difference as far as I see.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Business as usual. Targeted killings are reported in the press only when there is an answer (never, NEVER, a retaliation) from the Palestinian side. The only thing that bothers me is the number of 1 million that comes up all the time to portray the occupiers as victims. Why not 6 million? Was the PR-guy asleep when they concocted this scheme? If it works for murders, house demolitions, occupation, ethnic cleansing and ID-cards, it should work for any attack on Jewish supremacy, no?

      Reply to Comment
    17. Elisabeth

      JJJ, watch or read this:

      Lying about the past will never end the conflict.

      AIG: So your grandfather did not kill German children. But the conflict had ended after the war. What if the Nazi’s had still been holding him in a ghetto? Would he have tried to fight back then, also hitting German children in the process?

      But this is hypothetical. Because what happened is that the Germans committed the crime, and the children who have been made to pay for it are Palestinian.

      And I have a question for you:

      “On a pragmatic level, do you really expect Palestinians to be compassionate in the face of injustice, water theft, bombings, drone attacks etc. today and ethnic cleansing in the past?”

      Reply to Comment
    18. Steve

      ARISTEIDES is an apologist for Palestinian terrorism against Israelis. Strange to see such people on peace-minded websites.

      Reply to Comment
    19. AIG


      No, I don’t expect Palestinians to be compassionate, that is why I went to the IDF and was proud to serve. But I do expect them to act in their own self interest and I just don’t see it.

      Reply to Comment
    20. joe

      AIG, I think all you are illustrating is that you cannot comprehend the mindset of the Gazan. Whilst you feel that capitulation (on some level) would be in their interest, they refuse to consider this a viable option.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Elisabeth

      AIG, if you are willing to admit the wrongs towards the Palestinians in past and present, and understand their anger, then why are you “proud to serve”. That is what I just don’t see.

      Reply to Comment
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