Who’s afraid of the Gaza Strip?

Opinion: Israel has been lurching from round of violence to round of violence with Hamas and the other Palestinian terror groups in the coastal enclave and wasting the goodwill of an international community that for once is firmly behind it

Ron Prosor |Published:  05.28.19 , 15:49


What will the world say? For years this has been the de facto excuse of the Israeli government when it is accused of not really trying to defeat the terrorist organizations in Gaza. But why?

It is not the international community that is stopping Israel from hitting these terror groups hard. After a year of battles of attrition against Hamas and Islamic Jihad, one could easily say that if and when Israel decides to defeat these organizations, there will not exactly be a deafening chorus of condemnation from the international stage – even by the Arab states.

Rocket launches from Gaza towards Israel (Photo: Reuters) (Photo: Reuters)

Rocket launches from Gaza towards Israel (Photo: Reuters)

Towards the end of the last deadly round of violence earlier this month, which claimed the lives of four Israelis, condemnation of the massive rocket barrage launched from Gaza into Israel could be heard from several members of the international community.

One might expect such messages of support from Israel’s friends in Washington, Warsaw and Prague, and indeed they came. But condemnation also came from Paris, Oslo, and even from the European Union’s foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, who could never be accused of being a massive Zionist.

Without condemning the “violence on both sides,” without any attempt to create a false symmetry and without the whitewashed statements we became so used to in the past, Europe stood unequivocally alongside Israel and against Hamas.

IDF troops on the Gaza border during the 2014 war (Photo: Ido Erez)

IDF troops on the Gaza border during the 2014 war (Photo: Ido Erez)

But the Israeli political echelon chooses to shut its ears and its eyes to the declarations of support and the green light to act issued by the international community.

In fact, Israel has chosen to ignore this state of affairs for the past five years, since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

During those 50 days of fighting in Gaza, Israel did not come under any real pressure from the rest of the world. Intensive and efficient diplomacy meant that the IDF had breathing room of the kind it had not experienced in many years.

But Jerusalem and the military brass did not successfully exploit this, and instead of making real diplomatic gains, were content to return to the same understandings reached two years earlier after Operation Pillar of Defense.

A home in Ashkelon damaged in a Gaza rocket strike (Photo: AP)

A home in Ashkelon damaged in a Gaza rocket strike (Photo: AP)

It would be an exaggeration to say that the world is letting the IDF “win,” but the Israeli government is not really doing this either.

Israel of 2019 has cast aside the country’s fundamental security concept, which always rested on the three legs of deterrence, vigilance and decisiveness.

The first leg was thoroughly eroded, the second weakened and the third is no longer part of the equation. Israel does not aspire to any form of decision-making and prefers to operate from one round of violence to the next.A decision does not have to be military in nature, it can also made on the diplomatic level. But in order to make a decision, one must have targets and objectives. 

Hamas has been doing this successfully for more than a year – on its watch, funds have been transferred from Qatar to the Gaza Strip, the Gaza fishing zone was expanded, additional raw materials were allowed into the Gaza Strip, the electricity supply expanded, and more.

Israel, on the other hand, is motivated by a desire to achieve certain goals but rather out of fear. It is fearful of setting diplomatic targets and of a prolonged confrontation.

The political echelon is afraid to set objectives for one simple reason: if you do not set objectives, you cannot fail to achieve them.

Benjamin Netanyahu and his generals during the fighting with Gaza earlier this month (Photo: GPO)

Benjamin Netanyahu and his generals during the fighting with Gaza earlier this month (Photo: GPO)

The images published of the prime minister at situation assessments during the last few rounds of fighting with Gaza do not show a single other civilian official. And when the only voices in the room are those of the security forces, the decision-makers are working with a partial toolbox and from the outset are solely bound to a military option, which ultimately means going down the familiar path that leads to nowhere.It would not do anyone any harm to recall the famous words of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, who told his people that, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Ron Prosor, is Israel’s former permanent representative to the United Nations and former ambassador to the Court of St. James’s. He is currently the Abba Eban Chair of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC).

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