Last night, in my daily Tel Aviv diary for a major news magazine, I wrote a long list of things Israel has done foolishly in the last 72 hours – such as: releasing the reserves, reassigning the regular troops, telling the residents of the South they could return home – all of these actions were implemented without bothering to ask Hamas for its plans. This morning I heard, what was in my mind, the most absurd of all decisions. We actually closed bomb shelters. Only this morning orders went out in Rishon Lezion to reopen its shelters.
In any other parliamentary democracy the government would resign after making the severe sequence of mistakes that our government has made in the last month. First and foremost, they did not recognize the fact that Hamas was looking for a war. We were told – time and time again– that it was not in Hamas’s interest to go to war. Then, our government believed Hamas would accept the first ceasefire. Finally, the most egregious error of all, they believed that this most recent ceasefire would end the war. I must admit, I shared their last erroneous theory, but I am just a lowly columnist and historian. My decisions do not effect lives.
However, it is our government’s unfounded decisions in the last few days for which I believe we will likely pay most heavily. Clausewitz’ famous statement was: “Politics is a mere continuation of war by other means”. The reverse is also true. Here, instead of amassing troops on the Gaza border, creating a credible threat that we might go into Gaza again and remove the Hamas government, we released our reserve forces and attempted to return our enlisted forces to their regular duties. Even worse, in attempts to silence his critics, Netanyahu allowed a presentation in the cabinet that depicted a scenario of our reoccupation of Gaza as “horrific”.
I go back and forth regarding whether or not we must go all the way in Gaza. I even wrote an article here in TOI calling for that action. However, when I looked into the eyes of some of the soldiers who would be tasked with this mission, I could not bear the cost. When I see the foreign media coverage these days, I can only imagine what would happen if went into downtown Gaza. How many innocent civilians would be killed? That being said, we may have no choice.How many died on both sides to defeat Hitler? Most importantly, Hamas must believe we are capable of doing so at any moment. Yesterday, some of our foolish ministers went on TV and said Hamas would not dare resume launching rockets, since they know what power the IDF is ready to unleash. I guess now that Hamas has resumed firing, we will bomb some essential target we forgot during our previous 28 days of bombing.
Last night Hamas threatened a War of Attrition. They understand our society up to a point. We were desperate for this war to end. That fact is certainly what Hamas saw when they looked at us. We were so desperate that even though a mere 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire was put in place, we rushed to announce the war was over. As a result, Hamas believed they could get political concessions from us. They were wrong about that. Now we have to decide which of the three terrible options we prefer: 1) a long war of attrition, where they fire 30-60 rockets a day at us. They will not run out of rockets (since they are no doubt building new missiles in their underground factories that we have not touched.) 2) a ground war to retake Gaza, or 3) giving in to their political demands and rewarding Hamas for their aggression. These are all unquestionably unpalatable choices. Despite the myriad of mistakes they have made, there is (unfortunately) no one to replace our current government. I only hope that this latest setback will force reality to replace their mistaken preconceived ideas.