In recent weeks, the Israeli press has written on a growing concern about the next round of hostilities with Hamas. While the Gaza periphery has been quiet as of late, Hamas is undoubtedly using this temporary lull to rebuild its arsenal of long range rockets and tunnels. Whereas ten years ago, Hamas scarcely had the ability to shoot rockets past border towns such as Sderot, with the help of Iran, it now has the capability to target cities as far away as Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Be’er Sheva. Subsequent Israeli administrations have consistently engaged in the policy of “quiet will be met with quiet” and have not been afraid to engage Hamas head-on, however, the status quo is evolving in Hamas’ favour at Israel’s expense.
Under Netanyahu’s leadership, Israel has focused on managing the situation with Hamas and the Palestinians, rather than offering concrete proposals. While Hamas does not have the capacity to threaten Israel’s existence like a Nuclear Iran, its hold on the Gaza Strip continues to create an ever challenging situation for the Israeli public. On the question of peace talks with the PA, Netanyahu should be credited for making far reaching concessions (such as freezing settlement construction, vacating IDF checkpoints, releasing convicted terrorists, etc) yet as of late, Netanyahu is more so interested in managing the situation, rather than offering a vision for the future. This is a significant cause for concern, as calls for boycotts and international pressure only continue to grow due to this stagnation.
During 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, politicians on the right such as Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman, advocated for pushing Hamas out of the Gaza Strip in its entirety. While there are pros and cons to this approach, these leaders were at the very least putting forward a strategic vision, rather than merely managing an ongoing situation. Similarly, their calls for destroying Hamas’ tunnel network were credited with Netanyahu’s decision to expand military operations to that end.
In recent weeks, Opposition Leader Yitzhak Herzog has called for Israel to complete construction of its security barrier in the West Bank, and for it to include contested Israeli settlements around the Jerusalem area and beyond. He understands that peace talks are unlikely to be successful at this point in time, yet acknowledges that steps must be taken to address the growing security concerns in the West Bank. Similarly, Bennett has called for annexing Area C of the Israeli controlled West Bank, and offering all residents in that region (Israeli and Palestinian alike) equal rights and citizenship, while improving economic conditions, and offering greater autonomy for the Palestinians in Areas A & B of the West Bank.
These proposals have their merits and concerns, yet it demonstrates instances where leaders are willing to be proactive and offer a strategic vision for the future. While Netanyahu has made many crucial contributions to Israel during his tenure (expanding the Navy, signing an F-35 deal, addressing the migrant crisis, completing a security fence on the Egyptian border, expanding trade and security cooperation with Asian states, and improving relations with Canada, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, and moderate Sunni states), he has been primarily focused on managing the security situation, rather than offering a real proposal for the future. As Israel continues down this path, the risk for political isolation and a solution being imposed on the Jewish State becomes increasingly likely. For these reasons, Israel needs a leader who is willing to take an active approach, and offer a strategic vision for its people.