The growing siege imposed by Israel on Gaza must be weighed in line with its ability to bring more security to Gaza-region residents. Yet so far, our experience has shown that this type of cruel collective punishment doesn’t bring results. When we are threatened and our security is undermined, do we become more appeasing towards the other side? Does a woman who lost the child she was bearing because the Israeli blockade prevented her from reaching hospital will immediately conclude that she must resist the forces fighting against Israel?
Does the distress faced by those who are struggling in the market in order to bring back home a small container of diesel fuel to ensure their families won’t freeze at night prompt thoughts about peace, or perhaps despair, which is the most fertile ground for inciters and fanatics? When a child grows in this reality, is he more likely to hope for the day when he can fight Israel, or the day when he can host Israeli tourists in Gaza?
We must face the truth: The cruel move led by the defense minister in Gaza is first and foremost a response to our desire for revenge and the feeling we must “hit them hard,” but it is not a response to the danger threatening Israeli lives. Alongside this realization, we cannot avoid moral calculations – not because of the UN condemnations, not because of international courts, and not because of the insults that would be hurled at us when we travel across Europe. We cannot avoid moral calculations only because of the way we will be looking at ourselves in the mirror.
How would we justify to ourselves the deaths of innocent men, women and children that have no security reason and are that stem from capitulation to belligerent and irrelevant perceptions of collective punishment, and worse, out of blindness to other solutions?
Short-term dialogue with Hamas
I do not believe in diplomatic negotiations with Hamas. As someone who called 30 years ago for talks with the PLO terror group, I can say that Hamas is different. We are not talking about a national organization where there is a chance of reconciling its aspiration and ours. We are talking about a fundamentalist group that views terrorism as a goal and a path.
On the other hand, when we are talking about lifting the Qassam horror threatening the children of the western Negev and securing the release of Gilad Shalit, there is no other way aside from a short-term target-specific dialogue with Hamas. Talks on a ceasefire do not guarantee a long-term solution. Such truce would not bring quiet for many years in and of itself, yet it is the most effective, most logical way to bring quiet now and save our citizens in Sderot and area communities.
Ignoring the option of talking with Hamas hurts, first and foremost, the citizens facing bombardment; boosting the pressure on the Gaza Strip does not mitigate their suffering, but rather, achieves the opposite result. However, targeted talks will lead to a lull in the armed conflict that should be used in order to promote diplomatic solutions, which Hamas fears, because it knows they would weaken him.
Such solution will offer residents in Gaza and the West Bank a better alternative for Hamas and will provide them not only with a fuel, but with a chance to live a life worth living.
Chaim Oron is a Meretz Knesset member