Apparently, Netanyahu has no stomach for an extensive operation in Gaza, but must take some action to appease Likud activists and settlers.
By Amos Harel, HAARETZ | Jul. 2, 2014 | 2:37 AM
The public demands revenge, but Netanyahu doesn’t want long war with Hamas
Israel is still considering its response after the discovery of the bodies of the three abducted teenagers. The cabinet met on Monday night but could not reach a decision. Another meeting was scheduled for on Tuesday. Leaks from the earlier meeting indicated that the session was charged, with Economy Minister Naftali Bennett calling for severe reprisals. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and Chief-of-Staff Benny Ganz urged restraint. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaned towards accepting the advice of the defense establishment but was concerned about the political ramifications of showing restraint.
Basically, the Israeli dilemma is whether to launch an aggressive operation in the Gaza Strip, which could spark a conflagration with Hamas, or to make do with minor moves in the West Bank. Apparently, Netanyahu has no stomach for an extensive operation in Gaza, but must take some action to appease Likud activists and settlers (increasingly overlapping groups). In a statement he made after the bodies were found, Netanyahu promised that Hamas would pay, because that is what Israel’s gut instincts dictate.
The prime minister quoted a Bialik poem that refers to there being no possible revenge for spilling the blood of a small child (written after the 1903 Kishinev pogroms). This, like other proclamations made following the finding of the murdered teens, showed a sense of disproportion. There is no doubt that the three teenagers were innocent victims, but Netanyahu seems to have forgotten that they were not victims of a pogrom in Ukraine a century ago but citizens of a powerful state, reportedly a nuclear one.
In conversations with furious settlers, some cabinet ministers promised on Tuesday that the state would “prepare several new parking lots in Hebron,” hinting at a renewal of the policy of demolishing the houses of terrorists. This policy was upheld on Tuesday by the High Court of Justice, which rejected an appeal against the intended demolition of a house belonging to the suspected murderer of a police officer. It is likely that the houses of the suspected murderers and their helpers in this case will also be demolished. Other steps directed at Hamas and expulsions of its activists from the West Bank were also considered.
This is legally complicated, since international law forbids removal of citizens of occupied territories to foreign territory. Israel renounced its responsibility for the Gaza Strip following its unilateral disengagement. Such steps are intended to serve as deterrent measures, also precluding extreme right-wing ‘price tag’ operations against Palestinians. The police and Shin Bet are now concerned about reprisals by Jewish extremists. This concern motivates even more moderate coalition partners to consider a policy of extensive punishment.