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Israel: Is the fighting in Gaza justified?
The debate within Israel over the offensive against Hamas
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he world has been awfully quick to condemn Israel for defending itself in Gaza, said Sammy Benoit in Jerusalem’s Arutz Sheva. French President Nicolas Sarkozy “practically tripped over his underwear” in his haste to label the current Israeli incursion into Gaza a “disproportionate” use of force. Yet Israel endured months of rocket fire on its towns near the Gaza border before finally acting. More than 8,000 rockets exploded on our territory last year, killing 19 people. How many would have had to die to make our response proportionate? “How many Israelis equals the self-defense tipping point?” Before other democracies condemn us, they should consider how many bombs they would tolerate on their own cities before striking back.

So why don’t our leaders level with us about the true aim of this incursion? said Akiva Elder in Tel Aviv’s Ha’aretz. Defense Minister Ehud Barak says he was forced to send troops into Gaza this week because all other efforts to halt the rain of rockets into Israel had failed. But Barak had ignored a cease-fire offer from Hamas, and he told the soldiers that their mission was “to dismantle the civil infrastructure of the only organization challenging the rule of Mahmoud Abbas,” the Palestinian president. In other words, Barak wants to wipe out Hamas so he can deal with Abbas’ more moderate Fatah faction. But the strategy is fatally flawed. Even if Hamas should somehow be destroyed, Gaza will remain a haven for terrorists. As civilian casualties mount, “the hatred Israel is sowing in the territories” will fuel extremism for years to come.

Let’s face it, what’s really driving this war is politics, said Shulamit Aloni in Tel Aviv’s Yedioth Ahronoth. With elections scheduled for February, polls show that Barak has “already gained five Knesset seats” for his Labor Party. Striking back at the Palestinians is always a popular move, particularly after weeks of rocket fire on Israeli towns. Instead of feeling helpless, we feel powerful and patriotic. But this knee-jerk patriotism comes at a terrible price. Those Gaza residents “who are captives of Hamas’ leadership—women, the elderly, children, students, lecturers, hospitals, doctors, and patients—do not have to be punished with destruction, death, and bereavement because of the despicable acts of their leaders.”

Civilian losses are always tragic, said The Jerusalem Post in an editorial, but Israel is doing everything possible to avoid them. So far, about 50 noncombatants have died, most of them because they were being used as human shields. But where is the outrage over Hamas atrocities? Even while Hamas officials spread false propaganda about the number of Palestinian casualties, Hamas gunmen in Gaza are busy “shooting Fatah activists in the knees as a preventive security measure lest they take advantage of the unstable situation.” Israel has no other option but military strikes, said David Breakstone, also in The Jerusalem Post. But sadly, this operation won’t bring peace. “Hamas has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to the destruction of the State of Israel, and no amount of bombs is going to alter that. The problem is, neither is any amount of diplomacy.”

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