If you want to know how short it was, let me tell you about my son. Last Saturday morning, he was a happy tourist in Crete. At evening, he flew back to Israel and hurriedly packed a bag. On Sunday he was in Gaza. Well, near Gaza. In uniform. On Monday he was getting anxious to head back home.
Operation Breaking Dawn in Gaza started and ended in three days. Last Sunday night, it was over, and if you haven’t noticed it, or already forgot about it, you should not feel guilty. Most Israelis have also forgotten about it by now. And one would hope most Gazans have too (a note of caution: I write this on Tuesday — and it is still true unless the ceasefire didn’t hold.
Why was it necessary? The short answer is simple: Because when it comes to Gaza, once in a while there is no other choice but to send a reminder that Israel is watching. The longer answer is somewhat boring: because Islamic Jihad was going to launch an attack on Israelis and Israel decided to preempt the attack — and counterattack.
It was a decisive success, and it was short, and thus the list of casualties is also short. No Israelis were seriously hurt, and the number of Palestinians killed is relatively low. By the way, most of them — including children — were killed by misfires of Islamic Jihad operatives. Gazan terrorists killed Gazans, then and American legislators saved Gazans. Yes, American legislators. Not the progressives who keep hammering Israel for whatever it does, but rather the moderates and conservatives who have the wisdom to fund Iron Dome. Thanks to Iron Dome, no Israeli was killed during Breaking Dawn. Thanks to Iron Dome, few Gazans were killed by Israel. When Israelis aren’t killed the government isn’t under pressure, the military isn’t under pressure, and a military operation can be handled with calm and poise. This saves lives, including Gazan lives.
Politicians and workers can go back to normalcy, yet Gaza remains. It remains not just an unresolved challenge; it remains a challenge for which no one seems to have an idea for resolution.
On Monday morning the operation was over, and the politicians were back at work trying to score points as Election Day nears. In Gaza, workers whose livelihood depends on getting to workplaces in Israel were also getting ready to go back to normalcy. That’s the normalcy in between military eruptions, as neither Israelis nor Palestinians presume that Breaking Dawn was the last violent conflict in Gaza. Politicians and workers can go back to normalcy, yet Gaza remains. It remains not just an unresolved challenge; it remains a challenge for which no one seems to have an idea for resolution.
Try to imagine Gaza’s future — is there a way for you to feel hopeful about its future? Try whatever “what if” scenario that comes to mind. Can you think about something that is both realistic and optimistic? Hamas clings to power, Israel isn’t in the business of going back into Gaza, Egypt is ready to mediate but isn’t taking responsibility for Gaza, the Palestinian Authority is too weak and incompetent to take over Gaza, and the international community has lost interest, and for good reason. There are bigger, more pressing issues to worry about (such as world war because of Taiwan), and there are problems as big where acting could make a difference (such as food shortages in East Africa). Gaza is a problem from hell: not urgent enough to be first priority, not simple enough to be resolved as a secondary priority.
A few weeks ago, before the operation, I visited the home of historian Anita Shapira for a long interview about books and ideas. She is a young 82-year-old sage of Zionist and Israeli history, and at one point in our interview she said she hopes that “one day” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will come to a conclusion. “Can you imagine how this will happen?” I asked her. “No,” she said. She can’t. You’re a historian, I reminded her, as if she needed reminding, so you know that often such conflicts only end when catastrophe strikes. “Yes, that’s true,” she said. Then she started talking about the expulsions of ethnic Germans from the former German territories transferred to Poland, Russia and Czechoslovakia after World War II. And make no mistake. Shapira was not hinting that expulsion is the way forward. She was hinting that there’s great danger that tragedy is the way forward.
Something I wrote in Hebrew
In preparation to the primaries in Likud and Labor that took place earlier this week I wrote this:
Next week we will talk about primaries. We will talk about them much more than necessary. The political system is a producer of exciting events, and the media is the echo chamber of these events. How important are they really? Less than a Maccabi Haifa soccer match against the team from Belgrade that will decide whether Haifa advances to the Champions League. It seems to me that it is quite clear what is more exciting. On the one hand, Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League, on the other hand, MK Naama Lazimi in fourth or fifth or sixth place in the Labor primaries. Nobody cares, except close friends and family.
A week’s numbers
All eyes should be on this graph: Whether the Netanyahu bloc (Likud, Zionist Religious, Shas, UTJ) gets to 61 is the most important question of the fifth round, and it is a close call.
A reader’s response:
Dan Elgar wrote: “I found your description of Israeli polarization highly disturbing”. My response: Ditto.
Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.