On the night of August 14, 2005 thousands of Israeli Jews spent their last night at home in the Gaza Strip. The following day was the deadline for all Jews to evacuate. August 15 saw those who remained being forcibly evicted by Israeli soldiers.
Gut wrenching images of screaming Jews being carried away from their homes were all over the media. Soldiers were being cursed. It was Jew against Jew. Israel was almost brought to its knees, coming close to civil war over the withdrawal. By September 12 none of the 8,000 Jews who lived in Gaza remained. After 38 years Israel unilaterally turned this small enclave over to the Arabs. Residents were promised financial compensation, homes and employment by the Israeli government. Ten years on many hundreds still had not realized the promises from the government.
Why would Israel take such an unprecedented step, which severely divided the nation?
For one reason- peace. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, once a lion who himself championed the development of Israeli communities in Gaza and Judea/Samaria took a huge gamble in an effort to bring stability and coexistence with Israel’s Arab neighbors.
Instead of having peace, the situation only got worse. Subsequent to Israel’s withdrawal Hamas and Fatah engaged in a power struggle. In June 2006 Hamas abducted IDF soldier Gilad Schalit and held him prisoner for five years.
Eventually in June 2007 after months of violent clashes Hamas forcibly ousted Fatah, took over the Gaza Strip and has maintained an iron-clad grip ever since.
Since then Hamas and Israel have engaged in violent clashes on numerous occasions. They include:
- Operation “Summer Rains,” after Gilad Schalit was kidnapped.
- Intermittent conflict throughout 2007 – 2008
- Operation “Hot Winter” from Feb. 29 – June 19, 2008
- Operation “Cast Lead” from December 27, 2008 – January 19.2009
- Operation “Returning Echo” March 2012
- Operation “Pillar of Defense October 2012
- Operation “Protective Edge” July 8 – August 26 2014
At least 15 – 20,000, rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel from Gaza since 2005. That averages over 1,500 per year. The actual number may exceed that. They continue to this day. No country should have to endure such terror. Recent rocket attacks included a barrage of 200 rockets and mortars in one 24 hour period. Thus far, the number of attacks in 2018 is on track to surpass any year in recent history.
Israeli civilians living in cities near the Strip have been living in a nightmarish situation for well over a decade, having to run to bomb shelters on a moment’s notice with a mere 15 seconds to get to safety. Approximately 33% of children in Sderot suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as a result.
In addition to rockets and mortars, Hamas has begun using different terror tactic, launching kites and balloons that start fires. Dozens of acres of land have been torched as a result.
In spite of such incessant attacks, the UN, EU and most world leaders remain silent in the face of such abhorrent behavior by Hamas. Yet, when Israel has endured enough terror and takes responsive measures, most of the media quickly vilifies Israel as the “aggressor,” using “disproportionate force.” A recent example is a BBC headline after Hamas’s relentless rocket attacks forcing Israel to respond, which read “Israeli air strikes kill woman and toddler.” BBC changed the headline after Israel’s justifiable complaint.
In hindsight, what has Israel gained since its bold gesture toward peace by withdrawing from Gaza in 2005? Has Hamas given any indication it accepts Israel’s right to exist and a willingness to coexist in peace? Is there any international pressure to force Hamas to turn away from terror and refrain from their murderous tactics? Has the UN convened any investigations into Hamas’s ongoing reign of terror against Israel’s civilians? Have they condemned the terror tunnels, which are designed to infiltrate into Israel for the single purpose of murdering civilians? Have they criticized Hamas for constructing the tunnels from material meant for humanitarian purposes? Is peace any closer?
I will endeavor to answer this question by the following comment- one definition of insanity to repeat something again and again, yet expect different results. What do I mean?
Since Hamas took over Gaza there has been an oft repeated cycle of terror attacks to which Israel responds. This continues to a point when Israel decides they’ve had enough and launches a limited military operation designed to bring calm. When Hamas’s leadership (safely protected several stories below ground), as its civilians die, decides it’s time to halt the battle, they announce they are ready for a cease fire. Israel always accepts the cease fire and calm prevails….temporarily. This sequence has repeated itself again and again.
Lives are lost, homes, businesses, etc in Gaza lay in ruin, yet Hamas raises the flag of victory because they still exist and have withstood the mighty Israeli army. They long to live for another day of martyrdom since they “love death as you (Israel) love life.”
With all due respect to Prime Minister Netanyahu this sick cycle of on again, off again violence needs to stop. The folly of it is only exceeded by its tragic legacy.
CHANGE THE RULES
Time has is long overdue for Mr. Netanyahu to make a unilateral declaration, especially in light of the most recent rocket attacks which resulted in yet another fragile cease fire. He should announce to Hamas and the world that Israel will not be the one to break the current cease fire. However, Hamas should be put on notice that if they fire a single rocket, Israel will mount a military incursion into Gaza, not just for the limited purpose of bringing another temporary calm. Israel will engage in a operation that will bring a military presence into Gaza designed to root out Hamas’s terror infrastructure once and for all.
If that means Israel must remain in Gaza for months, even years, so be it.
Hamas’s charter calls for the destruction of Israel and annihilation of the Jewish people. Their goal is clear for the entire world to see. No civilized nation should be forced to make compromises with such an uncompromising enemy.
Israel should acknowledge the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza was a mistake and take appropriate measures to ensure the constant threat of Hamas is eradicated once and for all. If the choice comes down to life for Israel or death for Hamas, let the choice be life.
This article originally appeared on Israel Rising, August 12, 2018, and reposted with permission.