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Mathew Markman Headshot

Beneath the Rubble

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It's difficult to sleep as your country rests on the cusp of war. Waiting to be awoken by the eerie cry of the "red alert" sirens. I can only imagine what this feeling must be like for those on the frontlines in the south of Israel and in the Gaza Strip. Only hours ago, the Israeli cabinet approved the activation of 75,000 reservists soldiers, friends and those who have become my family awaiting the call.

For those on the periphery in the western world and across the region battling for their respective sides please do not confound this tragic and frightening situation. Beneath it, all of us, Israelis and Palestinians, are simply people living in fear. It is not your place to wage a war of words from the comfort of your arm chairs, widening the divides between our peoples. These sentiments weigh heavy on my heart and I feel must be shared before I delve into the emotionally detached realm of political analysis.

It is clear to me that Israel has awoken from its slumber with a vengeance. While there are an abundance of pundits who will argue the timing of this war is no coincidence, immediately following an American election that favored an ill received candidate here in Israel, and only months before Benjamin Netanyahu himself vies for reelection. In this moment Israelis are craving a show of strength (91 percent of Israelis support Operation Defensive Pillar) and Netanyahu has responded. However, this does not undermine the fact, that since Israel's perceivably failed wars in Lebanon and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, rockets have continually fallen on this country, endangering and striking terror into the lives of over a million citizens.

Whether or not I believe military force is the long term answer to this problem is of little matter. I am not constrained by the same limitations and responsibilities as a head of state, and I have the liberty with little ramification to argue against such perpetual action. What is important, is that the individuals at the head of the Israeli government and armed forces -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman, and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak -- have decided that enough is enough, and opted to assert that Israel is no longer handcuffed by the international outcry to the country's most recent wars under former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Foreign Minister Lieberman has explicitly stated that, "Israel has two goals in the Gaza operation: to rehabilitate our deterrence ability and destroy long range missiles. Once we attain these goals, we will end the operation." But what does this statement mean? In the previous invasion of Gaza during Operation Cast Lead (2008) Israel activated 10,000 reserve soldiers, in the Lebanon War (2006) 60,000 soldiers. For the ongoing Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel has approved the activation of 75,000 reservist soldiers, struck over 500 targets in Gaza, assassinated several high-ranking Hamas commanders, and is amassing troops on the border to Gaza for a possible ground assault. This is a clear sign to Hamas, Iran, and any other power in the region considering encroachment upon Israeli sovereignty, that Israel is ready, able, and willing to engage in all out war.

I fear that in the process, Israel has destroyed the dam which has prevented the wave of the Arab Spring from reaching the streets of the Palestinian Territories. President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas has accused Netanyahu of launching the war in Gaza to undermine his diplomatic attempts for recognition of Palestine as an Observer State at the United Nations. However, Netanyahu may have achieved far more. In protests held in Ramallah yesterday against Israel's actions in Gaza, symbols supporting Fatah and the Palestinian Authority were nearly non-existent. The crowd was almost entirely littered with the green banners of Hamas, a rare sight in the Fatah controlled West Bank territory. A leader of Hamas Mahmoud Abu Tir -- who was exiled from Jerusalem by Israel -- spoke to the crowd, followed by a representative of the Palestinian government and member of Fatah, Deputy Minister of Prisoner Affairs Ziad Abu Ein, who was heckled off the stage. In the end, although Netanyahu may have reasserted Israel's deterrent capability, when the dust settles in Gaza and the rubble has been cleared away, what we may find beneath is the remnants of the Palestinian Authority, and a territory once again engulfed in chaos and intifada.