Unlike the victims of the Gaza conflict, whose charred bodies fill the feeds of social media in Western countries, these dead are part of a war you don't see. Whether it's anti-Hamas protesters shot in Gaza or Israeli peace activists beaten by right-wing thugs in Tel Aviv, nonviolent protest is a dangerous business in Israel/Palestine. And nowhere is this felt more acutely than in the West Bank.
I write this with great sorrow for civilians hurt on both sides. Sorrow for our soldiers who have fallen in this operation, and sorrow for the future of my country and the entire region. I know that as I write, soldiers like me have fired shells into Gaza. They had no way of knowing who or what they would hit. Faced with so many innocent casualties, it is time for us to state very clearly: this use of artillery fire is a deadly game of Russian roulette. The statistics, on which such firepower relies, mean that in densely populated areas such as Gaza, civilians will inevitably be hit as well. The IDF knows this, and as long as it continues to use such weaponry, it will be hard to believe when it claims to be minimizing civilian deaths. As a former soldier and an Israeli citizen, I feel compelled to ask today: have we not crossed a line?
It's hard to shake away the utterly depressing feeling that comes with news coverage these days. IDF and Hamas are at it again, a vicious cycle of violence, but this time it feels much more intense. While war rages on the ground in Gaza and across Israeli skies, there's an all-out information war unraveling in social networked spaces.
Contrary to what Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu believes, the main existential threat facing the country is not a nuclear-armed Iran. The real peril is to be found at home: the corrosive effect of the Palestinian problem on Israel's international standing. The devastation caused by Israel's periodic asymmetrical confrontations, combined with the continuing occupation of Palestinian lands and the ever-growing expansion of settlements, has fueled a growing campaign to undermine Israel's legitimacy.
A small group of terrorists, maybe 5,000 or 7,000 against a country of more than 6 million people, have dug and built another city 30 to 40 meters underground, and they have tunnels reaching, if not already penetrating, into Israeli land. These people keep on sending rockets against us. For Israel to fight against them on the ground means a battle from house to house, and it will be a brutal combat -- and that becomes a real problem. If we want to solve the problem, it means that we have to be very cruel, and this is not morally easy to do. Many people can die on both sides.
It is neither in Israel's nor in Hamas' interest to start a new war. The latter now has the means to strike Tel Aviv, and Netanyahu would struggle to survive politically if the heart of the Jewish state were badly hit. As for Hamas, it is already in dire straits. Gaza has been subjected to an Israeli blockade for seven years, and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's Egypt tightened the grip further by destroying the hundreds of smuggling tunnels that were the economical lifeline for the 1.7 million Gazans.
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that have been in the works for nearly two decades are back to square one. There are many reasons for the failure of the negotiations, but one of the key reasons is that Israel has moved the goalposts. In the past negotiations between the two sides, the most important demand of Israel was for the Palestinians to recognize Israel's right to exist. But the hardline government of Benjamin Netanyahu is now demanding that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
The interplay among many interconnected and interdependent "small units" that operate in a transparent environment and on a leveled playing field, where none is allowed to dominate, is a fundamental requirement for pragmatism, prosperity and resilience in both economics and politics. This insight is ancient to Judaism and has been highlighted by modern thinkers such as Nasim Taleb in Antifragility.