It is becoming harder and harder to even imagine an end to the cycle of anger and vengeance.
To justify the ground offensive against Gaza launched during the night of July 17 and 18, Israel put forth a precise goal: destroy Hamas's network of tunnels. These galleries enable the Palestinian Islamist movement to hide its arsenal of rockets and organize attacks on Israeli soil.
Israel has good arguments on its side. With the help of Iran, Syria, and the money from certain Gulf emirates, Hamas equipped itself over recent years with an ever more sophisticated arsenal of rockets. As we have seen these last few days, some of these missiles can reach large Israeli cities.
Hamas fires these projectiles completely indiscriminately, looking to strike in the heart of urban areas. The aim is to kill as many as possible — civilians, in particular.
Israeli civilians have so far been spared from the some 1,000 rockets fired from Gaza since July 7 — the beginning of this umpteenth confrontation between both parties — for two reasons: a remarkable civil defense organization and a more and more efficient anti-missile system.
Israel also has credible arguments when accusing Hamas of installing its launch pads in underground shelters right in the middle of the Palestinian population — and of using the latter as a “human shield.” As recently as Thursday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) discovered more than 20 rockets concealed in one of its schools.
But despite this range of very serious justifications, Israel is wrong to think that its security will be ensured by further military operations in Gaza. It will not — or at best only for a short period of time: The last ground operation carried out by the army in this territory, “Cast Lead,” dates back to 2008-2009.
In light of this reality, it is important to assess the risks taken by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government with the operation launched on July 17. The risks are great — and they weigh, first and foremost, on the Palestinian civilian population.
Where to hide?
In only ten days, the people of Gaza have already paid a huge price: 257 dead — including many children — and some 1,700 wounded. Israel says the army warns the civilian population before striking. But where can people go? Where can entire families take shelter when a whole, overpopulated territory of almost 2 million people is under the fire of one of the best-equipped armies in the world?
We know the result. We have seen it this week, with the “mistake” of a repeated strike — three shells — on a group of children playing on a Gaza beach.
The former president of the Israeli parliament, Avraham Burg — an isolated voice — said it in Le Monde: Military force is not a solution. Burg is not naïve. He knows that after Hamas, it will be jihadists who, fueled by violence, will keep feeding the desire for vengeance.
In such a complete political vacuum between Israelis and Palestinians, hatred gains new ground every day. What comes to mind is a verse, fittingly from a tragedy, Andromaque, by French playwright Jean Racine: “Has your anger not yet run its course? Will you hate forever, with eternal force?"