“I do think that their conclusion is that once every several years, we must launch a preventive operation and destroy some of the Hamas government’s [military] power, in particular the long-range missiles,” says political scientist Menachem Klein of Bar Ilan University. “That’s the strategy.”
But even many of those who say that Israel has no other choice than to rely on military action acknowledge that brute force alone will not guarantee Israel’s security, given the hatred of Israel that is cultivated in Gaza schools and society – and heightened, some argue, by operations like Pillar of Defense.
“We see indoctrination as the key issue,” said Yossi Kuperwasser, director general of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. “It’s got to be something really profound that stops it.”
“We have all kinds of contingency planning,” he said, speaking at a briefing last month before Operation Pillar of Defense began. “If worst comes to worst, we can take a much wider operation in Gaza … But this is not going to really solve the problem.”
There are also concerns on the Israeli left about what a semi-permanent state of conflict would do to Israeli society. “There is a danger of society taking on a bestial nature,” said celebrated playwright Yehoshua Sobol, one of roughly 100 Israeli figures who have drafted a petition to end the violence with Gaza. “The danger is not just from the missiles, but also from our society becoming morally corrupt. We have to remember that there are human beings on the other side, not animals,” The Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying.
It was former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who withdrew Israeli troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, a controversial move intended to reduce friction with Palestinians and stem international criticism of Israel for occupying the territory. The following year, Hamas won parliamentary elections by a landslide. Then in 2007, after quarreling with its secular rivals in Fatah, Hamas violently ousted them, estranging Gaza from the West Bank. The Palestinian house remains divided today, as reconciliation efforts flounder.