By Marcus Sheff, director of The Israel Project
Conventional wisdom is that Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is a hawk who keeps the Israeli military on a hairline trigger for use against Israel’s many and nefarious enemies.
Well, Israel clearly has enemies. And nefarious is one way to describe the fascistic Hamas, whose charter emphasizes that you should kill every Jew you meet, and who have been trying to live up to this guiding principle for over twenty years with varying degrees of success.
But Netanyahu’s conduct at the head of the executive branch that sends the IDF into harm’s way has been measured, conservative – even cautious. In fact, too cautious for many in his own party like former deputy defence minister Danny Danon, whose constant criticism of Netanyahu’s restraint in the face of barrages of rocket fire got him fired last week.
Greater international support exists for Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas terror than we have seen previously. That is in part because of the Israeli government’s restraint, the stated goals of the mission and the fact that Israel did not seek this escalation.
It is also because of the clear articulation of Israel’s position by the Israeli government, foreign envoys and pro-Israel organizations such as The Israel Project.
The world does understand that you cannot fire thousands of rockets at people going about their everyday business on the other side of a border.
Last week at Kibbutz Nir-Am on the Gaza border, in between the hearing the clinical voice of the “Code Red” alarm warning of incoming mortars from Gaza, I imagined what would have happened if the Hamas terrorists had succeeded in emerging from the tunnel they dug into the kibbutz kindergarten to commit the terror outrage they had planned for that morning, or the “mega-attack” planned for the upcoming Rosh Hashanah.
People understand digging terror tunnels is unacceptable.
Israel needs international legitimacy to protect itself from terror. That there are rules for Israel which do not necessarily apply to other countries is unfair, but a fact of diplomatic life.
Within Israel itself, support for this operation is overwhelming. From left to right, people weep for fallen soldiers but want Hamas’ terror infrastructure finished off, a normal life for Israel’s southern residents and the prospect of another flare up with Hamas in a year or two eliminated.
Netanyahu’s approval ratings are currently very high at 84%. While that is not sustainable in peacetime, it is a great deal of credit to be going into the post-war period.
He will be attacked from his own party by those like Danon with axes to grind, from his right for not finishing off the job, from further right for not reoccupying Gaza and from the center-left and left on economic issues and the peace process. Elections were in the air before the war. Expect normal service to be resumed after the holidays.