By Dr Toby Greene
Israel’s security cabinet have not found it easy to agree a response to the murder of three Israeli teenagers.
The anger caused by the murders created public pressure to act. Prime Minister Netanyahu declared: “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas must pay” This raised expectations.
At such moments, emotions are high among the decision makers themselves, mixed with a political need to respond to brewing anger among sections of the public – in extreme cases leading to violence against Arabs. The instinct to hit back is deep within Israel’s security doctrine. But the pressure for broader military action against Hamas runs up against a complex set of considerations.
An extensive operation in Gaza could trigger an escalation in rockets, forcing thousands of Israelis into bomb shelters. Broader operations in the West Bank risk further undermining the relative calm of recent years. And a response judged excessive by international leaders could flip diplomatic pressure away from Palestinians and back onto Israel.
Reports emerged of these pressures playing out around the cabinet table. While Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett demanded tough military action, Defence Minister Bogie Yaalon was apparently wary of escalation, pressing instead for settlement construction. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni warned this would be divisive internally and undermine the legitimacy of action by the IDF.
But it was another security cabinet member, Yair Lapid, who found the most eloquent response, saying. “We don’t need a competition over whose rage is holier or whose hate is purer. True revenge will be the ability to transcend the differences among us and to embrace one another.”
• Dr Toby Greene is Director of Research for BICOM. His book, ‘Blair, Labour and Palestine: Conflicting Views on Middle East Peace After 9/11’ is out now