November 18, 2012 - Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, in a moment of disturbing candor, revealed what is for many in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government the ultimate goal of its escalating military campaign on Gaza:
“The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for forty years.”
Now, part of Yishai’s bombast comes from the fact that, as a known racist and head of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, he’d feel much more comfortable in the Middle Ages himself.
However, his statement reveals an essential truth few Israeli leaders dare to articulate. And that truth is this: the current military throttling of Gaza has less to do with security and more to do with destabilizing Gaza as much as possible.
Put another way, the military campaign is less about destroying Hamas’s weaponry and more about creating a situation in which Hamas remains both militant and strong.
Israel has engaged in its current, escalating military campaign not to protect Israelis from a militant Hamas, but in order to ensure that Hamas in Gaza remains militant.
So, why? The answer is simple and twofold: a) Netanyahu’s government wants a militant Hamas in Gaza; it wants a situation in which Gaza becomes isolated from the West Bank, hoping eventually Greater Israel will be obtained with Gaza becoming a separate entity, and b) with Israeli elections set for January, electoral motivations are undeniably in play with regard to this sudden military barrage.
Now, nobody is questioning whether Israel should be able to defend itself from rocket attacks on its citizens. But the tactics of bombing hundreds of Hamas strongholds and assassinating Hamas leaders is part of a larger strategy meant to maintain the status quo, not make Israelis safer in the long run.
As Janine Zacharia wisely wrote in Slate:
To be sure, Israel will once again achieve many of its short-term tactical goals, assassinating a handful of Hamas leaders, leveling militant safe houses, and eliminating scores of Hamas military installations or weapon depots. And, in the end, Israel will be no safer, although it will surely be more alone in the world and living in a neighborhood that is less tolerant of its aggressive countermeasures.
It’s time to declare Israel’s policy toward Gaza and Hamas a failure.
This is not an anti-Israel statement. Rather, it is an honest acknowledgment of the facts, which are simply too numerous to avoid.
Which brings us back to Yishai: The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.
Translated? The goal is not to protect Israelis from rocket fire, but to make Gaza as archaic and poor a place as possible to live. A place where extremism can continue to thrive.