Last updated: May 6, 2013
Josef Olmert: Gaza and Israeli politics

“It is not about ideology…it is about the right to be free from fear”

Something extraordinary happened in Israel just a few hours ago, already defined by some pundits as a political miracle, an extraordinary development even in the Holy Land. Yariv Oppenheimer, the veteran, well-articulated General–Secretary of the Peace Now movement, the nemesis of Likud governments, declared his support to the operation in Gaza and did not rule out a ground operation by the IDF.

Oppenheimer is contesting a seat in the Labor party primaries in the upcoming Knesset elections, so cynics can dismiss his position as an election ploy, but if this is correct, it is the most significant evidence that Israeli public opinion, including many die-hard peaceniks, got fed up and want a decisive military solution to the ever lingering Gaza problem.

So, judging by repeated public opinion polls, and the almost unanimous enlistment to the call for arms of 30,000 reservists (until now, only one! officer refused to enlist), the Israeli public supports the government led by Netanyahu.

Why is that? Some historic context is in place here, information about Gaza that is usually buried under the pile of press and political comments that so often have simply nothing to do with realities, and a lot to do with wishful thinking.

Gaza was occupied by the Egyptian army in the war of 1948 and they invited the notorious collaborator with Adolph Hitler, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin Al-Husseni, to the city where he declared the establishment of the Government of All Palestine on 21 October 1948. Nothing and no one should have prevented this government from becoming that of an independent state, but the Egyptian Army of occupation later threw the Mufti out and Gaza lost its first chance.

Aggression against Israel, emanating from Gaza in the early 1950’s, led to its occupation in 1956, only to be evacuated soon after. Gaza got its second chance. But in 1967, following Egypt’s aggression in the June 1967 war, Gaza was reoccupied by Israel, at that time with a population of 350,000 people.

Gaza was given back to the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat in 1994 as an implementation of the ill-fated Oslo Accords. At that time its population was over a million.

So much for the talk about ‘’ethnic cleansing’’, and also so much for the Palestinian talk about the refugees problem being the key to the conflict with Israel. From 1994 to 2002, the Palestinian Authority was the largest recipient per capita of foreign aid in the world and not even one housing unit was built by Arafat for refugees.

However, the coast line at Rimal witnessed hectic construction of posh villas for the leaders of the Authority and throughout these eight years Gaza continued to be a basis of aggression against Israel.

So, in 2002 amid the ceaseless wave of suicide homicide attacks against Israel, the IDF took it again. Gaza missed its third chance.

Then came the Sharon-Olmert government in 2005 and the disengagement plan, in which Israel pulled out of Gaza lock, stock and barrel, uprooting Jewish settlements, thus removing, at least in this case, any claim that settlements are the core of the problem. Moreover, at the behest of James Wolfenzon, former head of the World Bank, Israel sold the greenhouses of the settlers which produced vegetables sold in Europe to the Palestinians in order for them to serve as a basis for a new economy there. But alas, Hamas destroyed them all with a feat of bestial hatred, because they will never use “Zionist lettuce”…

Gaza missed a fourth chance. Then came the Hamas take-over of Gaza, through relatively democratic elections. Yes, elections, but whether democratic or not, the new rulers started firing thousands of rockets at Israeli communities. Indeed, Gaza was blocked from Israel, exactly the action to be taken by any other state, if on the other side of the border it had to deal with those who declare that they want to destroy it. It is conventional wisdom, as well as in line with international law.

Gaza missed a fifth chance.

Late in 2008, patience run out in Israel, far overdue after thousands of rockets, and the government launched a painful strike against the aggressors, only to terminate it prematurely due to international pressure.

Gaza got another chance, the sixth, only to miss that one as well. During 2012, until the latest flare-up, 700 rockets were fired at civilian Israeli communities and this figure was considered moderate by some pundits, especially those who never witnessed the fear of the paralyzing noise of rockets and sirens.

The assassination of master terrorist Ja’abari came after 140 missiles fired from Gaza. So, Gaza missed another chance, the seventh.

This is the background to the current, inevitable Israeli operation. Let us remember that two days ago, 130 trucks crossed from Israel to Gaza with supplies to the civilian population there. The Israelis who monitored and supervised this operation had to run for their life and seek shelter, exactly as the last truck crossed!

This and all the above is why the overwhelming majority of Israelis support Netanyahu, Barrack and the IDF. It is not about ideology, it is not about Greater or Smaller Israel, it is not about Left and Right, it is about the right to be free from fear. The right of Gazans, as well as Israelis. The right of human beings everywhere.

It is unfortunate for the Gazans that they are weaker than Israel. In this case, might is right and amid all the excitement the Netanyahu government and the IDF are urged to be as restrained as possible. The Gaza population does not deserve any punishment, Hamas does.

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