Personally, as an Israeli who pays his taxes and accepts all civic obligations, who went to war in 1982 (reluctantly—it was a useless, unnecessary war), whose three sons served in the army, I am profoundly ashamed of what that same army did in my name in Gaza, to say nothing of what this army continues to do, day by day, on the West Bank.
And it is there, on the West Bank, that the deeper meaning of what happened in Gaza becomes apparent. There is a sense in which Gaza is a side-show within the wider frame of Israeli Palestinian policy; and there is another sense in which what happened in Gaza in 2009 expresses all too well the attitude toward Palestinians that has crystallized in the current Israeli leadership and, I fear, in much of the general public. Gazan rockets posed, indeed still pose, a real danger to the Israeli population in the south of the country, but smashing Gaza repeatedly will never solve the problem.
The best, possibly the only way to deal successfully with the threat from Hamas, and from still more radical Salafi-Jihadist groups now growing stronger in Gaza, is to make a real peace with the Palestinian moderates still in control in Ramallah. They are responsible, capable, and serious about peace, and they have the means and the will to make it stick. What they lack is an Israeli partner. Instead, we see on the ground in the occupied territories the devastating combination of a mad race by both settlers and government for more and more real estate, and an oppressive, indeed criminal system, enforced by the army and the police, to safeguard this colonial enterprise. To my mind, one of the major merits of the Goldstone report is the unflinching gaze it directs at the occupation and the link it meticulously establishes between it and the Gaza war. Here lie the roots of the systemic failure I have referred to, including the willingness to sacrifice innocents on an ever wider scale.
Based on recent reports, it now looks as though Israel may well repeat its earlier mistake in Gaza and eventually make some sort of niggardly, unilateral withdrawal from, say, Area B in the West Bank—anything except cutting a meaningful deal with Salam Fayyad and his government, anything except making peace. There is nothing more precious than an enemy, especially one whom you have largely created by your own acts and who plays some necessary role in the inner drama of your soul.
It regularly amazes me that human beings are so eager to divest themselves of their own freedom to act, and no less eager to deny that they had this freedom in the past. Ein brerah, “No choice,” is one of the most common idioms in everyday Hebrew, a default expression of Israeli consciousness. In truth, however, Israel has had, for rather a long time now, an eminently practical choice vis-à-vis the Palestinians (and, indeed, the Arab world generally). The brutal Gaza campaign of 2009 is, in its own way, the natural consequence of choosing the occupation over peace. If events do move in the direction just described—in effect turning over what will be left of the West Bank to Hamas—then we will be seeing many more operations in the Cast Lead mold, or worse, and not only in Gaza.