The Last Time Israel Left Gaza: The Fate of the Hamas onslevant and its Legacy in the Memory of a Hero
I left his funeral distraught last week, knowing we had lost a righteous soul. To me it’s clear. My friend not only fought against Hamas during his final moments to protect his friends and family; he also fought against Hamas during years of activism against the occupation.
What happened to the Israeli people who were horrified by the barbarism of the Hamas onslaught? The Israeli offensive on Gazans moved the narrative to the point where Hamas has embedded itself. The massive Israeli counterstrike overshadowed Hamas’s terror and instead made them heroes to some. It has also forced Israel’s new Arab allies in the Abraham Accords to distance themselves from the Jewish state.
Israel has paid a heavy price to avoid being pushed towards a two-state solution, as commentators and politicians cynically call it, because of the periodic episodes of killing and destruction. We chose to “manage” the conflict through a combination of brute force and economic incentives, instead of working to solve it by ending our perpetual occupation of Palestinian territory.
I scribbled some thoughts on a piece of paper. The number of soldiers who were killed had been counted by some members of my team and they were discussing whether the operation was worth it. “I think it could be worth it,” I wrote, “as long as we decisively eliminate the threat.”
Air Force fighter jets roared as we left for Al-Burrah, followed by loud explosions and a huge amount of debris and smoke. I later learned that in those moments, the airstrikes killed eight members of the Wahdan family, mostly women and children, whose home soldiers from my unit had occupied for days while the family was there.
That was my experience the last time Israeli troops entered the Gaza Strip in a large-scale way, when my special forces unit, attached to the 993rd Nahal Brigade, was one of the first to go in.
When my Israeli infantry unit arrived at the first village in Gaza, in July 2014, we cleared houses by sending grenades through windows, blowing doors open and firing bullets into rooms to avoid ambush and booby traps. We were told Palestinian civilians had fled.
Even today, I remember how the ground shook from the constant explosions as we moved into Gaza at dusk at the start of the ground invasion on July 17. As we marched into the village of Umm al-Nasr, our Merkava tanks plowed through the fields next to us, and the aerial and artillery bombardments created relentless thunder and lightning — what we jokingly called the sound-and-light show.
I realized this wasn’t true when I stood over the corpse of an elderly woman who had been killed in the war. She had been lying on the sand floor of a shack, in a pool of blood.
The Times of September 11, 2009: When Israel and India First Meteorized against the Jihadist Bases and the Pakistani Military Intelligence?
He continued, “But on sober reflection and in hindsight, I now believe that the decision not to retaliate militarily and to concentrate on diplomatic, covert and other means was the right one for that time and place.”
Menon claimed that he pressed for immediate visible retaliation against the jihadist bases or the Pakistani military intelligence at that time. “To have done so would have been emotionally satisfying and gone some way toward erasing the shame of the incompetence that India’s police and security agencies displayed.”
I am watching the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza today and thinking about one of the world leaders I’ve most admired: Manmohan Singh. He was the prime minister of India in late November of 2008 when 10 Pakistan-based terrorists, who officials said were linked to Pakistan military intelligence, killed more than 160 people in Mumbai including 61 people at two luxury hotels. What was Singh’s military response to India’s Sept. 11?
A successful war could have set back progress of the Indian economy just as the world’s economy was in a financial crisis.
It is important to reflect on the contrast between Israel’s response to the terrorist slaughter in Gaza and that ofindia’s response.
Meanwhile, with some 360,000 reservists called up, Israel’s economy will almost certainly be depressed if Israel’s ouster of Hamas from Gaza requires months, as predicted. It’s already expected to shrink more than 10 percent on an annualized basis for the last three months of the year. This after being ranked by The Economist as the fourth-best-performing economy among O.E.C.D. countries in 2022.
Moreover, who is going to pay for Israel’s control of, health care for and education of Gaza’s 2.2 million people? Please raise your hand if you think the European Union, the Gulf Arab states or the substantial progressive caucus in the Democratic Party in the U.S. House of Representatives will fund an indefinite Israeli oversight of Gaza — while Netanyahu and his band of Jewish supremacists are pledged to annex the West Bank without equal rights for the Palestinians there. The cost of occupying Gaza could overstretch the Israeli military and economy for years to come.
Netanyahu does not have a team of rivals supporting him. He has a team of people who are being asked to make terrible decisions while knowing their prime minister is a bad person and that he will blame them for everything that goes wrong.
Israel should keep the door open for a cease-fire and prisoner swap that would allow it to pause and consider its course of action in the longer term, as well as allowing a respite from its Gaza military operation.
Such a pause could also allow the people of Gaza to take stock of what Hamas’s attack on Israel — and Israel’s totally predictable response — has done to their lives, families, homes and businesses. Just a few weeks ago, thousands of Gazans were going to work in Israel every day and hundreds of thousands of other people were going to export agricultural products and other goods from Gaza, and what did Hamas think about that? Hamas has gotten way too much understanding and not enough hard questions.
I want to see Hamas’s leaders come out from their tunnels under hospitals and look their people, and the world’s media, in the eye and tell us all why they thought it was such a great idea to mutilate and kidnap Israeli children and grandmothers and trigger this terrible blowback on the children and grandmothers of their Gaza neighbors — not to mention their own.
I have always believed that you can reduce the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the early 1900s to one line: conflict, timeout, conflict, timeout, conflict, timeout, conflict, timeout, conflict and timeout. The most significant difference between the parties is what they did during timeouts.
What Do You Think about Letters to the Editor of the New York Times? Is There a Mailing List for the Letters Department at the Times?
The Times will publish a lot of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this and our other articles. There are a few tips here. And here’s our email: The letters department at the NY Times.