BETWEEN THE LINES: They didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Israel or any other Middle East nation, but I’m pretty sure citizens of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, anticipating the next wave of attacks, were thankful a truce was initiated last Wednesday to end the latest episode of bloodshed and bombs between Hamas and Israel.
I’m sure those people were also on the minds of many Americans as they sat down and sated themselves on our annual day of feasting.
No one can predict how long the cease-fire will last this time because Israel has been involved in one showdown or another, whether it’s labeled a war, battle, conflict or skirmish, since it became a nation. Despite lulls sprinkled in every few years, cynics know it won’t be too long before another flare-up is at hand in the world’s most unstable region.
Though it has been plagued by Arab bullies for 64 years, Israeli has defied, deterred and defeated its enemies time after time.
More than 1,500 rockets were reportedly fired at Israel — forcing millions of Israelis to take cover in bomb shelters. The Hamas strategy appeared to challenge Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to invade the Gaza Strip, but the truce was brokered before that plan was implemented.
In spite of the regrettable deaths on both sides, some questioned why there were many more Palestinian casualties than Israeli? Reports claimed that only a handful of Israelis died, while more than 100 Gaza Strip residents were killed.
Why the huge difference in the number of casualties?
Israel, accustomed to such incidents, evacuated civilians from potentially dangerous areas, but the Palestinians apparently located their rocket firing positions and other likely targets in populated areas. Little action was taken to protect its civilian population. It almost as if the extremists intentionally left civilians in harm’s way and sacrificed them to help gain international sympathy.
As I’ve written before, I nourish a sense of pride and utmost respect for Israel, so I believe the recent retaliations to Hamas rocket attacks were justifiable. With a truce in place, let’s hope earnest negotiations will prolong the end of death and destruction.
Nevertheless, Israel didn’t start this fight, Hamas did. So, unless you’re a devoted pacifist, it’s logical to sympathize and concur that Israel, as it has during my lifetime, is entitled to defend itself any way it can. Israel is once again committed to do what any nation must do to defend itself, by any means necessary.
A sovereign nation since 1948, Israel’s roots in the region stretch back millennia and the Jewish state, as much as any other nation in the region, deserves the right (affirmed in the Old Testament) to exist.
In spite of large scale wars, periodic clashes and the constant threat of attack, Israel has survived and thrived. When all is said and done, Israel will prevail as it has for more than 60 years.
For now, for the sake of civilians on both sides of the conflict, let’s hope the fragile ceasefire holds as both sides try, once again, to negotiate an enduring peace.
Under the terms of the latest cease-fire, Israel agreed not to launch any ground attacks or continued targeted strikes in Gaza. The Egyptian government has been accorded a special role in maintaining the cease-fire, but that will mean little unless it halts the flood of arms coming into Gaza from Iran via Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Israel received a similar guarantee from Hamas three years ago after its last cease-fire, but the rockets multiplied and with longer ranges.
Iranian missiles, capable of reaching Jerusalem, reportedly made up the bulk of Hamas’s arsenal. Some Middle East experts believe this was a preview of a potential future armed confrontation with Iran and allowed Israel to test its new antimissile systems to counter them.
Israel absolutely realizes that until Palestinians are given the own state their people will never enjoy peace. Israel often draws criticism, particularly from those who would rather see nothing more than the Jewish nation wiped off the faces of the Earth, but when a country — bordered by hostile neighbors — faces the constant threat of eradication every day of its existence it’s necessary to do what’s in its best interest to ensure it is not annihilated.
Israeli leaders and its citizens wish they didn’t have to permanently exist under the constant threat of obliteration. But they have no choice. When faced with fanatical suicide bombers, who have no qualms about killing innocent people, and the fear of randomly being bombarded by Hamas rockets that leave paths of death and destruction, Israeli is forced to mount any defense necessary to thwart attacks from its numerous enemies.
Time and again Israel has always been willing to negotiate with its enemies, but uneasy diplomacy rarely ends in guarantees of the Jewish state’s permanent peaceful existence. Until the arbiters of peacemaking parleys assure Israel that its co-existence will be acknowledged and accepted, any temporary truces cease-fires or alternative solutions will remain as fragile as they are uncertain.
Neil S. Friedman is a veteran reporter and photographer, and spent 15 years as an editor for a Brooklyn weekly newspaper. He also did public relations work for Showtime, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. Friedman contributes a weekly column called “Between the Lines” on life, culture and politics in Sheepshead Bay.
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