Six months after Protective Edge: We aren’t protected, and we should be on edge

Six months after the war, no one is talking about Gaza.

The trend is no different than in the past. It starts with a few rockets here and a few bombings there, until, finally, it escalates into a war (sorry, operation). Suddenly, everyone knows everything about Gaza. Every politician talks about Gaza as if its on his mind everyday of the year. There is just one problem: it isn’t. And so this cycle continues, hitting us only when the occasional rocket does. For too many Israelis, when there aren’t rockets, there is nothing to worry about.

The Gaza Envelope still receives red-alerts, but no one is talking about Gaza.

Don’t we deserve better than that? The residents of Gaza envelope suffer constantly, not only during wartime. Yes, more rockets fall during wartime, but PTSD and the fear of another round of fighting exists at all times. When rockets are falling, fellow Israelis go south to support, to give hugs, to entertain, and to bring food. We do this in the spirit of Israeli brotherhood, as the cause unites us. But once the relative quiet returns, we would rather not bother. It’s easier not to deal with the problem when it isn’t boiling over. What we don’t want to recognize is that it’s constantly reaching boiling temperatures. I have tried to bring up Gaza recently, especially when discussing the upcoming elections, but to little avail. No one wants to talk about the trauma two peoples suffered, especially those closest to the action, not the public and not the politicians who brought us into the last war.

Full swing into the election season, and no one is talking about Gaza.

Only two parties running in the elections discuss Gaza in their platform. One of these parties is the Jewish Home Party. Their solution to Gaza, rockets and all things related is to simply hand over Gaza to the Egyptians so that it is not longer Israel’s responsibility. So while most parties are simply avoiding Gaza all together, The Jewish Home Party is taking one step further in declaring that this is not our problem, and so we will simply put this mess into the hands of another. However, with the amount of lives lost this summer, on both sides, this is very much so our problem. If we ignore the situation, those deaths will have been for nothing, because we are no less safe from rockets or tunnels now than we were 8 months ago at the start of operation Protective Edge. The Jewish Home’s platform is not very grounded in reality, as it assumes that Gaza is simply a piece of land to easily give away. However, Gaza does not want to become part of Egypt, nor has Egypt expressed interest in annexing Gaza.

The second party to mention Gaza in their platform is Meretz. They deserve some credit in my book, because they actually sought recommendations on how to change Israeli policy on Gaza in order to improve the situation and to prevent the next round of fighting. Their platform states that they aim “to end the siege on Gaza” (FYI, I prefer the more accurate term, closure, as a siege requires that nothing be let in or out, which is not the case in Gaza). In short, Meretz is following the recommendations that many top security officials have given, which requires ending the closure, the main obstacle towards rebuilding the economy there. This recommendations follow the imperial data that shows that terrorism flourishes in extreme poverty. The long list of security officials who have expressed a need to for policy change includes former Chief of Staff, Liet. Gen. Benny Gantz who said that “the calm [with Gaza] depends on the continued trend toward fostering economic hope in Gaza.”

Let’s be realistic though– what this information tells us is that there is currently one party with security based recommendations about Gaza on their platforms. Knowing that only one party, who is expected to get only 4-7 seats out of 120 is not making me feel optimistic about our commitment to make the Gaza envelope safer for residents or to calm the already existing tensions. It is more troubling knowing that the ruling party, Likud, who had a significant amount of decision making power during the operation, has put out no platform.

67 soldiers and 6 civilians died in Israel this summer, and yet no one is talking about Gaza.

It seems almost comical that only two parties running in the upcoming elections have the word “Gaza” in their platforms. It seems comical only until I remember that almost 70 soldiers were killed this summer, at which point all humor completely disappears. Thousands of soldiers entered Gaza this summer, but not all returned. The war is over, but their families pain has not ended. If we don’t use this opportunity to push for a long-term plan, we will inevitably enter another round of fighting. If we don’t put forth an alternative, those soldiers deaths will have been for nothing.? Do their memories not deserve a people and a group of politicians who care enough to demand that we at least put Gaza on the table, that we add it into our platforms, and that we pass around ideas on how to prevent the next round of fighting. Think tanks are talking about Gaza, as are NGOs, human rights groups, and the international community. The whole world has taken the time to talk about Gaza, why haven’t we?

2,140 died on the Palestinian side this summer, and no one is talking about Gaza.

I wanted this post to be exclusively about the Israeli side, our interests and needs, but war is never one sided. We hurt and were hurt. We caused damage and we were damaged. We killed and we were killed. That is the harsh reality of war, one we have to live with even in times of relative quiet.

Since the closure took full effect in 2007, the unemployment rate has more than doubled and recent stats show it at 45%*. Over 50% of all Gaza residents are under the age of 18. 70% relies on humanitarian aid. With such a high unemployment rate and need for aid, there is little hope for economic prosperity. Israeli policy is a huge factor in that poverty. Furthermore, due to the ban on the entry of construction materials and the poorly created GRM (Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism), no houses or buildings in the private sector are being rebuilt. As in, the most recent data shows that not a single housing using for private use has been rebuilt since through the GRM since the war this summer (there have been minor repairs). Not one housing unit has been rebuilt, and 17,000 were destroyed this summer. However, we have seen that government buildings are being rebuilt which means that, unlike citizens, Hamas has building materials and that, if they are building above ground, they are most likely building underground as well. That means that while Israeli policies are doing nothing to prevent Hamas from rebuilding tunnels, they are doing everything from preventing the average person in Gaza, who is not Hamas, from having even a semi-normal life. As of last week, Gaza residents had electricity for 6 hours at a time and then 12 hours were cut off. We can try and deny our involvement in this issue, but we are part of a it. As long as there isn’t economic stability, terrorism will be flourishing. As long as there is terrorism, our citizens, especially those near the Gaza envelope, can not be ensured safety.

Six months after signing a cease-fire agreement, we have forgotten about Gaza.

Gaza however, has not forgotten about us. In the height of the elections, we should be demanding a different strategy, one that ensures economic stability in the Gaza strip, and therefore lessens the likelihood of extremism. As it stands right now, we are half a year into a ceasefire, but we aren’t protected, and we should be on edge.

*Data in this paragraph taken from Gisha

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