Israel’s Dissenting Voices Get Lost in the War Echo Chamber

Israeli activists carry placards during a protest against the war on the Gaza strip, in Tel Aviv on July 9 [AFP]

Neve Gordon

For several days now, some of my neighbours have suggested that the time has come to “destroy them”- meaning either Hamas or Palestinians – “once and for all”. The rockets being fired from Gaza clearly do have the effect of raising the level of hysteria within Israel.

However, not only have the dozens of Grads been fermenting the spirit of war – government ministers, members of Knesset and leading media commentators have also been consistently pouring oil onto the fire. Indeed, it seems the only vocal criticism against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is that he is too soft on the Palestinians. There is no public debate about the necessity of another war, but only about how punitive Israel should be.

Immediately following the discovery of the three Jewish teenagers’ bodies on June 30, Israel’s security cabinet met. Although it was, by then, common knowledge that the higher echelons had known the boys were dead even as they launched a massive military operation in the West Bank two weeks earlier – killing seventeen Palestinian civilians and arresting more than 500, including a number of Hamas members who had been released in the Shalit swap – the cabinet allegedly convened to discuss how Israel should respond to the boys’ death.

Israeli activists carry placards during a protest against the war on the Gaza strip, in Tel Aviv on July 9 [AFP]
Israeli activists carry placards during a protest against the war on the Gaza strip, in Tel Aviv on July 9 [AFP]

‘Not striking hard enough’

Reportedly, the political and security leadership supported a “more moderate response,” while the far-right wing economy minister and the head of the Jewish Home Party, Naftali Bennett, demanded a much harsher reaction. A few days later, Bennett complained that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is undermining Israel’s deterrence”; adding that “restraint following the execution of three children is a sign of weakness”. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman went so far so to dismantle the Likud-Beiteinu unity, blaming Netanyahu for “not striking Hamas hard enough”.

In a similar vein, several prominent columnists urged Netanyahu to take a more belligerent stand. Shaul Rosenfeld noted that Israel’s restraint is outrageous and shameful. In an opinion piece for the popular news site Ynet he wrote: “‘The regional power Israel has fallen to its knees to beg the murderous terrorist organisation to graciously give it some peace and quiet.”

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