This week, the combat in Gaza grew increasingly deadly, as Israeli ground troops sought to pursue the elimination of “terror tunnels,” and Hamas fought back and increased efforts to infiltrate Israel through those very tunnels. By press time on Tuesday, Israel had suffered 25 military deaths, and more than 565 Palestinians had been killed since fighting between Israel and Hamas began on July 8.
We mourn the mounting loss of life. At the same time, neither the legitimacy of this war nor its success can be measured based upon a simple number count of military and civilian casualties. This conflict is not a numbers game.
Growing Palestinian losses do not make Hamas righteous or its cause sympathetic. Hamas has engaged in a cruel and blindly hateful series of attacks, which have brought Palestinians under its control nothing but calamity. Hamas encourages the death of its own civilians as a mark of martyrdom, and directs (and sometimes forces) civilians to stand directly in harm’s way, knowing they will be killed by Israeli defense activities. That callous disregard for its own citizenry and perverse encouragement toward “glory and martyrdom” debases the value of human life.
And while Israel was fortunate to be able to minimize the loss of life through the protective shield of Iron Dome, the ground offensive and extended rocket attacks increasingly jeopardize Israeli lives. Each loss is painful, and the mourning for each loss is deep. But Israel has no alternative. It must protect its citizens, and eliminate the ongoing threats.
More than in any of its recent conflicts, Israel has successfully taken control of the narrative of Operation Protective Edge with a clear, focused message – a stated goal to remove the terrorist threats of rockets and tunnels. And while there have been protests against Israel, international support for the effort appears to be holding, at least for now. This is due, in large part, to Hamas’ diminished support in the West and even in the Arab world. Other Arab states might not like Israel, but they seem willing to look the other way while Hamas is battered.
When the fighting began, many predicted it would soon be brought under control by a cease-fire agreement. This was a war neither side wanted, the thinking went. But the ongoing dynamics – including Egypt’s failure to negotiate a cease-fire agreement (agreed to by Israel but which Hamas would not endorse) – have confounded the early predictions.
World support for Operation Protective Edge will eventually run out. The longer the fighting continues, and the more lives that are lost, the more pressure will be placed on Israel (even from the United States) to stop its effort – even if the job isn’t finished. Israel clearly understands this, and appears to be making every effort to remove the terrorist threats with speed and precision.
We support that effort and pray for a rapid conclusion.