Netanyahu used the kidnappings to go after Hamas in the West Bank. The target, as one Israeli security official said, was “anything green.” The army raided, destroyed, confiscated and arrested anybody and anything having to do with Hamas, killed some Palestinian protesters and rearrested some 60 Hamasniks who had been freed in the Gilad Shalit deal, throwing them back in prison.
Meanwhile, in Gaza, Israel had already escalated matters on June 11, the day before the kidnappings, by killing not only a wanted man riding on a bicycle, but a10-year-old child riding with him. Between that, the kidnappings a day later and the crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank that immediately followed, Gaza and Israel started going at it pretty fierce – with all the casualties and destruction, once again, on Gaza’s side only.
Read: ‘They left us no choice’ – On military escalation and its Israeli rationale
And that was basically it. Netanyahu had given orders to smash up the West Bank and Gaza over the kidnapping of three Israeli boys that, as monstrous as it was, apparently had nothing to do with the Hamas leadership. Thus, he opened an account with Israel’s enemies, who would wish for an opportunity to close it.
On June 30, the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli boys were found in the West Bank. “Hamas is responsible, Hamas will pay,” Netanayhu intoned. That payment was delayed by the burning alive of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 15, which set off riots in East Jerusalem and Israel’s “Arab Triangle,” and which put Israel on the defensive. It probably encouraged the armed groups in Gaza to step up their rocketing of Israel, while Netanyahu kept Israel’s in check. Then on Sunday, as many as nine Hamas men were killed in a Gazan tunnel that Israel bombed, saying it was going to be used for a terror attack. The next day nearly 100 rockets were fired at Israel. This time Hamas took responsibility for launching some of the rockets – a week after Netanyahu, for the first time since November 2012, accused it of breaking the ceasefire.
And the day after that, “Operation Protective Edge” officially began. By Wednesday afternoon, there were 35 dead and many maimed in Gaza, Israelis were ducking rockets, and no one can say when or how it will end, or what further horrors lie in store.
Netanyahu could have avoided the whole thing. He could have chosen not to shoot up the West Bank and Gaza and arrest dozens of previously freed Hamasniks (along with hundreds of other Palestinians) over what was very likely a rogue kidnapping. Before that, he could have chosen not to stonewall Abbas for nine months of peace negotiations, and then there wouldn’t have even been a unity government with Hamas that freaked him out so badly – a reaction that was, of course, Netanyahu’s choice as well.
But Israel’s prime minister is and always has been at war with the Palestinians – diplomatically, militarily and every other way; against Abbas, Hamas and all the rest – and this is what has guided his actions, and this is what provoked Hamas into going to war against Israel.
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