Noam Sheizaf puts Israel’s assault on Gaza in context: [F]ollowing the kidnapping of three Israeli teens on June 12, the government arrested hundreds of Hamas members in the West Bank, most of them from the political leadership who had nothing to do with the attack (which in all likelihood was carried out by rogue freelancers). Dozens of prisoners who had been released in the prisoner exchange deal for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit were detained again, as a purely punitive measure and without any evidence that they had returned to militant activities.
Since the accord between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, Israel has also prevented the transfer of funds that pay the salaries of public officials in Gaza. In fact, when UN envoy Robert Serry sought an arrangement with Israeli officials that would allow the salaries to be transferred, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened to expel Serry for “aiding Hamas.” And, not least, Israel had stepped up its own military activities in Gaza before the latest escalation, claiming the lives of several militants and at least one boy, who was injured on June 11 and died three days later.
The denial of funds, along with the closing of the tunnels from Egypt to Gaza by the new regime in Cairo, which is overtly hostile to Hamas, has caused a political and economic crisis in the Strip, and thus left Hamas—whose main political currency is its image of “resistance”—with little reason to avoid escalation.
These facts, which have been largely ignored by the Israeli media, do not justify Hamas’s tactics, which deliberately target civilians in clear violation of international law. They suggest, however, the existence of alternative courses of action that Israel could have taken in the weeks preceding the current crisis. But the Israeli government has refused for years to address the fundamental problems in Gaza—the siege and its separation from the rest of the Palestinian population in Israel and the West Bank being the most obvious ones. The Hamas-PA accord actually presented Jerusalem with an opportunity to deal with Hamas politically; instead, Israel decided to cut ties with the newly formed government and even demanded that the international community follow suit. [Continue reading…]