“Strawberries, strawberries – come on, let’s buy only strawberries, instead of the machines of war.”
— “Tutim (Strawberries)” by Ethnix
By MOSHE GIT
I am boiling mad at the present onslaught of Israel on Hamas in Gaza; I can’t make up my mind whether it is more election politics (next February is Israel’s elections) than stupidity, or the other way around.
People are getting killed for no other benefit but the satisfaction of Israel responding tit-for-tat against Hamas. At the end of this campaignÂ —Â and it must end sooner or laterÂ —Â nothing will have changed, except for the increased animosity of the Palestinian people, more graves and more bitterness. Instead of moving forward towards settlement, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will have moved a step backward.
This act by Israel is just the latest in the compendium of errors that have been committed by Israel since the beginning of the decade.
The opener was the Israel Defense Forces’ hurried withdrawal from Lebanon, under the orders of then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Despite the fact that Hezbollah and Lebanon refused to commit to any understanding with the Jewish state, Israel allowed itself to be chased out of Lebanon. The scene was reminiscent of the final days of the U.S. in Vietnam, where the U.S. military was routed but nevertheless the commander-in-chief, Richard Nixon, declared that the U.S. had attained “peace with honor.”
Barak’s colossal mistake damaged Israel in the following years, for it taught the Arabs that by “armed resistance”Â —Â terrorismÂ —Â they can overcome Israel’s mighty military. This travesty was replicated in 2005, with Israel’s “unilateral disengagement” from Gaza. If any Arab remained doubtful that Israel “understands only force,” this infamous disengagement (now, just about every Israeli agrees with this description) sealed it.
Soon after, Hamas won the popular vote among the Palestinians, and that gave rise to the next mistake by Israel. Instead of welcoming the democratically elected Hamas leaders and offering to meet with them to discuss a settlement, Israel, the so called example and champion of democracy, refused to recognize the election results, and did whatever it could to isolate Hamas, thus undermining Hamas moderates and bringing about the radicalization of its leadership.
Right after the Palestinian elections a number of Hamas leaders, including Prime Minister-Elect Ismail Haniya, sounded conciliatory towards Israel. In continuation of Israel’s dumb approach, Israel has been promoting a regime of Quislings among the Palestinians. The familiar P.L.O. associates, who were proven to be corrupt, and who were rejected by the masses, have became the post on which Israel wants to hang its hat. Apparently Israel hasn’t learned from history that the imposition of an unpopular regime by a foreign power is doomed to failure.
In between, there was the travesty of Israel quitting the recent (2nd) Lebanon war at the time Hezbollah had the upper hand. This severely injured the IDF’s deterrent power. Imagine what would have happened had Israel given up on the war, before attaining superiority, in the middle of the Yom Kippur war.
The Palestinians in Gaza are suffering; they have legitimate gripes. The people in the streets of Gaza ought to be regarded as our brothers. We are destined to live with them as neighbors forever. The present ostrich policy of Israel’s leaders has to stop. It isn’t too late, it is never too late, to make a180-degree turn and approach Hamas with an olive branch rather than with a policy of shunning and guns.
There is a popular Israeli song “Tutim (Strawberries),” made famous by the Israeli band Ethnix, which suggests offering strawberries to your adversary, instead of “machines of war.”
Let’s offer Hamas strawberries.
Moshe Git, a native of Israel, lives in Minnetonka.
This article appeared in the American Jewish World, Jan. 2, 2009.