Five years after the colonial massacre unleashed by Israel on Gaza, known as Operation Protective Edge, Israeli politicians are still eyeing the enclave for ultimate destruction. Former IDF Chief and leader of the Blue and White Party, Benny Gantz, is promoting the same violent tactics that formed part of his earlier electoral campaign: invade Gaza and assassinate Hamas leaders if the conditions Israel demands are not accepted.
“We will aim for the toppling of Hamas, take action to assassinate all Hamas leaders and go in with ground forces for however long we want,” Gantz remarked during a press conference in Sderot.
As the IDF Chief of Staff during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Gantz oversaw the scale of bombardment and massacres against Palestinians civilians. The deliberate violence, which also targeted Gaza’s infrastructure, left thousands of Palestinians displaced. Over 2,000 Palestinians were killed and 11,231 injured, according to UN reports.
Netanyahu has so far refrained from another large-scale aggression against Gaza. While his strategic, intermittent bombing has earned him widespread criticism in within Israel’s settler-society, Netanyahu has merely changed tactics but not ideology. Without any overt declarations of targeting Gaza, Netanyahu is normalising the Israeli agenda and deflect criticism from the international community. The latter was put to the test a few months ago last May, when Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza elicited rhetoric from the international community justifying Israel’s purported right to “defend itself” while blaming Hamas.
While attempting to portray himself as different from Netanyahu, Gantz is merely offering another trajectory of implementing Zionist colonial violence. Israeli media is already running reports of a possible coalition government between Likud and the Blue and White party, thus signalling that despite alleged differences, Netanyahu and Gantz are still in accordance over political issues, notably Gaza, settlement expansion and the prevention of any form of a Palestinian state.
Gantz’s party is proposing the elimination of the Hamas leadership and destruction of its “headquarters, warehouses, operatives,” after which it would “fix the humanitarian situation in Gaza.” This plan of action was outlined by Gabi Ashkenazi, under whose direction as IDF Chief of Staff Operation Cast Lead unfolded in 2008.
Such exploitative comments illustrate Gaza’s vulnerability. In recent years, Palestinians in Gaza have suffered increasing deprivation as a result of endeavours by Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the international community to render humanitarian aid conditional. UN officials have even stated their preference for a return to PA rule in Gaza to facilitate their humanitarian operations. Again, depriving Gaza of basic necessities is also blamed upon Hamas.
Gantz’s solution is to eliminate a political leadership and resistance movement in a large scale, drawn out aggression that will affect Palestinians in Gaza who are still suffering the consequences of the previous Israeli bombardments. Humanitarian aid, according to Gantz, is conditional upon Hamas’s elimination. As Gaza is rendered fragile to Israeli threats and their implementation, the manipulation of humanitarian aid for Palestinians, already a plan in action, will be consolidated.
Furthermore, Gantz is proposing is the re-establishment of Israeli presence in the enclave – a notion which is prevalent among other Israeli candidates, albeit with different interpretations. The ground invasion, therefore, must not be thought of merely as a military action tied to a specific operation, but as a possible prelude envisaged by the former IDF chiefs to contain Gaza from within – along with the illegal blockade that continues to threaten the wellbeing of Palestinians.
Once again, the Israeli electorate is facing propaganda that pits Netanyahu’s refined and brutal strategy against the violent “deterrence” promoted by Gantz. Yet, talk of a possible coalition only highlights how close both agendas are in terms of destroying Gaza. Netanyahu has prepared the groundwork in terms of influencing the international community to turn a blind eye to Israel’s assaults on Gaza. A prospective Israeli government with Netanyahu and Gantz at the helm will build upon what Israel has so far accomplished in generating oblivion when it comes to Palestinians in Gaza.