Israel is on fire. The country, which has enjoyed relative calm and security for the past several years, has launched a new military operation in Gaza to halt the rocket assaults on its cities even as it continues to reel from the brutal murders of four teenagers.
Israeli society — and world Jewry — was still grieving the loss of three murdered Jewish teens when the despicable news of what is widely believed to have been a revenge murder of a Palestinian teen was reported.
“A national struggle does not justify acts of terror,” Shimon Peres and Reuven Rivlin, the outgoing and incoming Israeli presidents, wrote Monday in a joint opinion piece for the Israeli daily Yediot Acharonot. “Acts of terror do not justify revenge. Even in the face of the rage and frustration, the violence and the pain, things can be done differently. Things must be done differently.”
They gave voice to a society rightly repulsed that such an act could happen. As journalist David Horovitz eloquently put it in a Times of Israel piece: “If we are to heal this nation, last Wednesday’s killing must rid us, once and for all, of the complacent illusion that we enjoy a distinctive moral superiority over our neighbors. They started it? They’re worse? They all hate us? Well maybe they did, and maybe they are, and maybe they do. But those arguments don’t help us. Those are not arguments that are going to save our society.”
But neither is the provocation of war that Hamas has launched with a barrage of rockets that have struck deep inside Israel. More than 3.5 million citizens — 45 percent of the population — are within rocket range. Instead of engaging in soul-searching, Israelis are now ducking in shelters, dodging rocks and waiting to hear whether their sons and fathers will be called to war once more.
Israel, whose top leaders appealed for calm, was left with no choice but to take action. “This comes after our repeated efforts to restore calm were met with increased Hamas rocket fire,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the nation. “Israel is not eager for war, but the security of our citizens is our primary consideration.”
The United States rightly backed Israel’s right to defend itself, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said of the Gaza rockets that the “indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas must stop.” But we — and Israel — know from experience that the tide can quickly turn when things get ugly, as they likely will.
We pray for peace, the safety of Israel’s soldiers and the wisdom of its leaders. We call upon the international community to pressure Hamas to stop the rockets. There can be no winners here.