Leaders around the world have urged Israeli officials publicly and behind closed doors to curb their military attacks on Gaza to curb the killing and displacement of civilians as the Palestinian death toll has surpassed 15,000.
A group of former Israel Defense Forces soldiers is also calling on the Israeli government to correct course. Ori Givati, advocacy director of Breaking the Silence, a group of Israeli veterans who oppose Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, said he believes Israel should respond to the Oct. 7 attacks – but that it did so in a timely manner The way I have to do it is not so cruel.
“This war is different from all these other operations because of the massacre,” Givati told The Daily Beast. “Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas. But that doesn’t mean we can just do whatever we want.”
The warning comes from people who saw and experienced firsthand how horrific Hamas’ attacks against Israel were on October 7th. Givati’s family members huddled in their shelter as Hamas terrorists burned down their home and some of his team members and colleagues killed the peacekeeping community.
Breaking the Silence has been in turmoil ever since. “We’re still picking up the pieces here,” Givati told The Daily Beast.
But while the organization believes Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas, it says the government must make other decisions about how to eliminate the group
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Gaza during a temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, according to this handout obtained by Reuters on November 26, 2023.
Avi Ohayon/GPO/Handout via Reuters
“Right now the leadership is talking the way they are talking… some of them are talking about resettlement in Gaza. Some of them talk in revenge that we have to raze Gaza to the ground and things like that. All of these things are very concerning for two reasons,” Givati said. “Firstly, because they are of course immoral and inhumane.”
Second, operations should be based on a vision that can provide a path forward for future peace, rather than a path that returns the region to an untenable status quo of ongoing fighting and hatred, he said.
“We need to understand where we go from here,” Givati said, pointing out that the Israeli government should not do anything just for revenge, but rather with the aim of a political solution.
Israeli forces bomb Gaza on December 3, 2023.
Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images
The way Israel conducts its operations against Hamas, inflicting seemingly endless bloodshed and murder on innocent populations, is unlikely to help make progress toward peace. Givati fears this will only further exacerbate the division between Palestinians and Israelis and make peace even more difficult.
“Will this make me or us Israelis safer, or will it just prolong the occupation and leave us in this never-ending cycle of bloodshed? This is clearly not working,” Givati said. “If we kill tens of thousands of civilians or destroy so much infrastructure, it will not bring our killed family and friends or our hostages back to us. And revenge is not a war plan.”
Israel’s best interest lies in a peacemaking approach rather than seemingly indiscriminate killing in Gaza, said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Mark Schwartz, former U.S. security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority from 2019 to 2021.
“What I struggle with, and what I think many senior leaders struggle with: Why shouldn’t the Israelis do everything they can to alleviate the pain and suffering of the Palestinian people,” Schwartz told The Daily Beast.
Instead, Israel appears to be heading toward deeper division, he said.
“The perception is that everyone you see is a terrorist.”
“Ideally, you haven’t angered the local population,” Schwartz said, adding that Israel “increases the risk to IDF soldiers afterward.” They are creating another whole generation of Palestinians who will absolutely not forgive the Israelis.”
At Breaking the Silence, team members are working to collect testimonies from former Israeli soldiers who took part in previous operations in Gaza to assess how to make future changes, Givati said.
The Israeli government has relied on warning civilians to leave certain regions so that the IDF can carry out attacks, only to then apply permissive rules of engagement, killing enemies and civilians alike.
Israeli soldiers stationed on the southern border with Gaza gather for a meeting next to battle tanks on November 29, 2023.
Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images
Testimony from previous conflicts has shown that the IDF gave the green light to deploy at full force after warning civilians.
“The impression is that everyone you see is a terrorist,” said a statement from a former IDF soldier from previous campaigns. “They told us: There should be no civilians. If you identify someone, you shoot them,” says another.
Breaking the Silence aims to turn the assumption of how a war with Gaza should be fought on its head so that this strategy aims at a real solution and not just the blind use of old tactics.
“The lessons learned from previous conflicts have always been about the proper application of these principles, never about the validity of the principles themselves,” writes Breaking the Silence member Nadav Weiman at GroundUp. “We should question our assumptions: the lesson we should learn from past conflicts is that violence alone cannot give us Israelis the security we deserve.”
According to Breaking the Silence, the Israeli government’s plan must now include a solution that addresses the roots of the conflict and a realistic assessment of what should happen after the war ends.
“What’s the point of sacrificing so many soldiers and killing so many innocent people if at the end of the day we go back to where we were before?” Givati said.
Palestinians carry injured children after an Israeli attack on a house in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, December 1, 2023.
To date, Breaking the Silence has not yet collected testimonies or thoughts from soldiers who are part of the current war, so there are some gaps in our knowledge about the current mindset within the military ranks.
Anecdotally, Givati said he heard that there were some who disagreed with the way the Israeli government was carrying out attacks in Gaza, while others appeared to support the government’s campaigns.
“We don’t have any witness statements from this war at the moment,” Givati said, adding: “There are soldiers there who think like that, there are soldiers who hate that the ministers are talking about rebuilding the settlements,” but there are also soldiers there who came… and said we would come back here and put them in houses in Gaza.”
Israel withdrew troops from Gaza in 2005, ending decades of Israeli presence in Gaza. However, some Israelis have expressed support for the idea of returning to the enclave after the war.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has suggested that Israel would assume security responsibility for Gaza for an “indefinite period” after the war.
The Biden administration does not support Israel’s reoccupation of Gaza, White House national security coordinator John Kirby told reporters.
“We do not support the reoccupation of Gaza by Israeli forces,” Kirby told reporters earlier this month. “Re-occupation by Israeli forces is not the right thing to do.”
Israeli forces cracked down on Palestinians attempting to perform Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque after Israeli authorities banned Palestinians from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem on December 1, 2023.
Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu via Getty Images
Lessons in listening
The discussion is ongoing about what the political solution for Gaza will be to this conflict.
Israel and Hamas reached a temporary ceasefire agreement in late November to prompt the release of Hamas hostages captured on October 7 and allow more aid to enter the enclave. Through a series of hostage and prisoner exchanges, both sides agreed to extensions.
But the ceasefires have only brought temporary relief. With both Hamas and Israel accusing both sides of ceasefire violations, a return to conflict is constantly at stake.
Israel resumed hostilities on Friday after reports of a ceasefire collapse. According to the Foreign Ministry, talks to extend the ceasefire failed.
The Biden administration blamed Hamas for causing the collapse.
“It ended because of Hamas,” US Secretary of State Tony Blinken told reporters on Friday. “It has failed to honor its commitments regarding the release of certain hostages.”
Israel also blamed Hamas for the failure of the ceasefire. The IDF reported that the military detected rocket fire heading toward Israel from Gaza territory on Friday morning.
“Hamas violated the pause in operations and also fired into Israeli territory,” an IDF warning said. “The IDF has resumed the fight against the terrorist organization Hamas in Gaza.”
“Hamas only understands violence and that is why we will continue to act until we achieve the war goals,” said Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
The Biden administration urged Israeli officials to take greater precautions in their attacks in Gaza, particularly if they spread to the southern Gaza Strip, but acknowledged that a fall of Hamas would inevitably have an impact on civilian infrastructure. Hamas is accused of deliberately taking over civilian buildings and facilities in order to shield itself.
“From the president down, we have reiterated this to the Israeli government in very clear terms,” a senior administration official told reporters in a recent letter. It has to be “extremely carefully thought out”.
But efforts to persuade Israel to change the course of its rampage appear to have no clear solution.
Gaza residents interviewed by Reuters on Friday said they feared the bombing in southern Gaza could signal that the war was spreading further into areas Israel had previously deemed safe.
US officials have warned Israel that they are keeping a close eye on Israeli efforts to protect civilians from their own attacks.
“I have made it clear that after the break it is imperative that Israel establish clear protections for civilians,” Blinken told reporters on Friday after a visit to the region. “And we will deal with this in the future. It’s very, very important.”
Source : www.thedailybeast.com