One of Israel’s most important public voices, David Grossman suffered the tragic loss of his son in the Lebanon War of 2006. He has written an important op-ed, translated by Haim Watzman and published in today’s NY Times.
NOW, after the heavy blow that Israel has dealt to the Gaza Strip, we would do best to halt, turn to the leaders of Hamas and tell them: Until last Saturday, we restrained ourselves in responding to the thousands of Qassam rockets fired at us. Now you know how severe the retaliation can be. So as not to add to the death and destruction that has already taken place, we intend, unilaterally and absolutely, to hold our fire for the next 48 hours.
Even if you continue to fire on Israel, we will not respond by resuming combat. We will grit our teeth, just as we did in the days and months before our attack. We will not be drawn into using force.
Until last Saturday, Israel â€” under the military leadership of Defense Minister Ehud Barak â€” acted with impressive level-headedness. We must not lose our perspective now, in the heat of battle. We must not forget, even for a moment, that the inhabitants of Gaza will continue to live on our borders and that sooner or later we will need to achieve neighborly relations with them.
We must not under any circumstances strike with such violence, even though Hamas has for years made life excruciating for the Israelis who live on Gaza’s perimeter, even though Hamas’s leaders have rebuffed every Israeli and Egyptian endeavor to achieve a compromise and prevent a conflagration. Restraint, and our duty to protect the lives of Gaza’s innocent inhabitants, must remain our commitment today, precisely because Israel’s power is almost limitless compared to that of Hamas.
And one more inevitable thought. Had we taken this approach in July of 2006, after Hezbollah kidnapped two of our soldiers â€” had we held our fire then, after our initial retaliatory strike in Lebanon and declared that we were waiting for a day or two to calm the situation and give mediation a chance â€” we would likely be in a better position today. That, too, is a lesson that Israel’s government should have learned from that war. In fact, it is the most important lesson we must learn.