Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn, February 23, 2022.

Aluf Benn, Editor in Chief of Haaretz, on Thursday published commentary that could have been written by Bezalel Smotrich, headlined, “The occupation of Gaza City and the temporary deportation of its residents are Israel’s tiebreaker.” The sub-headline reads: “Israel expelled the residents of the northern Gaza Strip to the south on the grounds that it was a humanitarian measure designed to protect their lives, but now it has a strategic card in its hands: it will not agree to withdraw, return the residents, and allow the reconstruction of the city – as long as the keys are to be handed over to Hamas.”

Benn, 58, has worked as an investigative journalist since 1986, exposing, among other things, corruption in the group that transferred German pensions to survivors, the transformation of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers into an IDF service provider, and the corruption of Air Force Brigadier General Rami Dotan, and anticipated the collapse of the 2000 Camp David talks between PM Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat. He is left++, but his commentary on Thursday reveals a thinking Israeli patriot willing to examine facts without ideological preconceptions.


“The expulsion of the Palestinian residents, turning their homes into piles of construction debris, and restricting the entry of supplies and fuel into the Strip were the tiebreaking measures Israel used in the current conflict, in contrast to all previous rounds of fighting in the south,” Benn comments.

“The October 7 massacre carried out by Hamas in the Gaza envelope settlements, and the abduction of hundreds of Israelis to Gaza, gave Israel internal legitimacy as well as international support for an unprecedented use of force in both the intensity and duration of the operation. Even if a ceasefire of some kind is announced soon under American pressure, Israel will not be in a hurry to withdraw and allow the population to return to the northern Gaza Strip. And even if they return – where will they return to? After all, they will not have homes, streets, educational institutions, shops, and the rest of the infrastructure of a modern city.”

He points out that “Hamas cannot force Israel to return the residents, and unlike in the past, it is having difficulty mobilizing international pressure on Israel to ‘prevent a humanitarian crisis’ and withdraw unconditionally from the Strip. And even if the Palestinians manage to inflict casualties on the IDF, and Israel withdraws its ground forces or most of them to the Green Line, it will be able to prevent the return of the residents with aerial bombardment. Hamas has no way to protect them, and is not trying anyway, and prefers that the civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip force the governments of the West, Egypt and Jordan to restrain Israel.”

Benn wonders if Yahya Sinwar expected his mass murder spree to turn out this way, suggesting the terrorist commanders were victims of their own “conceptzia,” whereby Israel is only capable of a half-hearted retaliation and begs to negotiate the release of its hostages. They most likely did not expect Israel to apply as much destructive force as it has been, to the point where a third of the Gaza Strip lays in ruin, and the attacks continue.

“The war is not near its end and may be dragged into prolonged and bloody attrition, with Israel also having to take care of its hundreds of thousands of internal refugees from the south and the north, about whom it isn’t clear when they will be able to return to their settlements, and of course, there are the hundreds of kidnapped and missing people,” Benn writes, adding, “But in long wars the balance of numerical, economic and diplomatic forces, which tend to side with Israel, determine the outcome. With Gaza destroyed and empty of the vast majority of its residents, Hamas will not be able to return to controlling the Strip as it did in the previous 16 years. And Israel will not agree to withdraw, return the residents and allow the reconstruction of the city as long as the keys are to be handed over to Hamas.”

“The difficult images that will be seen from the refugee concentrations in Khan Yunis, Deir al-Balah and Rafah, the rainy season and the mud and the danger of epidemics at the door, should put pressure on the international community and Arab countries to find someone to take over Gaza instead of Sinwar,” he concludes, noting: “This is the forecast for the coming winter.”


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