'Ever since Feb. 2, the Israeli public has been receiving a heavy dose of harsh images depicting the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Photos show Palestinian children lying helpless in hospitals without medication, a severe shortage of water, sewage flowing in filthy streets and long stretches of darkness because of lengthy power cuts. All these images have been flooding the press, news sites and current events programming.
While the situation in Gaza worsened in 2017 — it is now on the verge of becoming a humanitarian crisis — no one in Israel showed any interest: not the local media, not the political echelon and apparently not the Cabinet. The truth is that Gaza should have featured prominently in any coverage of the Israeli political and security situation. Nevertheless, it is all but invisible, despite the direct connection between a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip and the chance of another violent conflict. And we haven’t even touched on the issue of basic moral values when confronted with such a disastrous human tragedy.
The overall sense of apathy was replaced on Feb. 2 with growing interest, as initial reports from top defense officials began to show up in the media. These reports described the situation as a humanitarian crisis and warned of another war against Hamas. In many cases, the reports were accompanied by assessments that Israel itself would have to provide food and medicine to the Gaza Strip in order to avert a catastrophe, as the Channel 10 Friday night news show discussed.
On Feb. 4, the once anonymous quotes were coming straight from the mouth of Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot himself at the weekly Cabinet meeting. Eizenkot warned the ministers of a possible clash with Hamas, due to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, and said that Israel must make an effort to prevent the Gaza Strip from spiraling toward disaster.
By Feb. 5, the situation in Gaza had already become a hot political issue in the parties’ weekly meetings in the Knesset. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beitenu), Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid all reacted to the situation in the statements they issued. Gabbay and Lapid called upon the government to listen to the chief of staff, while Liberman’s comments seemed to contradict themselves. On the one hand, he said that the situation in Gaza was worse than ever, but then he added that it is not a humanitarian crisis.
The chief of staff’s warning to the Cabinet was unusual, but it was completely understandable. Based on the regular reports that he receives, he is concerned that Gaza is potentially volatile, even if this doesn’t seem to bother the government or keep the prime minister awake at night. Otherwise, the deteriorating humanitarian situation there would have been on the security Cabinet’s agenda for a long time now.'
Read more: Gaza suffering makes Israeli headlines at last
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