Gideon Levy
Haaretz (Opinion)
June 21, 2012 - 12:00am

This time there is no argument - they started it. This time one can say with certainty that Gaza Kindergarten started the brawl and Israel Kindergarten in the south continued. That's how it is with quarreling kindergarten children.

On Monday morning an Israeli was killed near the fence on the Egyptian border. At noon the response came - an Israeli air strike on Beit Hanoun. Two Palestinians killed. Gaza Kindergarten didn't let that pass. In the afternoon a rocket was fired at Ashkelon. Israel Kindergarten wouldn't take that lying down and the air force attacked again. It killed two more Palestinians, apparently armed, near the border fence. It's 4 to 1 in Israel Kindergarten's favor and the brawl goes on.

Gaza Kindergarten isn't standing idly by. Dozens of rockets rain on Israel's south, little Hamas takes responsibility for some of them. A Border Police officer is moderately wounded. Earlier a girl is killed in Gaza Kindergarten, probably from a Palestinian rocket, as well as two Palestinian civilians due to a "mistaken identification" on the Israel Defense Force's part. The score is 6 to 1. Yesterday the quarrel continued, but the public's attention had already been diverted to the state comptroller's report.

Who started? We've already said, Gaza Kindergarten. Or maybe not. Yesterday an obscure organization, the Mujahedeen Shura Council, released a video in which it took responsibility for killing the Israeli, Said Fashfashe. So it was Abu Salah al-Masri of Egypt and Abu Hudhayfa al-Hudhali of Saudi Arabia who started.

They crossed the Israeli border from Egypt. But Israel Kindergarten blames Gaza Kindergarten. They started. This is exactly how it went in the previous round, in August 2011. A series of attacks near Eilat killed eight Israelis and wounded 40. The IDF bombed Gaza, especially the Popular Resistance Committees. Then it transpired that the perpetrators were Egyptian nationals, members of Global Jihad in Sinai. But even then Gaza Kindergarten paid the price. In exchange, Israel also had to pay. A week of killing and terror ensued in the southern communities.

It it wasn't so fatal and bloody, it could have been amusing. There is something appallingly childish in the recurring cycle of blood and destruction. They start and we react, they react and we react more harshly. The attacks on Israel are senseless and the Israeli revenge is no less senseless. The Palestinians and their supporters are trying to remind the world of their existence by violence that does them no good. Israel retaliates automatically, in a way that does it no good either.

Israel is no sucker - its sovereignty and its people's security are harmed, so it thinks it must respond, do something and not sit still, at any price. There is also talk, fallacious to a large extent, about the need for "deterrence." But it doesn't work. Gaza Kindergarten is undeterred, again and again.

Israel's right to react is indisputable. But is there any sense in reacting? At any intensity? Shouldn't Israel try to restrain itself in the face of the other side's folly? After every violent Israeli reaction comes the Palestinians' counter-reaction. The south goes into bomb shelters, life is disrupted, terror grips the residents. Is it really inevitable?

One would expect the people of the south, those who pay the highest price for these games of death and fear, to dispute this chain of events rather than accept it as a law of nature. But most of them, like most Israelis, don't want to see Israel restrain itself. The politicians and generals know they must give them their measure of revenge, instead of the measure of security they cannot provide in full. But between revenge and security, between automatic reaction and reason, sometimes there is more than one straight line.

In another day or two, if no disaster occurs, this futile quarrel, too, will end. An unofficial cease-fire will be reached - in unofficial talks, of course - until the next incident. And come it will, nothing is more certain. It would be too much to expect Gaza Kindergarten to desist. But why does Israel Kindergarten also fall into this fire trap every time, even if Gaza Kindergarten is the one who started? Only the children can tell.


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