Early in the morning on 1 August, a three-day humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza broke down. Israel and Hamas produced contradictory versions of events surrounding the reported capture of an Israeli officer, and the IDF subsequently launched a barrage of fire against the southern part of the territory. That day, Moshe Feiglin, the deputy speaker of the Knesset, responded to the incident with a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu detailing his ideas for Israel’s future policy toward the Gaza Strip. In the letter, which he also posted on Facebook, Feiglin called for the “annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters,” as well as the depopulation of Gaza and its transformation into a “flourishing Israeli city.”
Feiglin’s letter to Netanyahu illustrates the growing tension within the Likud party, with ultranationalists like Feiglin growing in popularity and bringing increasing pressure to bear on the prime minister. In 2012, Feiglin, who gained notoriety for leading tours of Haram al-Sharif by Jewish Israelis, won the 15th spot on the party’s list in the Likud primary vote, placing ahead of more moderate candidates like Avi Dichter and Dan Meridor. In 2013, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, after he was elected chairman of the Likud central committee, attempted to build a coalition of support within party to revoke Netanyahu’s veto over the party’s constitution, fearing that the prime minister would cede territory to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. Then, in March 2014, in the midst of negotiations led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Danon threatened to resign if Netanyahu proceeded with the agreed-upon release of the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners. It was a move that one Israeli political reporter, Haviv Rettig Gur, described as the “most serious test of Netanyahu’s influence in the party since he returned to lead it in 2005.”
Furthermore, Feiglin’s letter was one of several inciting statements from right-wing Israelis that called for escalating the assault against the Palestinian people. On 1 July, following the abduction of the three Israeli teens from a West Bank settlement, Ayelet Shaked, a member of the Knesset with the Jewish Home Party, had received thousands of likes on Facebook for a post calling for the death of Palestinian civilians and the destruction of their homes. One month later, a blogger with the Times of Israel, Yochanan Gordon, published a piece called “When Genocide is Permissible,” calling for the extermination of the Palestinian residents of Gaza. Although for the most part, these statements were quickly denounced as incitement (e.g., hours after Gordon published his blog post, the editors of the Times of Israel deleted it from their site and discontinued the blog), they are also illustrative of the political climate during the Israeli offensive on Gaza.
Dena Shunra translated Feiglin’s statement for the Electronic Intifada on 3 August. That translation is presented below.
Mr. Prime Minister,
We have just heard that Hamas has used the ceasefire to abduct an officer. It turns out that this operation is not about to be over any too soon.
The failures of this operation were inherent to it from the outset, because:
a) It has no proper and clear goal;
b) There is no appropriate moral framework to support our soldiers.
What is required now is that we internalize the fact that Oslo is finished, that this is our country—our country exclusively, including Gaza.
There are no two states, and there are no two peoples. There is only one state for one people.
Having internalized this, what is needed is a deep and thorough strategic review, in terms of the definition of the enemy, of the operational tasks, of the strategic goals, and of course, of appropriate necessary war ethics.
(1) Defining the enemy: The strategic enemy is extremist Arab Islam in all its varieties, from Iran to Gaza, which seeks to annihilate Israel in its entirety. The immediate enemy is Hamas. (Not the tunnels, not the rockets, but Hamas.)
(2) Defining the tasks: Conquest of the entire Gaza Strip, and annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters.
(3) Defining the strategic goal: To turn Gaza into Jaffa, a flourishing Israeli city with a minimum number of hostile civilians.
(4) Defining war ethics: “Woe to the evildoer, and woe to his neighbor.”
In light of these four points, Israel must do the following:
a) The IDF shall designate certain open areas on the Sinai border, adjacent to the sea, in which the civilian population will be concentrated, far from the built-up areas that are used for launches and tunneling. In these areas, tent encampments will be established, until relevant emigration destinations are determined.
The supply of electricity and water to the formerly populated areas will be disconnected.
b) The formerly populated areas will be shelled with maximum fire power. The entire civilian and military infrastructure of Hamas, its means of communication and of logistics, will be destroyed entirely, down to their foundations.
c) The IDF will divide the Gaza Strip laterally and crosswise, significantly expand the corridors, occupy commanding positions, and exterminate nests of resistance, in the event that any should remain.
d) Israel will start searching for emigration destinations and quotas for the refugees from Gaza. Those who wish to emigrate will be given a generous economic support package, and will arrive at the receiving countries with considerable economic capabilities.
e) Those who insist on staying, if they can be proven to have no affiliation with Hamas, will be required to publicly sign a declaration of loyalty to Israel, and receive a blue ID card similar to that of the Arabs of East Jerusalem.
f) When the fighting will end, Israeli law will be extended to cover the entire Gaza Strip, the people evicted from the Gush Katif will be invited to return to their settlements, and the city of Gaza and its suburbs will be rebuilt as true Israeli touristic and commercial cities.
Mr. Prime Minister,
This is a fateful hour of decision in the history of the State of Israel.
All metastases of our enemy, from Iran and Hizballah through ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood, are rubbing their hands gleefully and preparing themselves for the next round.
I am warning that any outcome that is less than what I defined here means encouraging the continued offensive against Israel. Only when Hizballah will understand how we have dealt with Hamas in the south, it will refrain from launching its 100,000 missiles from the north.
I call on you to adopt the strategy proposed here.
I have no doubt that the entire Israeli people will stand to your right with its overwhelming majority, like myself—if only you will adopt it.
With high regards, respectfully,