The mood was sombre, the tone grave, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu started his statement on Monday.
“This has been a difficult and painful day,” he told Israelis.
They didn’t learn until later how painful. Ten more soldiers had been killed in Hamas militant attacks.
A few days earlier, when Israel announced its ground incursions into Gaza, the operation was described as limited. The goal was simply to destroy tunnels Hamas had dug under the border into southern Israel, apparently aimed at attacking communities nearby. Now though, the “operation” had become a “war.”
Just like that. Netanyahu announced that Israel would not stop until Gaza was demilitarized — a much more ambitious goal that has not been achieved in Gaza in two previous conflicts.
This fight would be the ultimate battle with Hamas, he implied.
“There is no more just war than this one that our sons are fighting,” he said. Israel is under attack. The rockets fired by the Palestinian militant group Hamas daily have to be silenced. The “terror tunnels” blown up, he said.
For many in the Israeli press, it’s not enough.
‘Take care of our own first’
The morning after, in Israel’s popular daily newspaper Ma’ariv, columnist Ben Caspit writes that Netanyahu needs a more dramatic change of course, a bigger conflict. “In one blow, savagely, with all engines forward. There is no other way,” he says.
“If Israel, again, does not come out of this with a clear victory against Hamas … it will signify the lack of Israeli determination to pay a price for victory against enemies,” adds Caspit. “Who will convince Hamas, [extremist Islamic groups] ISIS, Jabhat al_Nusra, and all the other organizations around us that anyone who tries to raise a hand against the Jewish state will have it cut off?”