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Opinion | Casting Blame in the Israel-Gaza Conflict

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To the Editor:

Re “Israel Must Rout Hamas for Peace’s Sake” (column, May 14):

Bret Stephens should define precisely what he means by the rout of Hamas and what the day after such a rout looks like.

Yes, a more stable outcome for all would be a broad perception that Hamas miscalculated and harmed Palestinian interests. That is much easier said than done. And we should be especially cautious in this time when all actions taken by the Israeli leadership against Hamas are setting the stage for a fifth round of elections that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would try to win.

Mr. Stephens agrees that Israel made plenty of mistakes before the fighting. But he fails to capture the folly and irresponsible behavior on Israel’s side, especially by Prime Minister Netanyahu, the minister for public security, Amir Ohana, and by the Israeli police.

As Mr. Stephens notes, Hamas launched this campaign as part of a deeply cynical effort to achieve primacy as the leader of the Palestinian national movement. But the Israeli leadership provided Hamas with an opportunity.

So yes, Hamas is bad. Perhaps we in Israel should have been more careful. And especially now, we need to be.

Daniel Sherman
Modiin, Israel
The writer is a former senior general staff officer in the Israel Defense Forces who dealt with strategic planning issues and the peace process.

To the Editor:

Re “The U.S. Should Condition Aid to Israel on Reducing Conflict” (column, May 13):

Nicholas Kristof is right when he mentions that Israel once allowed the rise of Hamas as a counterweight to the Palestine Liberation Organization. But Israel did much more than “allow.”

In 1981, Brig. Gen. Yitzhak Segev, Israel’s military governor of Gaza, told me that he was giving money to the Muslim Brotherhood, the precursor of Hamas, on the instruction of the Israeli authorities. The funding was intended to tilt power away from both Communist and Palestinian nationalist movements in Gaza, which Israel considered more threatening than the fundamentalists.

Judging by a distressed phone call I got later from the army spokesman, General Segev’s superiors were not happy with his disclosure of a practice that did not look very clever, even at the time. They thought incorrectly — but apparently wished — that he had made his comments off the record.

David K. Shipler
Chevy Chase, Md.
The writer was The Times’s Jerusalem bureau chief from 1979 to 1984.

To the Editor:

Re “We Need a New Mideast Approach” (Opinion guest essay, May 15):

I take no issue with Bernie Sanders’s plea for the rights of the Palestinian people. But he lays the blame for the disregard for those rights mainly on Israel.

Those rights are compromised by the very government in Gaza that is supposed to protect them. Hamas lobs rockets at Israel from densely populated civilian areas, knowing full well that Israel will retaliate to destroy the source. Innocent civilians will be killed.

The protection of the Palestinians starts with Hamas. It is Hamas that must place the rights of its citizens above its visceral hatred of Israel.

Ellen Shaffer Meyer
Wilmington, Del.

To the Editor:

Bernie Sanders says “we are seeing the rise of a new generation of activists who want to build societies based on human needs and political equality.”

This is a wonderful and utopian thought, but when the stated goal of Hamas is the destruction of the state of Israel, and the leaders of Hamas refuse to negotiate with Israel, and terrorize Israeli civilians, no matter who is the prime minister, that person cannot focus only on human needs and political equality. The leadership of Israel must focus on survival.

Geraldine Wolk
Bronx

To the Editor:

Re “Civilian Deaths on Both Sides Raise Specter of War Crimes” (front page, May 17):

Is it a war crime when civilians are collateral damage if military targets are the reason for the attack? Is it a war crime if the target of bombs or rockets is civilians where there is no military target?

Edward Gilbert
Studio City, Calif.

To the Editor:

Re “Democrats Fracture Over Israel Stance” (front page, May 16):

As an American Jew and a Zionist, I was appalled by the Trump administration’s support for right-wing religious extremists in the United States and Israel.

I’ve always despaired of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s agenda. The abuses against the Palestinian people by both the Israeli and U.S. governments go against the civic and religious definitions of justice that are supposed to be at the heart of both countries.

It breaks my heart. You don’t have to be progressive to protest.

Annlinn Kruger
Bar Harbor, Maine

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