EXCLUSIVE: Israeli on southern border speaks out on Bennett’s response to Gaza terror

“This government reacted more strenuously, more rigorously against each and every infringement, which was balloons,” an Israeli resident told WIN.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

After Prime Minister Naftali Bennett struck terror targets in the Gaza Strip as a response to arson balloons last month, residents of Israel’s long-suffering southern communities believed it may have marked a new era in Israeli policy towards aggression from Gaza-based terror groups.

But when Bennett decided not to immediately strike the Strip after the launch of a rocket last week, the conversation around Israel’s security stance towards the south changed.

Prominent Israeli politicians called Bennett’s pause a “huge mistake,” and some said he was emboldening terror groups and putting Israelis at risk by not swiftly responding.

Adele Raemer, a longtime resident of Gaza-adjacent Kibbutz Nirim and advocate for Israel’s southern communities, has a different perspective on the matter.

“You know what they say,” she told World Israel News, using a Hebrew phrase that roughly translates to, “What we see isn’t always the full picture.”

Noting speculation that Bennett is holding off on a retaliatory strike because of a potential breakthrough in a hostage exchange agreement, Raemer said she trusts the IDF and the decisions being made.

’A much stronger reaction’

Raemer is the founder and moderator of the popular Facebook group Life on the Border, where she and other users document daily life in Israel’s south, during both war and peacetime.

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With some 7,000 members, both Israeli and international, the group provides real-time updates of rocket interceptions and fires sparked by terror balloons from Gaza. During Operation Guardian of the Walls, Raemer livestreamed the experience of hunkering down in her bomb shelter, giving group members an inside view of the experience.

Users also discuss political developments involving the Strip and post photos of southern scenery, like sunflower fields and desert sunsets, during calmer times.

In 2018, she founded FireMap, a grassroots project she was inspired to launch after fires blazed across the region one Friday afternoon “and it wasn’t even mentioned in the news.”

Pulling information from local WhatsApp groups as well as the Fire Brigade, she mapped the location and date of each fire sparked by arson balloons from Gaza, including pictures of the blazes whenever they were available.

Bennett’s move to strike Gaza after arson balloon launches was a major departure from previous policy, she said.

“This government reacted more strenuously, more rigorously against each and every infringement, which was balloons,” Raemer told WIN.

“There has never been a reaction [like this] to balloons from the previous government.”

Looking towards the future

Unlike Bennett’s rivals, Raemer is willing to give the new government a grace period to prove itself.

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Up until now, she noted, the Israeli government hasn’t invested enough effort into coming up with a long-term, sustainable solution for calm along the Gaza border.

She believes last week’s rocket fire from Lebanese territory into Israel may motivate the Israeli government to reexamine its strategy for the south.

“It’s getting harder now with things heating up in the north,” she said. “They certainly don’t want a confrontation on both fronts, [but] maybe that’s even more of an incentive.”

Raemer said that as long as life in Gaza is so bleak, regime change will remain impossible. There must be a viable political alternative in place for Hamas to lose control of the Strip, she said.

“Hamas can’t be wiped out. The [Gazan] people need a horizon of hope…Hungry, desperate neighbors are dangerous neighbors. It’s horrible there, and there’s COVID on top of everything.”

“I think we need to neutralize Hamas by giving the people of Gaza another way to get their needs met, and I don’t think that can be done militarily…nobody wants to do it militarily because it would cost so many lives.”

Referring to the year-old Abraham Accords as the “light that gives me hope,” Raemer said that she still feels optimistic about the prospect of future peace between Israel and Gaza.

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“We all deserve a better reality here,” she said.