January 12, 2009

How To Avoid A Quagmire In Gaza

What are the prospects for change?
It is clear that the stated objective of the Gaza operation for the Israeli government is to silence the Hamas rockets that are fired periodically from Gaza into the southern part of Israel. What is not clear though, is what Hamas is after in having provided the Israeli government its rationale for this current operation?

It is also clear that the Israeli government did not put together this complicated plan of fighting in Gaza at the spur of the moment. Israel has arguably been preparing for this onslaught for the past two years in an effort to rehabilitate its image that took a beating after the Lebanese 2006 campaign that proved to be quite ineffective if not outright fiasco. Yet, Israel wanted an excuse to move into Gaza and Hamas seems to have been more than willing to provide the IDF with a solid rationale for its onslaught. Why? Did Hamas miscalculate the Israeli ability to tolerate the Qassam rockets or were they motivated by other goals?

The Hamas leadership has shown over the years its ability to be effective strategic thinkers and to be popular political players. As a result it is only fair to assume that Hamas must have known that Israel will eventually respond with overwhelming force, its own version of shock-and-awe, if you will. But yet they went ahead with their provocations by continuously firing the ineffective but irritating Qassams into Ashkelon and its environs. There are only two logical explanations for their semi-suicidal behavior:

(1) Hamas was following orders issued by their financiers, military trainers and arms suppliers, the Iranian mullahs, or,

(2) Hamas seriously believes that it is ready to inflict on the IDF major losses once the IDF is lured into urban warfare on the streets and alleys of Gaza.

On both counts Hamas has either grossly miscalculated or willingly agreed to sacrifice the blood of the innocent noncombatants for the benefit of an outside non Palestinian power. Which ever is the reason for the recent provocations Hamas did not act in the best interest of the Palestinian people but seems to be merely driven to score propaganda points against the brutality of the Israeli offensive that their acts have initiated in the first place? These acts border on being criminal and must be seen as such instead of the constant media barrage from all across the Arab speaking countries that condemns the Israeli aggression but does not question the Hamas policies that in essence craved this Israeli operation.

And so who is it that has lured whom into this quagmire? Was it the Israeli policies that pushed Hamas into providing the IDF with an excuse for its forceful reoccupation of Gaza in an effort to influence the outcome of the upcoming Palestinian elections or even an effort to help Mr. Olmert; Israel’s George Bush; or was it Hamas incompetence and misguided policies that handed the IDF with the rationale that it needed for its operation? It really does not matter. Both sides to this bloody conflict have shown nothing but total disregard for the rules of war, sanctity of non-combatants and have persisted to misread history.

Hamas, especially its refusal to accept the existence of the state of Israel and its resort to random violence as a means to achieving its goal makes it an anachronism. It is time that Hamas, Hezbollah, PFLP and all the other resistance groups recognize that their adopted methods have proven to be ineffective and counter productive. It is time to abandon these destructive tools and engage the adversary on a higher level. It is time to introduce into the equation pragmatism and an acceptance of reality. It is time to learn to live in peace with those that speak a different language and have a different religion. It is time to apply the idea of impermanence instead of clinging to the notion of authenticity in a world best described by contamination and flux. It is time that the Palestinian people reject the rejectionists in order to have hope for the future.

Israel, on the other hand, is just as much in need of a change in its policies. Military force will not bring peace; it might silence begrudgingly the guns for a while. Peace requires policies that do not dehumanize, discriminate, exploit and abuse the very same people that Israel claims that it needs as good neighbours. It is time for Israel to demonstrate its willingness to accept a Palestinian state next door by negotiating a date certain for the total sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza.

The current war in Gaza has entered its third week and yet it shows no signs of winding down. The rough details of the outcome of this war have been known from the outset. The IDF cannot wipe out Hamas, only the Palestinian people can do that and Hamas will have to stop firing its rockets into Israel. Is it that important who stops first? The IDF has a golden opportunity to declare an end to the Gaza operation, to remove the embargo and to start a serious economic development program with the help of the GCC in exchange for strictly inspected borders and an end to rocket firing into Israel. These acts stand the chance of moving the peace process forward. Israel and its Palestinian neighbours need desperately “change that they can believe in”’


Andros said...

It seems that in order for most people to think rationally there has to be a situation whereas basic human needs (shelter, food, security) are satisfied, AND that a culture of tolerance develops.

Crises--and not only in underdeveloped places--undermine the confidence of the people and make them turn to extremes. The longer the crisis the more difficult for good change to occur.

Gus said...

What I find to be such a terrible waste of resources is the fact that both sides ,in this case, new clearly the conditions under which this tragic event would end but yet they went ahead with their plans to kill and destroy. Why didn'y they get to the same end through a less costly path?

Andros said...

Well, people do lots of stupid things even if they know in advance of the dire consequences.

Good post, Gus.

I just don't think these people there can come to an agreement on their own. In conflicts like that 3 things can make them stop:
1. An overwhelming outside force that comes in and dictates.
2. One side wipes out the other.
3. People are tired of killing each other.

Do you see another solution in the near future?

George said...

Also, I'd like to include this video from the recent pro-Israel demonstration in NYC. I wonder how many people do share such views. If that's the case, it'd make it so much harder to find a solution.

Supporting Israel's military campaign video

George said...

This just came to my attention. It's a piece published in 1947 and written by the then Joradian king Abdullah.

As the Arabs See the Jews

Gus said...

I think that the video referenced in the Jan. 15 post is more representative of the views of NYC Jewry than the views of Israelis. I am not suggesting that the majority of the Israelis are doves but a segment of Israel is much more dovish than New Yorkers tend to be. (Witness the views of one of the most respected newspapers Ha'aretz).
Thanks also for bringing to my attention the 1948 essay of King Abdullah.