Flawed recourse

A Palestinian man waves a flag during a demonstration in the West Bank city of Jenin, on November 16, 2012 against Israel's ongoing military operation in the Gaza Strip. (AFP PHOTO / SAIF DAHLAH)

The race is now on between a new war in the Gaza Strip, and a flurry of efforts by countries and organizations to contain the situation.

Officials are working overtime to achieve this objective for several reasons.

Compared to the last Israeli military offensive four years ago, this time around holds more unknowns; Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have been hit by Palestinian rockets, and no one truly knows the capabilities of the Hamas arsenal.

Leaders from around the world are making demands on the Palestinians and countries such as Egypt to ensure that Hamas and other groups control themselves and “exercise restraint.”

Meanwhile, the Israelis are preparing for war; they have massed troops at the Gaza border and are contemplating calling up some 75,000 reservists.

One may return to the events of four years ago and derive an important lesson. Last time, Israel launched its aerial blitz because it wanted to “end the rocket threat” from Hamas. This time, it’s the same scenario, and a naked military response simply isn’t a solution.

These kinds of responses lead to the emergence of new militants and extremists, and only produce more violence down the road.

No one doubts the capabilities of Israel’s military – on paper – but having superior force doesn’t necessarily guarantee a victory.

Hamas and other groups have now demonstrated their ability to inflict pain on Israel, but the Jewish state responds each time in a similar fashion. Some will argue that the rockets led to this flare-up of violence, but in fact it is the blockade of Gaza by the Israelis that led to the rockets.

Gazans and their leaders lack control over everything from their supplies of food, water and electricity to their sovereignty, since their land and sea borders are at the mercy of others.

Gaza is treated like a prison, with a million people crowded into a space that should contain fewer than half that number.

Instead of “dealing with Gaza” in terms of its rockets, there should be efforts to deal with the appalling, Israeli-supervised siege of Gaza. A similar powder keg exists on the West Bank, even if the Israelis don’t intervene as intrusively as in Gaza, but the entire Palestine issue must be solved, and not just a security threat (to Israel) from a tiny part of Palestine.

The statements by most of the world’s leaders from 2008 are being recycled once again, and these show no meaningful attempt to address and resolve the grievances of the Palestinians. They didn’t produce a solution four years ago, and they won’t this time.

No one should dream of extinguishing the flame of resistance unless there is a fair solution that treats the roots of the problem is presented to the Palestinian leadership, and if this doesn’t take place, expect an even more militant response the next time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 17, 2012, on page 7.




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