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It's the Gaza strip, stupid

12/16/2007

As I noted, the situation in the Gaza strip is the elephant in the room of the Annapolis peace process. The silence on this issue before the Annapolis meeting, at the Annapolis meeting and since tells us more about the seriousness of the process than all the declarations and analyses.

The situation in Gaza is totally intolerable from every point of view. Gaza residents cannot continue to live under siege, with shortages of clean water and medicines, nor can they live with Hamas repression and constant internecine Palestinian violence. Israelis cannot live under the constant hail of rocket fire. The peace process has no hope whatever of progress as long as the Hamas remain in charge of Gaza, because the Hamas make it clear that they have no use for the peace process.

In Israel, there is a stark political reality. 2,000 rockets fell on the Western Negev between January 1 and December 4. That's 2,000 arguments against the peace process and against further concessions to the Palestinians. Israelis were promised that Gaza would be a model of how the Palestinians could build a state. It is indeed a very educational model.

If the Israeli government does not find a solution for the Gaza rocket fire, it will fall sooner or later, and it will be replaced by a government of right-wing extremists committed to scuttling the peace process. Both before and after Annapolis, Israeli politicians and army officers were announcing that a large scale operation in Gaza was inevitable, was imminent, was being prepared and would happen any day now. An Israeli invasion and reoccupation of Gaza would probably put an end to any hope for a peace process. It would not be surprising if that is really the goal of many of those who advocate such an operation. Yet the peace process is meaningless in any case in the current situation.

Gaza would therefore appear to be the number one issue that affects the peace process. The omission of this "minor detail" from the Annapolis "process" indicates that Bush administration officials, like their predecessors, think that peace is a piece of paper, and so do the other Quartet leaders.

The situation in Gaza will not be improved by more sanctions, or by talks between Mahmud Abbas and Ehud Olmert. Neither of them can offer a solution for Gaza. It would certainly be exacerbated by any of the solutions advocated by pro-Israel or pro-Hamas partisans. Talking to Hamas or ending the blockade of Gaza will help to entrench the regime. That cannot be good for peace. An Israeli invasion of Gaza will lionize Hamas, just as the Second Lebanon war turned the Hezbollah into "heroes" for a time.

A Gaza solution that would allow peace would have to provide for the people of Gaza and for the security of Israel, and it would have to empower a responsible government that was committed to living in peace with Israel. It is unimaginable that there could be a "final settlement" in any other circumstances. As long as Gaza remains a miserable Hell hole under Hamas government, we can be sure that it would not allow peace for Israel or any success for peace negotiations. Every serious peace move will be disrupted by rocket attacks and terror attacks, and any prospect of prosperity and relaxation of security in the West Bank would be ruined by such attacks, because the Hamas cannot allow the Abbas government in the West Bank to succeed.

This message must be brought home to all would be peacemakers, chief among them the United States: If you desire peace, prepare to handle Gaza.

Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 4 comments

Ami, you write ; "This message must be brought home to all would be peacemakers, chief among them the United States: If you desire peace, prepare to handle Gaza."

If I have it right, America doesn't speak with terrorists and even if it was ready to, Israel would raise hell.

Boycott, an usual option, here would make people laugh.

So except a military option, I don't see any way to "handle gaza".

When you want America to handle gaza, are you implying American troops could make a R&R stay in gaza during an Iraq turn?

Best
Paul

Posted by Paul Fays @ 12/17/2007 12:20 AM CST

EU and America want peace. They must put their soldiers where their mouths are, otherwise there will never be peace, only more empty words. The Hamas cannot be made to disappear or change its ways by Annapolis conferences, declarations, donor meetings, prayer or fasting. They declare that international conferences and negotiations are a waste of time. Nor will starving Gaza out solve anything. If there are 5 kwh of electricity generated in Gaza they will be used to turn the lathes that run the Qassam rockets.

Regards,
Ami

Posted by Ami Isseroff @ 12/18/2007 07:06 PM CST

EVEN AFTER THE LEBANON DEBACLE, THE ISRAELI ARMED FORCES ARE STILL ABLE TO WIPE HAMAS OF THE FACE OF THE EARTH. HAMAS HAS A MIS-CONCEPTION ABOUT ITS WILLPOWER OVER THE GAZA POPULACE. THE PEOPLE SUFFER BECAUSE THEIR GOVERNMENT IS A PARIAH IN THE EYES OF MOST OF THE WORLD. I AM NOT JEWISH NOR PALESTINIAN.

Posted by J. WERMUND @ 12/18/2007 09:18 PM CST

Neither the EU nor US will put their soldiers where their mouths are. Only the US & UK show any willingness to engage seriously in battle. The majority of EU states are unwilling to have their armies engage in high risk battle situations.
Neither the US nor UK have the military capacity for the foreseeable future to be able to consider deploying in Gaza. Perhaps the US may have capacity if Iraq stabilises sufficiently, but that's a big IF. The UK certainly doesn't have capacity and there is no sign that it's capacity will expand, in fact there are defence cuts going on. The impact of Iraq and Afganistan together with other commitments has severely depleted the UK's military capacity.
Even if the US or UK were willing to go into Gaza what woudl their mandate be, and from whom? I doubt very much that there would be a mandate to disarm Hamas and at best they might become a thin red line along the Gaza / Israel border to be used as an additional means of defence by Hamas.
IMO the mistake was to not recognise Hamas as the legitimate government of Palestine and work from there. Clearly with the election of Hamas the Palestinian people chose to return to existential war against Israel, and the Hamas led goverment has a clear mandate. Oslo - Mitchell - Tenet - Roadmap are simply sheets of paper blowing in the wind, the Peace Dream is over and its back to the simplicities of war and propoganda.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 12/18/2007 10:30 PM CST


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