MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
The Gaza "crisis" can only be understood if we remember that none of the governments and leaders on either side are being completely honest, and some, like the Hamas, are simply lying. The result of these manipulations is the people of Gaza and and the people of Sderot, Ein Hashlosha and other communities inside Israel are suffering in order for the various sides to advance their political agendas.
The "crisis" has several components: the "siege," the rocket attacks on Israeli communities, the Israeli attempts to kill those who launch the rockets and their leaders which inevitably result in civilian casualties and damage as well, the Fatah-Hamas split, and the refusal of Hamas to accept the Oslo accords that are the basis of legitimacy of the Palestinian authority. The solution to the Gaza crisis has to be to get Gaza under the control of the Palestinian Authority, ruled by a government that has a public commitment to peace, to enable holding free elections with participation of all parties that are committed to peace, to stop the terror attacks and Israeli reprisals, and to get Gaza functioning as a normal community that imports commodities and raw materials and exports goods for sales, rather than importing explosives and exporting bombs.
Nobody is really interested in this solution with the possible exception of the Palestinian Authority. And if the Palestinian Authority is interested in this solution, they are do nothing to show it. Each side wants you to forget one or another component, and tries to blur the issues to gain sympathy or advance their agenda.
1. Hamas originally came to power in "democratic" but basically illegal Palestinian elections. The elections were illegal because under the Oslo accords that were the enabling document for the elections, Hamas, which does not recognize the right of Israel to exist and insists on violence, should not have been allowed to participate in elections to a government that is supposed to negotiate peace with Israel. Therefore, international donors imposed an aid embargo of the new government.
2. To prevent importation of weapons, and export of terrorists to Israel checkpoints were set up in Rafah on the Egyptian border, manned by EU personnel, and checkpoint traffic to Israel was curtailed. The Gaza port and airport are closed. Since large quantities of weapons were smuggled in from Rafah and are still being smuggled in, these measures were not completely effective.
3. In June of 2007, Hamas ousted Fatah in a bloody coup in Gaza, resulting in closing of the Rafah crossing by the EU and tightning of the "siege" - in part because Hamas attacked the border crossings.
4. In response to indiscriminate attacks on civilians by rocket fire and snipers, initiated or encouraged by Hamas, Israel further tightened the "siege" by cutting fuel supplies to Gaza. Israel then announced that it would allow a one time shipment of fuel, and now announced that all crossings will be closed except for humanitarian aid.
Lifting the "siege" of Gaza, as demanded by these groups, would put an end to the peace process and to the rule of Fatah, since it would amount to international recognition of the Hamas government.
Hamas is clearly lying to its people and the world concerning the causes of the siege and of the "humanitarian crisis." All that is necessary to lift the siege and the international embargo and to stop the Israeli military actions is for the Hamas to recognize the right of Israel to exist and to stop the rocket attacks and arms smuggling. Frankly, even the most insincere declaration concerning Israel's right to exist and readiness to participate in negotiations would bring about an end to the aid embargo. They could probably even get away with continuing to hold kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit.
Hamas, for their part, are not interested in stopping the rockets or entering the peace process, because these moves would inevitably oust them from power, and necessarily bring about the return of Fatah rule. They have built their entire political platform on opposition to the peace process. Hamas decisions in this respect are made in Syria and Iran, and those countries have no interest in furthering a peace process that is sponsored by the EU and the United States.
It is certain that the Hamas are lying about the recent short-lived fuel embargo as well. Gaza had adequate fuel supplies. If the power was cut, it was not cut because they ran out of fuel. The diesel powered generators in question together supply about 15% of Gaza's power. 70% is supplied by Israel, and 15% is supplied by Egypt. The dramatic photos of candle light living were media hype. Gaza health authorities earlier complained, according to Palestinian media, that the Hamas stole hospital fuel supplies for use by the Hamas Executive Force. According to AP, anonymous Palestinian Health ministry officials in Gaza noted that Hamas charges that 5 patients had died as a result of the current fuel shortage were untrue.
There is no doubt that the people of Gaza are suffering hardships. Today, tens of thousands of Gazans
"Ending the siege" of Gaza will not solve any problems. It will create a much bigger problem, because it will entrench a Hamas run government that is free to terrorize not only Israelis, but Palestinians as well.
The Arab governments have done little or nothing to ameliorate the Gaza crisis. On the contrary, Egypt allowed thousands of Hajj pilgrims back into Gaza without checking to see if any were Hamas operatives, and funding from Iran and Arab countries has enabled the Hamas government to stay afloat. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are constantly urging Hamas-Fatah "unity."
Israel, for its part, has handled the Gaza issue with what could charitably be described as belligerent negligence. The refusal of the Olmert government to finance improved shelters for Sderot is a case in point. Is it just a matter of money or is it also convenient to maximize the impact of the rockets? It may be awful to think about, but it is not impossible. Israel admittedly faces a number of unappetizing choices. Living with the rocket fire is unacceptable. In the long run, living with the Hamas government is unacceptable as well, because the Hamas will inevitably grow stronger, graduating to larger and larger rockets. They have already fired Grad rockets on Ashkelon. But Israel has not formulated any rational plan for ending Hamas rule, and neither has anyone else. The missile attacks and incursions can only lead to gradual escalation. They serve to boost morale in Israel, but it is plain that they do not provide a deterrent to the rocket attacks and sniper fire.
Physically, the problem is not insurmountable. With enough military force, Israel could retake Gaza and eliminate the Hamas. It might exact a very high price in Israeli and Palestinian lives. This price can only be worthwhile if a Gaza takeover by Israel could end the problem of Hamas. It is unlikely to do so. Israel could not, and should not, hold Gaza. It would need to turn it over to an international force or to the Palestinian Authority. However, a Palestinian Authority that came to power by Israeli military force would lose its legitimacy. An international force could not be counted on to stop arms smuggling, as the experience of UNIFIL in Lebanon has proved. But what if Israel were to take over the Rafah crossing and then invite an international force to take over Gaza?
The international powers and the UN are not exactly being honest either. If they wanted to, they could insist on internationally supervised deliveries of fuel and other supplies, and put personnel in Gaza who would guarantee that fuel reaches power plants rather than vehicles of terrorists. Israel could not, for example, oppose the docking of container ships in Gaza harbor, filled with supplies that had been checked by Israeli security personnel. The UN and the EU and United States have all carefully shied away from even offering to take over responsibility for Gaza and sending an international force there. Perhaps Israel or the Palestinians would not agree, but then the ball would be in the court of those who refuse to allow the force. It is somewhat beside the point for the international community to issue pious pronouncements about the humanitarian situation in Gaza as long as they are unwilling to do anything about it except issue more pious pronouncements.
The Palestinian Authority has offered its own "solution": it proposes to take over the Gaza border crossings. Of course, this would not stop the rockets or the smuggling of arms, nor would it free the people of Gaza from the grip of the Hamas. What the Palestinian Authority did not offer is more significant: it did not offer to take over the Gaza strip under the umbrella of an international force, restore order and hold free elections. They would then have the responsibility of stopping the terror attacks and ending the smuggling of arms and explosives. This solution could end the suffering of the Gazans as well as the people of Israeli border towns and allow the peace process to begin in a meaningful way. Perhaps the Palestinian Authority too, finds that the status quo serves their purposes.
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Replies: 7 comments
Ami, you don't seem to offer any solutioise even, realistic or other.
As I see it, there are five options.
1) Continuing with the current situation.
2) Reconquering Gaza
3) Cease Fire with Hamas now.
4) Cease fire with Hamas after a successful (hopefully) major military operation.
5) Outside force.
To me it seems 4 is the only acceptable option, as unsatisfying as it is.
Somewhere along the way Israelis became seduced by an all or nothing idea -- either we obliterate terror completely or we have acheived nothing and everything we do, mililtary or diplomatic, is in vain. This idea is promoted both by the left and by the right, it's either peace or nothing or another Naqba or nothing as far as they are concerned. But in the real world military action and diplomacy have limited but still very real power. If Israel uses a well executed (this time) military action in Gaza, it might not destroy the Hamas or prevented from rearming, but it could weaken it for a while, force it to accept cease fire on better terms, give an object lesson that will reduce it's legitimacy or enthusiasm to brake the ceasefire, reduce the Hamas's popularity and legitimacy, force the international community to take a stand, restore Israelis confidence which would increase their willingness to pursue peace, create a more advantagious military ituation to deal with threats in Gaza.
Look, the war in Lebanon was not handled very well, no doubt. It is considered a failure. Israel did not destroy the Hizballa or prevent it now from rearming. But then, the 6 say war did not destroy Baathist Egypt or prevent it from rearming either. The war in Lebanon did cause the Hizballa to accept a ceasefire on better terms than the previous ones in which it continued low scale fighting across the border without impunity. It reduced it's legitimacy to use Lebanon as a base for attacks against Israel. It's control in the south diminished. And international commitment was increased somewhat. And this was in a war which was fought badly.
Defensive Shield and the fence were not perfect either. They certainly did not eliminate the enemy or it's will to attack. But suicide bombing are almost completely stopped for some time now, the Israeli army conducts operations against terrorists in a convenient fashion to it, and the people in the West Bank don't seem to be very enthusiastic about trying to escalate things. It is not perfect. There is no guarentee that it will last forever. But this action gave Israel a relative quiet which helped Israel both economically and diplomatically or a few years now. Moreover, the quiet increased the willingness of Israelis to pursue peaceful actions like the withdrawl from Gaza and negotiations until the Arabs + military incompetence ent Israelis back to a (justified) siege mentality.
So, although I do believe Israel should seek a complete solution in the form of peace, at present partial benefits of both military force and diplomacy are needed.
Posted by Micha @ 01/26/2008 03:42 AM CST
"Peace?" Process: Israel's Path to Suicide
Posted by Yehuda Draiman @ 01/27/2008 08:24 PM CST
Your assertion that the Palestinian elections were "basically illegal" is wrong -
Posted by sarah @ 01/30/2008 08:16 AM CST
"Hamas...are not interested in...entering the peace process, because [this would]...necessarily bring about the return of Fatah rule. They have built their entire political platform on opposition to the peace process".
Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I thought the main reason Hamas won the election was the endemic corruption of Fatah, the PLO and the PA. We already know that most Palestinians favour a 2-state political solution, so it would appear that Hamas won the election in spite of their Israel policy, not because of it.
Yehuda Draiman's contribution is interesting, if mad. Basically he calls for a one-state solution. If no Palestinian state is allowed and Israel rules the territories, the obvious move for the Palestinians who live there is to demand enfranchisement. That would decisively shift the conflict to the South African paradigm and as we have seen, that is very hard to defend. Unles of course there is an element of his plan he has not included in his post...
Posted by Chris @ 02/06/2008 02:22 PM CST
Actually, "dwell securely in the promised land" is not at all an endorsement of a Jewish state. I dwell securely in my apartment, but I don't own it. And the "mingled crowd" would also appear to edge more towards the Democratic Secular State idea. So maybe not the best quote to use.
Posted by Chris @ 02/06/2008 02:26 PM CST
a "successful" military operation? hmmm? israel has not had one of those since 1948 or ever. the war continues and will never end. there is only one option.
israel must repent for stealing the land of the pals.
Posted by scottsoperson @ 03/22/2008 09:20 PM CST
of course, perhaps one could declare the peace with jordan and egypt as successfull.
israel's military operations have only brought pain on israelis from the very beginning....all the way back to the balfour declaration of war.
Posted by scottsoperson @ 03/22/2008 09:22 PM CST
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