Role of Israel in the Gaza War
Caspian Report: Origins of Israel Palestinian Conflict
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) initiated a operation called "Operation Returning Echo" on March 2010 and was widely covered by world media as It was the worst outbreak of violence in the region since the 2008–2009 "Operation Cast Lead" (Gaza War). More recently, due to the increasing barrage of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel in October 2012, the region was once again in the news as the IDF forces began air strikes and a massive ground force buildup along the Gaza Strip border. These events forces us to ask the question what, if any, actions by Israel could lead to this repetitive conflict.
Rocket Fire from Civilian Areas
Reasons for War
There was a variety of immediate reasons for war that led to the barrage of missile fire and air strikes between Israel and Hamas. Rocket fire from Gaza is the most publicized reason for the war. The sustained missile fire from Gaza resumed after Operation Cast Lead ended in 2009 (the 2009 Gaza War) despite efforts by Hamas to curtail the rocket fire and control the various factions in Gaza Strip. Missile fire was mainly conducted by smaller Islamic jihadist terror groups that claim to represent the Palestinian people of Gaza which further jeopardized Hamas's image as the protector of the people. This increased pressure on Hamas to continue their armed struggle against Israel as these smaller external groups continued their aggression against Israel despite Hamas efforts to control them. The internal power struggles within the Hamas leadership on the course Hamas should pursue in its relations with Israel also played a role in ensuring that the fragile peace with Israel did not last and the missile barrage did not stop. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) responses with a critical strike when a a missile was fired at a jeep carrying Israeli soldiers inside Israel and injured those soldiers. The IDF responded with the assassination of Hamas' military commander, Ahmed Jabari. Such a direct challenge to Hamas could not be left unanswered and thus the conflict we saw on television screens erupted in the Middle East.
There may have been alternate motives within the Israeli government for the timing of this conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were facing a tough reelection campaign and a strong response from the Israeli government to missile fire from Gaza would help the Prime Minister and his party gain votes. Hamas, for its part, may have hoped to upstage plans by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to gain observer status in the United Nations General Assembly and to drag Egypt's new Islamist party and their President, Mohamed Mursi, into the conflict.
In fact, both sides - the Hamas and Israel - are playing home front politics. Nathan J. Brown, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, said each side suspects the other of playing domestic politics. "Palestinians fear that the Israeli government is making war with an eye to upcoming elections. Israelis suspect that Hamas -- whose full name is the 'Islamic Resistance Movement' -- is lobbing rockets because it is tired of its rivals' taunting that it is not living up to its middle name. There is some truth to these charges, but both sides have other goals in mind. The Israelis know that they cannot dislodge Hamas from Gaza without unacceptable cost and endless occupation. But they want to punish the movement so severely that it will be deterred from future violence. Hamas knows that the damage it inflicts serves no strategic value, but it hopes that its rockets will cause dislocation and even panic in Israel and send an international message that Gaza cannot be ignored."
Both sides quickly realized that their alternative plans may not come to fruition. President Obama and leaders of various European nations quickly contacted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt plans for a ground invasion and to give peace a chance. Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi dealt with the Hamas delegation to control the various groups in Gaza Strip, reduction of rocket fire and a possible ceasefire resolution. Both sides quickly learned that the international community does not want a Israeli-Palestinian conflict and there was little appetite for the escalation of this conflict with regional unsuitability due to Syria and Iranian nuclear weapons program on the minds of most world leaders.
Children are most affected by Conflict
Blockade of Gaza
Many supporters of Hamas argue that the rocket fire against Israel was the natural reaction of people imprisoned in Gaza Strip due to Israeli and Egyptian blockade of its borders. Perhaps the blockade did play a role as the economic growth of Gaza Strip is stifled, it leads to hopeless, despair, hate and angry - the perfect fertile ground for terror organizations looking for fresh recruits. The Israeli government knows that it needs to address the problem of Gaza or it will continue to be a festering headache. The conundrum Israel faces is how to deal with Hamas and address the issue of Gaza Strip without compromising the ideals it has been preaching for decades. There is a strong political, conservative and militaristic lobby in the Israeli government circles that does not want talks to succeed. Majority of Israeli civilians do not want war but just want to be left alone in peace.
The blockade itself is driving the increasing militarization of Gaza Strip. Illegal goods are smuggled into Gaza through tunnels in the Egypt border. These goods are taxed by militant organizations thus further enriching a illegal underground trade network while legitimate businessmen and civilians pay a heavy price. Israeli humanitarian group Gisha noted: “Gaza’s connections with Israel and the West Bank, vital for its economy and the welfare of its residents, are still subject to sweeping restrictions.” In fact, Gaza's relationship with the West Bank may prove extremely beneficial for Israel due to the moderating influences from the Abbas government. What Hamas and Gaza Strip needs is stability and the Palestinian Authority can play a large role in restoring that stability. Israel needs to explicitly spell out its terms and conditions for how this blockade, at least at the land crossings, can be completely lifted. Palestinians need to hear, compromise, and respect those terms for lasting peace.
What is the most feasible solution to the conflict?
Israeli politicians want options and they dont have the political will to press ahead with changes that must be made. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon must be appreciated because he took a huge political risk in withdrawing Israeli troops and settlers from Gaza Strip in 2005. It is easy for politicians to say "Hamas is in charge" and ignore Gaza's problems but as the latest war shows, Hamas and Gaza cannot be ignored. Real change requires real political willingness to do what must be done. In the Israeli homefront, increasing pressure from new Russian immigrant community in Israel, religious conservatives and idealists dreaming of long bygone eras continue to hope for a military victory on this conflict. However, there can be no victory at the cost of human life and perpetual conflict.
Palestinians have been ill-served by their leadership, but so are Israelis today.Hamas forced Israel to negotiate to end the latest conflict which further undermined the peace process and the position of the Palestinian Authority. In the eyes of the Palestinian people and the wider Arab world, Hamas gained more popularity than it lost from misgovernment by seeming to defend Palestinians and their causes. Meanwhile the lack of violence from President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank undermined their credibility especially since Israel negotiated with Hamas after a violence conflict and gave no concessions to President Abbas. In fact, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh declared that “after this war, even people in the West Bank are loving Hamas now.”
While Hamas is deemed by majority of the world as a terrorist organization, it has clearly evolved from a mere resistance group to a group seeking to legitimately represent the interests of the people. World leaders have continually expressed support for a peaceful two state solution. The Likud and Yisrael Beitenu parties in Israel need to elect officials who represent the interests of the Israeli people, not their political goals. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognized the principle of the two-state solution in his 2009 Bar-Ilan University speech however his political party is showing resistance to this idea as a official policy platform.
In the 2006 election, 75 percent of Palestinians wanted Hamas to negotiate a peace deal with Israel and hence elected Hamas to represent their interest. After the Gaza war of November 2012, the majority of Palestinians prefer Hamas's political strategy (60 percent) over Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's and Fatah's (28 percent) to end the Israeli occupation, despite Abbas's success in upgrading the status of Palestine to a non-member state in the United Nations.
These shifts in policy does not bode well for Israel as a nation or the Palestinian people. Greater dialogue and concessions have to be negotiated for lasting peace. Netanyahu's coalition need to realize that contining a policy of containment in Gaza Strip and annexation in West Bank will not be a permanent solution. If Israel continues of its current course, then a third Palestinian intifada will not be far off. 2013 will be a critical year for the Palestinians and Israel to arrive at a peaceful understanding. Israel should take initiative to talk with PLO, Fatah and Hamas parties to engineer a peace process structure without preconditions or continuing the expansion of settlements. By talking early, a framework for a two state solution can be agreed upon that leaves some of the more divisive topics such as the status of Jerusalem for future talks at a later date.
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