Saturday, January 3, 2009

The futility of Gaza

I've heard it said that the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting to get a different result. By that measure, what's happening now in Gaza is madness indeed.

After a weeklong bombing campaign, Israel finally sent the ground troops into Gaza. Their reason for the Gaza offensive is that modern political catchall, "national security". But why this action will bring Israel the security it seeks when all the other times they have bombed, shelled, embargoed, invaded and occupied the Gaza Strip haven't is a mystery. Do the Israelis really think that after an offensive that leaves their houses in rubble, their families and neighbors dead that the Palestinians will stand up in unison and proclaim their love to their Israeli brothers? Do they really believe that if they just make life in Gaza City unpleasant enough the Palestinians will overthrow Hamas and turn the region over to a government Israel approves of? Keep in mind that Hamas won an election - one independent observers called the fairest ever held in the Arab Middle East - because the Gazans were tired of the corruption and never-fulfilled promises of Fatah (the political wing of the Palestinian Liberation Organization) of a Palestinian state. Is it realistic to think that the Gazans will kick out one government to take back another they've already rejected?

You would have thought that Israel would have learned from their campaign against Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon in 2006, that for Hezbollah then and Hamas now, when facing off against the vastly superior Israeli military, just surviving the battle is enough to claim victory. So even as Israel enters Hamas-controlled Gaza, even as they (claim to) target the houses of Hamas' leaders, and the places where they build their crude rockets, Israel is setting the ground for their own defeat. Because Israel has said it doesn't intend to re-occupy the Gaza Strip, once they decide enough damage has been done, their military objectives have been met and withdraw, if one Hamas leader can crawl from the rubble, if one Qassam rocket can corkscrew through the sky, Israel has lost, again.

What's perhaps the most frustrating thing about the whole Israel-Palestine debacle is that everyone basically knows what the solution is: the oft-discussed two-state solution. Israel has to withdraw from the lands it has occupied since the 1967 war (Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights), it has to dismantle the hundreds of settlements it has built (which are illegal under international law and never should have been put up in the first place), and it has to allow for the creation of a viable Palestinian state - one where the Palestinians control their own borders and natural resources. The Palestinians have to give up the 'right of return' to lands that are now part of Israel (though compensation should be paid for people with legitimate land claims) and to fully renounce terrorism, which shouldn't be too difficult if they were actually to have a viable country of their own where young men would have a good chance of getting a job and an education what would be the motivation to be a terrorist?

The problem is lack of will, not lack of answers. As long as Yasir Arafat was the leader of the Palestinians, they never seemed truly willing to commit to a two-state solution, but he has been gone from the scene now for years. Frankly now its the Israeli leaders who aren’t committed to the two-state solution (for example allowing the expansion of West Bank settlements even after promising to halt their construction during peace negotiations), and an administration in the United States unwilling to hold their feet to the fire to get them to fully engage with the peace process.

So while leaders dawdle, people - on both sides - suffer, and the world's most pointless war goes on, and on, and on...
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