THE GAZA MORASS: AN UPDATE
"Israel and Hamas taunted each other with bellicose rhetoric on Sunday, both insisting they would not back down on their negotiating demands at truce talks in Cairo, a day before a five-day temporary ceasefire was due to expire. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, asserted that his country would not reach a deal unless its security needs were met, adding that Hamas had “taken a severe military blow” from the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip. “If Hamas thinks it can cover up its military loss with a diplomatic achievement, it is mistaken,” Mr Netanyahu said. “Hamas knows that we are very strong but maybe it thinks that we do not have enough determination and patience, and here it is making a very big mistake.” Hamas responded to his remarks on Sunday, saying: “Netanyahu’s talk of victory is a cover for his failure.” Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the Islamist group, said Israeli prime minister’s remarks arose from “a need to feed the media and avoid growing Israeli [public] anger”. Israel withdrew its ground troops from Gaza two weeks ago, saying it had completed its job of locating and destroying the tunnels Hamas had been using to carry out military operations. In the diplomatic interlude since – interrupted by bouts of fighting – Mr Netanyahu has come under criticism from rightwing allies in government and residents of the southern border region for failing to deliver on Operation Protective Edge’s goals of stopping the rocket fire and restoring “quiet” in Israel. A five-day temporary ceasefire is due to expire at midnight on Monday, amid indications the Israeli and Palestinian delegations in Cairo still have a large gap to bridge in their discussions on a more durable truce. The Egyptian proposal would see both sides undertake not to attack each other in exchange for an easing of the seven-year-old economic blockade of Gaza. The Palestinian delegation is also pushing for the construction of an airport and seaport in the coastal enclave. Hamas, which was in dire financial straits before the war began, is looking for tangible gains at the negotiating table from a war that has killed nearly 2,000 Palestinians and left swaths of the Gaza Strip in rubble."John Reed, "Israel and Hamas trade taunts as ceasefire deadline looms." The Financial Times. 17 August 2014, in www.ft.com.
"Both sides seemed committed to meeting Albert Einstein’s famous definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The fighting was still escalating to nowhere without any real prospect of a meaningful and lasting solution. No one was able answer the most critical question in any war – in starting it and throughout the conflict – how will this war end? Instead, all the factors that had led to successive past conflicts seemed just as likely to exist in the future. Ever since 1967, the Israeli and Palestinian conflicts have paused and then resumed in a different form with the same result. In the case of the fighting in Gaza, the best outcome has been an unstable ceasefire. Since 2005, the initial cause of each round of fighting has been repeated attempts by Hamas to change the strategic facts on the ground – and break out of near crippling Israeli isolation of the Gaza. Hamas has adapted with new tactics like more sophisticated tunnels and an increasing reliance on rockets and missiles to replace irregular warfare in the form of ground or naval attacks on Israel. In each round, Israel’s decisive military edge has left Hamas (and the more extreme Palestinian Islamic Jihad) weaker than before, killed and wounded far more Palestinians than Israelis, prolonged the economic isolation that has crippled Gaza and deteriorated living standards and social mobility, and failed to have any meaningful political impact that benefited Hamas in making even limited strategic gains. Each round, however, has also been costly to Israel. Israel’s casualties have been far lower, but all too real when Israel attempted to fight on the ground. The financial cost of its air and ground operations has steadily risen, and so has the cost of the peacetime security measures it must take deter and contain Hamas and other threats in Gaza. Each time, Hamas has recovered its ability to pose a threat while it has improved its tunneling efforts and capability to use rockets, missiles and mortars to strike into Israeli territory".Anthony Cordesman, "Israel and Hamas: Escalating to Nowhere, Yet Again". The Center for Strategic and International Studies. 31 July 2014, in www.csis.org. As Anthony Cordesman aptly notes, Albert Einstein's definition of insanity is once again on display in the third Gaza conflict of the past five years. Neither party seems to be able to gain a definitive advantage in the current struggle and neither party seems to be able to understand that leaving matters to be resolved by the sword is both futile and inhuman. In the case of Hamas, their transparent attempts to use its (remaining) arsenal of missiles to obtain concessions from Israel has transparently failed once again. In the case of Israel, its attempt to employ air and missile power with a soupcon of ground forces has singularly failed to 'resolve' definitively the problem posed by Hamas and its allies firing missiles into Israel proper. How then to resolve this Sisyphean conundrum? Unfortunately, there are only two possible solutions, neither of which is very attractive: i) that Israel employ massive military force: air, sea, and most importantly ground to destroy tutti quanti, one and all, the entire Hamas apparatus: military and civilian, in a Clausewitzian campaign for total victory. Presuming of course that the world will tolerate the resulting tens of thousands of civilian deaths and that the Israeli population will tolerate the hundreds of military casualties; ii) a second somewhat more attractive and in fact more plausible solution would be for Israel to negotiate an acceptable modus vivendi of some sort with Hamas. However much that might be infra dig to the Israeli government and population. Still, at the very least, one can see that point of what the Edward Husain of the Council of Foreign Relations means when he states:
"In the end, Israel has limited options. Peace is not possible without Hamas, and Hamas is not a simple terrorist outfit. Its political arm, its leadership inside and outside Gaza, despite their tensions, are open to indirect talks with Israel. Just as the British and American governments negotiated peace in Northern Ireland by reaching out to IRA terrorists through their political wing of Sinn Fein, we must tame Hamas through politics, not the failed strategy of war.... Hamas must be brought in. Almost 2 million people in Gaza need our support. If we fail to bring in Hamas and create a sustained peace that leads to prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis, then we must prepare for an enemy who is worse: Salafi Jihadis. And with Gaza, the popularity of the Salafi Jihadi message will spread far and wide" 1.Unless and until Israel is willing to destroy the entire Hamas apparatus in Gaza, it has no alternative but to negotiate with Hamas some sort of acceptable settlement. This may be distasteful and even demoralizing for the Israelis, but one cannot gainsay the fact that there does not appear to be any other acceptable solution in sight to the Gaza morass. 1. Edward Husain, "Bring Hamas to the Table". The Council on Foreign Relations. 6 August 2014, in www.cfr.org.