Somewhere in Tel Aviv right now there are a couple of dozen Israelis excitedly preparing for a New Years' bash that sadly will be their last. Likewise in Gaza or the West Bank there are a couple hundred Palestinians that are huddling with their families, dodging Israeli missile attacks, but only temporarily because they are inevitable statistics destined to die.
How do I know?
Not because I am privy to any inside information or intelligence, but because I am simply a student of history and sadly confident that the failed leadership on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will do what they always do.
Let me guess: Hamas will react to Israel's vicious missile attacks that have already killed hundreds by ordering a string of suicide attacks that will rip apart dozens of Israeli families. In turn, Israel will respond with even more massive aerial attacks that we are seeing now, leveling entire sections of the occupied territories, further insuring that we are looking at at least another decade with no basic infrastructure in the Palestinian homeland. We know what that means - low employment, fertile recruiting grounds for Islamic militants, and a glorious shithole for the Arab world to point toward as they galvanize another generation of angry impressionable youth to terrorize the West.
Here's my take for what it's worth. Will President Obama radically shift US foreign policy toward Israel, threaten to hold back aid, and force Israel to soften its militancy? Don't count on it.
Should Israel be blamed for these attacks when they forewarned the Palestinians that they would come if Hamas did not cease the rocket attacks they have been launching (to no meaningful affect) for the last few weeks? Yes, they should. Not a single Israeli was seriously hurt by the irritating rocket attacks. Murdering a few hundred Arabs does not seem to be an equitable response. Just because you can does not mean you should. It is not okay to kill children that have no dog in this fight and then just shrug your collective shoulders and say it was not intended. It's disgusting. Alas, since when has the state of Israel really cared about garnering criticism from the rest of the world?
Meanwhile there is Hamas, who knew exactly what Israel's response would be to their quarrelsome rocket attacks and yet continued to goad Israel with them. In other words, Hamas - which continues to have unprecedented support amongst the Palestinian people - has no problems sacrificing those same innocent children they claim to be protecting. It's even more disgusting than the Israelis gutless attacks.
So while Israel and the Palestinians continue to indulge in the same violence and viciousness that they have aimed at each other for the last few decades, the rest of us will have to pay. Why? Because so much of the Arab world has become so skilled at exploiting the Palestinians and using their struggle against Israel to justify their disgusting and callous terrorist attacks around the world. Think of the unfathomable wealth in places like Saudi and the Emirates and Dubai. Been to any of the above recently? Seen the new multi-billion dollar resorts that are creeping up and crowding the skylines in their respective cities? These same places where today so many are enraged by the murder and mayhem in Gaza, how come they have not pumped some of those billions into construction and economic growth in Gaza or the West Bank? The only real long-term solution to this conflict is a sustainable economy and self-sufficiency within the Palestinian lands such that there is an alternative to just joining the hate-fest against Israel. And that can only come about with investment in infrastructure and education. Of course, that would mean the Palestinians may actually improve their condition and in doing so not make for the perfect straw man they have come to represent for the militant Islamic world. Even more disgusting.
More than anything, it seems that the Arab world needs to produce it's version of Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi that can smartly and gracefully lead their people to a dignified future. They can't and shouldn't rely on Israel to back off, let alone concede. Alternatively if that means more Arafats and Osamas, more Hezbollahs and Hamas's, expect an endless war in pursuit of an elusive peace.
Gotham Chopra regularly blogs at www.intent.com