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Jared Levy Headshot

Israel Treading a Familiar Path in Gaza

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It seems that Israel is at risk of falling into a familiar trap in Gaza. Subsequent to the 2006 Israeli campaign in Lebanon, Hezbollah quickly rearmed to a level exceeding their pre-war capabilities. Additionally, Hezbollah gained a number of concessions from the western friendly Siniora government thereby strengthening their domestic political position. There is reason to believe that a similar phenomenon could occur with Hamas in Gaza as a result of the path Israel is treading in the current military campaign.

Hamas, like Hezbollah, doesn't shoot rockets from civilian neighborhoods, mosques and UN buildings to deter an Israeli response. They do it precisely because they know Israel most certainly will respond with deadly force. Hamas wants dead Palestinian civilians. It's essential to their strategy. As the dead civilians pile up, it becomes increasingly difficult for regimes in Egypt, Jordan, and even Saudi Arabia to speak ill of Hamas. None of the aforementioned countries view Hamas and their principle sponsors, Iran and Syria, kindly. However, as the death toll mounts it becomes increasingly difficult for western friendly voices in the Arab world to do anything but condemn the disproportionate Israeli aggression. Likewise, every account of Israeli attacks on UN buildings or personal represents a media victory for Hamas. It farther turns international public opinion against the Israeli operation and increases western pressure for a quick cease-fire, something the Israeli government insists it does not want. We're left with the current Israeli leaders echoing the stubborn words of Yitzhak Shamir. In essence, that issues of Israeli national security are of not the business of the international community.

Israel is currently pursuing a strategy that will likely fail to realize their objectives. Even if the current offensive succeeds in temporarily halting rocket fire while Hamas regroups, it may well farther entrench Hamas as the political power in Gaza. If Israel is genuinely interested in pursuing negotiations with an eye towards a two state solution, the first step is the end of Hamas rule in Gaza. A democratic election is the best, if not only way for that to occur. History has proven that collective punishment is not an effective method of eroding Palestinian political bases, and the current war in Gaza will not be an exception. Killing a large number of Palestinian civilians plays into the hand of Hamas, and marginalizes moderate voices in the Palestinian Authority who can't very well march into Gaza following the tread paths of Israeli tanks.

Do Israeli politicians not see this? Are they too stubborn to pursue another track? Do they fear that advocating a significant alteration of Israeli policy would be political suicide? Probably all of the above. While Israel has long held that there is no viable negotiating partner on the Palestinian side, so it seems that there is no Charles de Gaulle on the Israeli side. A politician capable of transcending domestic opposition and wending a different path as de Gaulle did when he extricated France from Algeria 46 years ago. Whatever the reason, the Israeli political arena has yet to produce a politician capable of adequately addressing Israel's share of the responsibility for the cyclical violence that plagues Israel's relationship with the Palestinians.