The war in Gaza is over, except for the recriminations and Monday morning quarterbacking.
- Did Israel have the right to start this fight? I think so. In fact I don’t think they started this fight at all. Hamas resumed intense rocket attacks and Israel responded.
- Did Israel force Hamas to attack with their border closings? It seems hard for me to understand how the border closings hurt Hamas and the people of Gaza. The closings did not seem to stop the flow of rockets and ammunition into Gaza. The same tunnels used to rearm Hamas could have been used to bring in needed supplies. That they chose to use them for arms smuggling and not to help the people is the terrorist way.
- Did too many civilians get hurt? Yes.
- Was that Israel’s fault? Some may turn out to be Israel’s fault. There were even some friendly fire deaths early on in the war. I think it is also clear that Hamas used civilians as human shields. I also believe that in the coming days we will see that the entire number of deaths claimed by Hamas is inflated and the real numbers are much less. Any civilian death is a tragedy for the family and for both countries. Israel did not purposely attack civilians. Hamas rockets were not targeting military installations. They targeted cities and towns in southern Israel.
- Did Israel achieve anything with this war? That is a question for diplomats. We will see how the future will shape up as both sides now try to get the most from this war.
I have to admit that I never seem to understand the Palestinian side of their relationship with Israel. If the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results, then the leaders of Hamas certainly seem to be unbalanced. There was a disconnect this time in Hamas between the leadership hiding in Damascus and those on the ground in Gaza. Damascus wanted to fight on, but those in Gaza had enough. I think there will be a more practical ceasefire between Hamas and Israel this time and Hamas has lost a lot in this war. Fatah, their rivals, will patrol the Rafah crossing. Europeans will patrol the border looking for violations of the ceasefire, meaning smuggling tunnels. The United States will provide Egypt with technology to help them find and destroy future tunnels and those civilians who were used as human shields will take a long time to trust Hamas again. Hamas understands that they had no support from other Arab countries (except maybe Iran) and even Hezbollah, who does Iran’s dirty work, did not intervene to help Hamas.
But Israel also has not come away unscathed. For now, the rockets have stopped and that makes Israeli life easier. But as Gaza is opened to the flow of goods and services, Israel will wonder how much the EU will really intervene and stop the flow of ammunition and rockets into Gaza. Great Britain and the United States are talking about interdicting the arms as they leave Iran, but we will see how that will work out. Egypt has a problem with the Bedouins. They make a good living smuggling in the desert and they can respond with their own acts of terror (the Sharm el Sheik hotel bombings) if their livelihood is disrupted. It is unlikely Egypt will take on the Bedouins anytime soon. Gaza is not secure from terrorism and the only alternative is for Israel to take over Gaza again. It is not a very good choice for Israel.
In my opinion Israel needs to start its own counter insurgency program. Instead of fighting the Palestinians, they need to work to improve their lot, in Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza. Arab sections of Israel are second class to the nearby Jewish neighborhoods. Investing in Israel’s Arabs may be the way to start a new relationship with those we usually consider enemies. If Israel’s Arabs had a greater stake in Israel’s economic growth, perhaps they would cut the Jewish State a break.
One thing is certain; war will not bring a lasting peace to this part of the world. It will take the patient work of dedicated diplomats to create a framework for peace and there has to be willing parties on both sides, to stop acts of incitement that undermine whatever progress has been made. War may get the attention, but behind the scenes, it is quiet diplomacy that will bring about the changes needed to resolve the tough differences that still exist between Israeli and Palestinian.
May the two sides make peace and not war.