Gaza under fire, who cares and what then?
By: Raed Omari
When it comes to writing an op-ed, one is mostly required to apply critical thinking, rather than to allow streams of highly emotive language to gush out. But in the case of the besieged Gaza Strip, this changes. Gaza is now under relentless and intensified bombardment by the Israeli military machine, one can’t help but be highly disturbed, especially with the frequent scenes of the torn bodies of children removed from under the debris of their homes, not military commands, destroyed by Israel’s F-16s.
Amid the large-scale suffering in Gaza, the U.N. Security Council has failed to adopt a draft resolution, condemning the military conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and calling for an immediate halt to the escalation from both sides because of a veto by the U.S. which rejected the text as it “failed to address the root cause” of the conflict. Not to bring to light here the widely-held image about the U.S. as always favoring Israel, I wonder why Washington has not worded a balanced resolution itself that can oblige Israel and Hamas to reach an immediate ceasefire? Why is the U.S. procrastinating at the time where a minute’s delay could mean more casualties in Gaza? Why is humane compassion totally absent from the Security Council’s proceedings, even though it is supposed to be the guardian of humanity?
However, let’s put aside this sentimental argument and focus more on the political implications behind the Israeli escalation in Gaza.
What supposedly ignited the military offensive was the abduction and killing of three Israeli settlers in the West Bank to be followed by the revenge killing of Palestinian teen Mohammad Abukhdair in Jerusalem by Jewish settlers. But all those killings and revenge killings were committed in the West Bank, then why is Israel punishing Gaza? Why is Israel punishing civilians?
Bombing Gaza now helps the Israelis escape any further peace obligations imposed by the United States
The abductions and killings from both sides constituted a “must-be-sized opportunity” for Israel to clip Hamas’ power and sabotage the Fatah-Hamas unity government it has rejected, before the deal’s ink ran dry.
With the story of Abukhdair being burnt alive igniting criticism of the Israeli settlers’ brutality, Israel could not help but divert the world’s attention to its “defense war” in the Gaza strip to deflect the growing criticism to its unilateral policies. The telephone call Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made with the father of the slain Palestinian teen to offer his condolences was part of this criticism-alleviating bid. The telephone call would have been well-received and a lot appreciated if not followed by the Gaza.
Bombing Gaza now helps the Israelis escape any further peace obligations imposed by the United States, which never turns down and always respects any Israeli security demands. Israel has declared its war on Gaza with the purpose of weakening the military capabilities of Hamas and depriving the Islamist movement of its short-range missile arsenal that Tel Aviv claims to be posing a serious security threat to its stability and, at times, existence.
Instead of welcoming Hamas’ engagement in the Fateh-led peace negotiations, Israel is forcing the Islamist movement to keep clinging to its violent resistance approach that can’t be eliminated as long as there is airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. For Israel, now is the best time now to destroy Hamas’ missile arsenal or push the Islamist group to use up its small-range rocket stockpile, fully assured of the impossibility of any further missile supplies coming through the destroyed smuggling tunnels from the Egyptian side.
However, this strategy does not help. Hamas has improved its missile industry and most of the rockets fired on Israel are homegrown versions and can be manufactured at any time. Plus, most of the weapons the Gaza fighters carry are bought from Israel either from the Israeli soldiers themselves or from the black market in Israel. Additionally, if the Israeli military operations really succeed in eliminating the military capabilities of Hamas in Gaza, how would it deal with the group’s members and supporters in the West Bank. What would Israel do if Hamas orders its members in the West Bank to launch suicide attacks inside the Israeli cities?
Israel’s escalation in Gaza is politically meant to impose a new reality on the ground, similar to the demographic realities imposed by settlement expansion in the West Bank. Israel envisions a comprehensive peace deal that involves Jordan when it comes to the West Bank and Egypt when it comes to Gaza. But Amman and Cairo have nothing to offer the Israelis more than what they offered in the peace deals they have previously signed. Plus, for Jordan and Egypt, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state is an irreversible demand that lies at the heart of their strategic interests.
The reality on the ground for the Israelis is the following: More than 1.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and more than 2 million in Gaza, neither can be ignored nor can their aspiration of statehood be abolished by large-scale military operations.
The military operation in Gaza will end with no strategic goals achieved except for the killing of more Palestinians and destroying more homes and infrastructure, exactly as similar Israeli operations have ended in the past.
It is up to Israel to realize these facts and act accordingly, or it can continue acting with the same “fortress mentality” that yields nothing but more isolation and insecurity within an anti-Israeli Arab region that once offered full normalization in exchange for an independent Palestinian state. There is nothing more to offer.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via email@example.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2