The Israeli war against Gaza surprises not by the fact that it is taking place, but rather by how suddenly it is taking place. A truce was in place and an agreement on mechanism to consolidate it seemed at hand when suddenly a well-planned war ended the truce. Unless of course Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was anxious to provoke Hamas into giving him an excuse to prove to the Israeli electorate how tough he can be in the protection of Israeli citizens. He stands practically unchallenged in the forthcoming Israeli elections. Netanyahu seems to have chosen the best possible time for his new war: Washington is preoccupied with the sex scandals involving two of its top military generals; Obama is out of the country and there is no risk of him being against the planned Israeli assault. The timing is also right with regard to the forthcoming Israeli elections. A quick war that demonstrates Israel’s military might; the efficacy of the anti-missile defence battery (of which Iran would assuredly take notice.) is theoretically useful.
Indeed, Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who mediated negotiations between Israel and Hamas, told US Public Radio news programme Democracy Now that Israel broke an informal ceasefire when it carried out its extra-judicial assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmad Jabari in an airstrike, only hours after he received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel.
The ostentatious display of Israeli military prowess in assassinating Jabari and in the pinpoint accuracy of the destruction of Hamas public infrastructures maybe a boastful exercise of self-congratulation. It may be also a message to Iran about what the Israeli air force (with almost 800 warplanes) is capable of doing. Whatever this may mean, it is inarguably evidence of the gross inequality of the parties.
If this proves anything, it proves that should there be serious peace negotiations for the resolution of the Palestine conflict, it is the Palestinians who should be worried about their security and peace of mind not the other way around. It is the Palestinians who should demand guarantees for the inviolability of their territories and peace and security of their people.
Ironically, the current framework for the so-called peace process is driven by the Israelis’ insistence on tangible security guarantees, which erode the principle of state sovereignty. For example, the Israeli leaders, especially the current prime minister, insist that in any final peace settlement, the state of Palestine would be demilitarised. They also insist on some control over the Jordan Valley. Surprisingly, the Palestinian leaders, according to Palestinian documents leaked to Wikileaks, seemed ready to concede these and other attributes of sovereignty. Still, the Israeli leaders asked for more concessions.
Thus, the Israeli leaders’ insistence on security guarantees that vitiate statehood of its substance, and their demand for sweeping concessions, suggest they are not interested in a sovereign Palestinian state equal before the law and entitled to independence and peaceful coexistence.
What exactly does Prime Minister Netanyahu want?
At a press conference last Wednesday, the Israeli Minister of Defence, Ehud Barak, declared that the goals of operation Pillar of Defence “are strengthening Israel’s deterrence, crippling the rocket-firing capacity, striking a painful blow to Hamas and the terrorist organizations…”
However, this is hardly different from the goals of operation Cast Lead of (December 27, 2008; January 18, 2009). For three weeks, Israel unleashed its military fury on Gaza. In a frenzy of violence, the Israeli army relentlessly destroyed infrastructures, bombed civilian targets and engaged in tactics that the UN report described as war crimes. If with all the instruments of violence at their disposal and with no challenge to their control of the space and the sea; and no match to their land firepower, if with all that and they still came short and three years later they have to go back again. It is as if the Israeli leaders simply refused to learn the lessons of their invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and again in 2006; and their war against Gaza 2009.
If there was one lesson that should have been learned by the Israeli leaders, let it be this: You can destroy homes and kill people, but you cannot kill an idea whose time has come. And the idea here is Palestinian nationalism. In other words, Palestinian legitimate aspirations to independence and self-determination.
The long and continuing denial of the Palestinian people’s right to independence while demolishing their homes, expropriating their land and constantly building new colonies in their territories is an outrage condemned by the international community including the US.
With regard to the Palestine conflict, it seems to me, Israel has three basic problems which the assault on Gaza will not solve:
(1) Israeli leaders refuse to acknowledge that the Zionist project has been only partially successful: It established a Jewish state in Palestine, but failed to bring in all the Jews. There are more Jews living outside Israel than those living in Israel.
(2) Israel’s democratic governance is undermined by its ideology. If Zionism means a Jewish state for the Jewish people, then Israel is not the state of its citizens, who include a substantial Arab minority. Therefore Israel cannot be Jewish and democratic and this explains discriminatory practices against the Palestinians, both in Israel and in the occupied territories.
(3) Israeli leaders are acutely aware that they wrestled Palestine from its inhabitants by force, because it goes without saying that no people would give up their country to another people in order to live in exile and refugee camps. The Israelis, therefore, are terrified at the idea that should the Palestinians one day be able to take back Palestine by force, they would readily do it. They believe, therefore, that the only guarantee for their continued existence in the region is not peace agreements, but military might and regional hegemony.
However, the Arab Spring created a new environment of democracy. If the elimination of Gaza was not possible under Hosni Mubarak, who collaborated with Israel, it is even less possible now.
Repeated military assaults on the captive people of Gaza is not only shameful, it is also demonstrably ineffective.
Adel Safty is distinguished visiting professor and special adviser to the rector at the Siberian Academy of Public Administration, Russia. His book, Might Over Right, is endorsed by Noam Chomsky and published in England by Garnet, 2009.