Toward a New Gaza Strategy

There is new tension along the Israel-Gaza border. Israel is bombing targets in Gaza; mortar shells and Qassams are flying into southern Israel once again. If  Israel’s massive military assault last year was designed to deter Hamas and/or provide security for the citizens of southern Israel – then it now appears that effort has been for naught.

When will we learn that bombs won’t work?  As so many of us have been shouting for so long, the only true solution to the Gaza conflict is a political solution: to open the border, to provide relief and development assistance, to engage with Hamas directly.

I’m gratified, at least, that the editorial board of Ha’aretz seems to be moving in this direction:

A renewal of rocket fire shows that even a major military operation that brought death and destruction cannot ensure long-term deterrence and calm. Israel has an interest in stopping escalation at the border so as not to find itself caught up in another belligerent confrontation with Hamas …

Instead of erring by invoking the default solution of more force, which does not create long-term security or ease the distress of the Palestinians in Gaza, the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip should be opened and indirect assistance rendered to rebuild its ruins.

Amen. Massive military bombardment and a crushing blockade is not making either side more secure – it is only exacerbating the conflict and ensuring the likelihood we will be reading more tragic news from a small patch of land that has known nothing but tragedy for the past six decades.

PS: Since I wrote this post this morning, I’ve been thinking all day about how I addressed the Gaza conflict as largely a strategic policy issue. If I’m going to be totally honest, however, I’d have to admit that my feelings about this issue go deeper than simply “war doesn’t work.”

I’ve come to accept that at its heart, this conflict is not simply strategy but about justice. To anyone who believes that this latest border issue is about Hamas and its missiles, I’d respond that it is only the latest incarnation of an injustice that was committed against the Palestinian people, long, long before the Qassams started flying.

I’m currently reading Joe Sacco’s devastating graphic-novel style reportage, “Footnotes in Gaza.” I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the tragic history of the Palestinian experience in Gaza.

4 thoughts on “Toward a New Gaza Strategy

  1. It’s not hard to agree. But how to make it happen? Here in our comfort zone we can see possible solutions, but do we have any power to affect the decisions made by others? For me, the greatest dilemma is looking on with my hands tied behind my back.

  2. I have asked this question before and I will ask it again. What possible solution is there that can really solve the problem of the Gaza Strip population other than the “Palestinian Right of Return” which Israel will never agree to?

    • It’s really instructive to look at the language used in such documents as the Clinton Parameters, Geneva Accords, and the Nusseibeh-Ayalon Initiative:

      Clinton Parameters: http://www.peacelobby.org/clinton_parameters.htm

      Geneva Accords: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=351461&contrassID=2&subContrassID=1&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y

      Nusseibeh-Ayalon Initiative: http://www.peacelobby.org/nusseibeh-ayalon_initiative.htm

      While none of these documents represent official agreements — otherwise, we wouldn’t be having this discussion! — they do show that at all levels, and among all the players, there is an understanding that the Palestinian right of return cannot be interpreted broadly. To quote the Nusseibeh-Ayalon Initiative: “Right of return: Recognizing the suffering and the plight of the Palestinian refugees, the international community, Israel, and the Palestinian State will initiate and contribute to an international fund to compensate them. Palestinian refugees will return only to the State of Palestine; Jews will return only to the State of Israel.” Other formulations suggest that Israel will accept “some” refugees, but that the focus will be on compensation and a return of Palestinians to a Palestinian state.

      But today, the minute-to-minute problems in Gaza are so basic, so direct, that before we deal with them — getting food to people, restoring regular access to medical help and electricity, opening the borders on a regular, not random and rare, basis — any conversation about the right to return or, indeed, peace agreements are purely academic. If Israel decides to try, again, to destroy Hamas by military means (a thing they’ve been trying to do unsuccessfully for more than 20 years), it’ll just make all of that worse.

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