Sunday 3 August 2014

Gaza: Moving forward

Prime real estate: If Gazans want it enough

What I find especially perverse and particularly sad about the war Hamas is waging, is that Gaza very much has the potential to be a resort of choice on the Med. They are sitting on a potential goldmine that could make for a very prosperous life for all Palestinians, but they would rather provoke death and destruction. It is well within their power, but choose otherwise. It's sad because a thriving economy is more likely to bring down the walls than rockets, but they would seemingly prefer to teach their children to hate.

But it really doesn't help that Israel is giving them plenty reason to. We are nearly 70 years on from the creation of Israel. It exists and that is not going to change, but hatreds that should be long forgotten are kept alive by these clumsy, disproportionate and careless military assaults on a people held captive in more ways than one. Any child wondering why they live in squalor and rubble need only look upward to the flights of F15s to see why - and that is what they will teach their children.

It's starting to look like neither side has any real interest in peace. The ongoing military operation has moved far beyond what we might call self-defence. When you see 2000lb GBU10s falling on apartment blocks, it starts to look a little like a herding operation. These are the tactics of a nation that has gone to all out war. And for what? What will it serve?

Will it bring peace? Will it bring security? Will it stop the rockets? Will it end Hamas, Will it end the hatred? No on all counts. It may bring a period of relative peace while Hamas restocks and digs out the tunnels but all that is being done here is the creation of a humanitarian crisis. For sure the IDF provides supplies and field hospitals but that's a bit like offering an Elastoplast to someone you just stabbed. Moreover, it is done not for any genuine concern for life, but as a propaganda tool.

What this intervention will do is create more orphans, more hatred, more pain, more anger, more rubble and more disease - and that can only mean one thing: more war. Bombardment to break the enemy's spirit did not work during the Blitz, it did not work in Dresden and it won't work here.

It comes down to whether Israel is more concerned for peace than petty revenge. Were tactics shifted to a policy of containment, and Israel were disciplined enough not to react, eventually Gazans would realise who is actually holding them back. Hamas. It is not good enough to say "If the rockets stop, then so will the airstrikes". It has not worked thus far and it is not going to.

Hamas are now expert at playing the victim card, and the world is happy to let them. Meanwhile Israel gives them everything they need by filling our screens with pictures of huge explosions and dead babies. Peace has never looked so remote. At this point you really do have to ask, is Israel so stupid as to give its enemy what it wants, or is Israel getting something out of this too? One can only speculate.

Yes. John Kerry IS that stupid.
Ultimately this war will only end if Gazans collectively decide that it must, by throwing out Hamas, ruthlessly punishing those launching rockets and mortars, and showing Israel that it is ready to talk - with demands that can be taken seriously. Palestinian demands thus far are deliberately unrealistic. Superficially they may seem plausible to the more gullible, but the subtext is always the same: the destruction of Israel.

Were their demands more along the lines of security assistance and economic development to become a first world seaside resort, with a positive vision for the future, then there would be a way forward. Right of return is an impossibility, and as for reversing the last hundred years of history, well, fuhgeddaboudit! But these are talking points. The reality is that Hamas does not want peace. It doesn't even want to create a state of Palestine. It wants to eradicate the Jews. That's really not much of a starting point for any negotiations.

It comes down to a basic choice. Does Gaza want yet more war or does it want to be a prosperous city by the sea: a popular tourist destination, brimming with Western tourists with fat wallets? Those are the only two options on the table.

But Israel needs to make room for that to happen. It cannot happen if every few years the entire might of the IDF is brought down upon the people of Gaza. It can't happen while Gazans permit Hamas to launch rockets, and certainly not while the IDF keeps lobbing artillery at children. Until both sides put away their weapons, both sides get the neighbours they deserve.

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