I’m far from an expert on the history and foreign policy of the Middle East but have been doing a lot of research lately regarding what is going on with the most current conflict between Hamas and the Israel. I am going to chronicle the most recent events in the region, comment on them, and follow up with an idea on how to achieve peace in the region.
The Gaza Strip has its own democratically elected government. In 2006 they elected the group of Hamas to power. There was some struggle of power from the previous party to Hamas till Hamas through force took control in mid 2007. Since before Hamas and during Hamas’ time in power there have been rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Hamas, as a political party has the annihilation of Israel as part of its platform.
During the last year and a half Israel has had an embargo on the Gaza Strip allowing in limited necessary supplies in reaction to Hamas taking power in the Gaza Strip. Then about 7 months ago they negotiated a ceasefire in which Hamas was to stop firing rockets at Israel and Israel was to ease restrictions on there embargo on Hamas. In the year prior to the cease fire approximately 12 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel per a day. During the ceasefire approximately 2 rockets were fired daily from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. This is a reduction of over 80%, but is still not perfect. Israel however during this time did not ease their embargo of the Gaza Strip at all.
In November of 2008 the ceasefire ended and rockets were still being fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. On December 26th, 2008 Israel began an air campaign targeting Hamas in the Gaza Strip. To date there have been over 360 casualties in the Gaza Strip. Some foreign aid to the region has been denied. Government buildings in the Gaza Strip have been targeted. I have come across two goals by the Israelis in regards to this conflict, first to stop the rockets being fired into Israel and two to remove Hamas from power.What’s wrong with this picture?
The most glaring issue I see in this is that Israel has taken military action against a sovereign nation because it does not agree with it’s democratically elected leaders. Democracy should not be beholden to the will of foreigners, but only the governed. Israel has restricted and in many cases stopped other nations from being able to trade with the Gaza Strip. This is and has taken a toll on the civilian population in the area. The rights of the people of the Gaza Strip have been denied by the Israelis.
This is not to say the people of the Gaza Strip are completely innocent either. The embargo is justifiable due to the number of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip to Israel. However this was not the reason the Israelis chose for the embargo. Regardless the embargo was successful in bringing about a ceasefire between the Gaza Strip and Israel. For a 6 month period of time the government of Hamas reduced its negative impact on Israel by 80% per the ceasefire. Israel however did not reduce the negative impact it’s embargo was having on the Gaza Strip. In this situation it seems as if Hamas has made an honest effort to live up to its end of the bargain (what government has complete control over the actions of its entire people anyway?) while Israel didn’t change their stance against Hamas since the embargo began. I do not understand how Israel can believe that by continuing their act of war against Hamas they expected complete compliance.
Sure it can be argued that Hamas did not meet it’s goal of the agreement and thus Israel should not have given up any ground to them. However, as a measure of good faith and cooperation if Israel had eased their embargo but not ended it as Hamas reduced the number of rocket attacks it could have built some trust between the two. Thus at the end of the agreement the two could have extended it with the intention of further reducing rocket attacks on Israel and reducing and eventually removing the embargo on the Gaza Strip.
So what ended up happening was Hamas and the people of the Gaza Strip saw that they were working towards their end of the ceasefire and Israel was not doing their half. Thus they fell into the only solution they know, violence. When the ceasefire ended rockets were again fired like before the ceasefire. Israel then responded with its current air strike against the Gaza Strip. As we can see, violence results in more violence.
So now we are where we are. The Israelis are pissed at Hamas for shooting rockets at them and Hamas is pissed with Israeli for bombing them. Resentment and anger is going to continue to build up between the two parties and make it harder and harder for them to come to an agreement. Any political capital that had been built up during the mildly successful ceasefire has now all but obliterated by Israel’s air strikes.Where do we go from here?
First and foremost hostilities must immediately cease. Unless one nation completely annihilates the other this conflict won’t make things better, it will actually make them worse. Then as humanitarian groups and the UN coordinate peace efforts Israel must extend the olive branch to the people of the Gaza Strip by giving some sort of indirect aid to the region (money, supplies, etc.).
The next step will be for each group to recognize the other as a legitimate and sovereign nation. Once this is done a new ceasefire should be brokered. Israel must agree to immediately reduce the embargo on the Gaza Strip letting all supplies necessary for life through (food, clothing, energy) while Hamas must start by immediately reducing the number or rocket attacks directed towards Israel to numbers during the previous ceasefire (approximately 2 rockets a day). As Hamas continues to reduce the number or rocket attacks (the action) Israel will reduce its embargo (the reaction).
The average person in both countries will see that as the ceasefire progresses and both sides come closer to meeting their agreement that peace is much preferable to war. As they are the ones who are impacted the most by the conflict through death and destruction they will continue to call for further peace negotiations from their elected leaders. This will hopefully reduce if not eliminate conflict between Hamas and Israel.