Gaza Risks Becoming a Desert

A Roman general, Gnaeus Julius Agricula, was the author of a lapidary description of Rome’s power, as applied to the destruction of Carthage: “They made it a desert, and they called it peace”. It is a judgment that fits the merciless Israeli bombing of Gaza and the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians, many of them children.

No civilized person would deny that the Gaza strip is in the hands of a terrorist group, Hamas, that is stubbornly unwilling to accept a peace dialogue, but the reality that is more difficult to accept is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows that the presence of Hamas will make it possible to maintain its strategic dominance in the West Bank, and with it the occupation of those territories, while continuing Israeli colonization by expanding settlements without having to agree to the two-state solution.

It has been quite clear indeed that Netanyahu will not make it possible to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state. Lacking a long term political strategy, he will hit hard the militant Hamas until international pressure will bring about a ceasefire to bring the situation back to a perilous status quo ante until the next explosion of hostilities.

The launching of a large number of crude missiles by Hamas has in fact provided the Israeli leader with the justification to reject new peace talks under American guidance that would reflect a new political counterpart in Palestine after the announcement of a Fatah-Hamas coalition. The decision to dump the negotiation was in fact taken before the kidnapping and killing of three young Israelis. The rockets launched from the strip did the rest.

The world looks aghast at the recurring tragedy of the Gaza where a period of relative calm is followed by another conflagration. In turn, the renewed outburst makes it possible for Netanyahu not to come to a negotiated solution of the conflict and to keep the occupied territories.

As long as Israel pounds Gaza to silence Hamas rockets, it avoids a larger destabilization of the Palestinian region. It happens over and over again. Past Israeli operations, that came at regular intervals from June 2006 to November 2012, have not reached the stated objective of obliterating Hamas; in fact, Hamas has grown stronger and its rockets have reached farther. But the collateral damage in Gaza is always the same, in a civilian population where 43 per cent of the inhabitants are less than 14 years old and people barely survive, while unemployment is 50 percent.

The Israeli Navy shells the beach and kills kids who are playing. It should be clear but obviously it is not: there is no military solution to the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The only solution is the end of the Israeli occupation and a final status agreement to end the occupation.

There is no other way. The pro-peace Jewish American organization J Street has passionately reminded us of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s exhortation: Israel must fight terror as if there is no peace process and pursue peace as if there is no terror. Unfortunately, the present prime minister is acting in a way that removes the incentives to a negotiated settlement and, worse still, engenders the anti Arab feelings of many Israelis. The hatred of the Palestinians, now under threat of a massive invasion, is a given. And Gaza seems doomed to become a desert.

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