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A futile war

Jul 14,2014 - Last updated at Jul 14,2014

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that both Hamas and Israel are hostage to events — caused by the impasse in the peace process — rather than being driven by a strategy to put an end to the conflict. Therefore, the arguments advanced by either the Palestinians or the Israelis are irrelevant. The fact remains that Israel’s current war in Gaza is not the first and will most likely not be the last.

The Israeli government accused Hamas of being behind the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers and Hamas denied having any role in that. To add fuel to the fire, some extremists in Israel brutally murdered a Palestinian boy in Jerusalem thus setting off huge demonstrations in the West Bank. However, we have to internalise that the persistence of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land has been the root cause for the repetition of such attacks.

Israel is taking a huge risk by targeting Hamas in Gaza. A defeat for Hamas means that Gaza may become ungovernable and this will hardly benefit Israel. Now Hamas is facing a dilemma. On one hand, the Islamic group cannot afford to be seen as a player who enforces order in Gaza for Israel, but on the other hand, Islamic Jihad’s behaviour is also a challenge to Hamas’ authority in the coastal enclave. 

Like the previous rounds of fighting between Hamas and Israel, this current one puts a further political strain on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Not long ago, Abbas signed a unity agreement with Hamas and that agreement favoured Fateh. It was an agreement that exhibited the weakness of Hamas in the first place. Now, with the continuation of fighting between Israel and Hamas, Abbas is widely seen as someone who collaborates with the Israelis rather than defending his own people. Hence, the end of the current war may lead to a new balance of powers between Hamas and Fateh and the former may emerge stronger than before.

As in previous confrontations, neither Israel nor Hamas has a list of attainable objectives. For instance, Israel launched air strikes against Hamas hoping that this will restore calm. But as we can see these days, Israel is far from achieving this goal. Indeed, many Israelis are contemplating the idea of sending troops to Gaza. If this takes place, then Israel will risk international condemnation. Also, it is in the best interest of Israel to maintain a weak yet effective Hamas rather than to topple the Islamic group. 

On the other hand, it seems that Hamas did not want this confrontation in the first place; other forces in Gaza have dragged it into the conflict. In war and in peace, players should have measurable and deliverable goals. And yet, neither side has such objectives.

I disagree with many analysts who say that Israel is attacking Gaza as a part of a grand strategy. In fact, Netanyahu had to respond in this way due to internal political dynamics that led to a sort of outbidding by different political players.

The irony is that no one seems to be able to learn from previous lessons. Everyone is talking about the symptoms of the conflict, but they rarely address the root cause of the eruption of these confrontations every now and then. 

The Egyptians may mediate a way out of the current crisis, but who can guarantee that it will not come to the surface again. The only guarantee is to bring an end to the Israeli occupation and help the Palestinians build a democratic state. 

Short of doing this, chances are high that Palestinians will get radicalised, thus creating a different and more lethal challenge. 

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