Pay attention to Gaza
Talk of an Israeli invasion may be premature – but then again, maybe not
There is talk again of an invasion of Gaza after the Islamist nihilists who run it fired another volley of rockets at Israel. We should pay close attention, because the situation in Gaza is indeed insane, and the Israeli government, whose domestic situation is tenuous, is desperate to change the narrative. It’s not a recipe for calm.
Palestinian media is abuzz today after a “senior Israeli official” (often code for the prime minister) told an Israeli TV station closely affiliated with the right-wing government that in light of the latest rockets (which caused no fatalities, as they usually don’t), an invasion is “only a matter of time.”
It is easy to understand Israeli dissatisfaction with the situation in Gaza, and it would be even easier to understand Palestinian dissatisfaction with it, if the people of Gaza were free to speak. The situation can be summed up as follows:
Israel pulled all soldiers and settlers out of Gaza in 2005, belying lazy claims that it is still “occupied.” The Hamas militant group kicked out the relatively moderate Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas a year later.
Gaza has thus been ruled since then by Islamic fundamentalists who have banned alcohol and imposed strict observance of fanatical dress codes on women and so forth — as they do. They are also sworn to Israel’s destruction and see no problem with firing rockets at it in reaction to various things (like the recent days’ death of a Palestinian hunger striker in Israeli prison.
It doesn’t take a cynic to notice that Hamas is cavalier about Israel’s sometimes deadly counterstrikes, and to even conclude it actually seeks this outcome because a terrorist organization will always thrive on chaos, violence and hatred.
Consequently Israel blockades Gaza from the air and sea, and with the help of Egypt (which borders Gaza to the south) by land. Import of goods and movement of people are tightly and sometimes cruelly controlled. It has impoverished an already poor place, fueling black markets, crime and corruption, mainly by the authorities.
Since 2006 there have been about a half-dozen mini-wars, mostly short and contained. But two of them, in the winter of 2009-10 and the summer of 2014, cost thousands of Palestinian lives. They generally end the same: a lull in the rocket fire, promises to ease access and some aid for “reconstruction.”
It is obviously a very bad situation, and it is easy to see why simpletons and populists would argue that something must be done. An invasion of Gaza is a thing. Therefore, must it be done?
It is appealing to many to contemplate a massive use of force to move in, disarm Hamas (and its mini-me for plausible deniability operations, Palestinian Islamic Jihad), and hand the strip back to the Palestinian Authority. By all accounts this will cost not only thousands of innocent Palestinian lives – for the militants can be expected to hide among the hostage population – but hundreds of Israeli soldiers.
Is it the least bad option, which sadly is all Israel and the Palestinians can reasonably hope for? Let the reader decide.
I can think of some other possibilities.
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