The incursion into Gaza-similarities to 2008-9 Gaza War
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a cease-fire in Gaza and urged Israel and the Palestinians to replace fighting with talking. He called for Israel to exercise “maximum restraint,” to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu replied: “What grievance can we resolve for Hamas? Their grievance is that we exist.”
In that simple truth lay the one seemingly unresolvable dilemma blocking the establishment of a two-state solution and hopes for a lasting peace in the area. Palestinian National Authority’s Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas seems willing to sit down with Israel and knock out a two-state solution, but for the intransigence of Hamas. To be sure there are other splinter groups that would have to be accommodated by Abbas, but Hamas, is, by far, the most significant obstacle.
It should be remembered that today’s events mirror, to a large extent, those of the three week military conflict that began on December 27, 2008 and ended on January 18, 2009. Israel entered Gaza to stop the rocket fire into Israel, estimated to number around three thousand. These were mostly Qassam rockets. In the current crisis, many multiples of that number of rockets have been launched into Israel. Only this time the rockets are both are more powerful and have a wider range. In the 2008-9 conflict, Israel targeted rocket launching sites, weapons storehouses, and military targets. Currently, they have taken military action against those same types of targets, but also have emphasized destroying tunnels dug by Hamas to smuggle forces into Israel. The recent killing of the three Israeli teenagers, which added to the fuel for revenge, are thought to have been facilitated by those tunnels.
Hamas significantly escalated matters when they launched the rockets toward the populous cities of Be’er Sheva, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem. Be’er Sheva had been targeted in the 2008 conflict, and that escalation was part of the reason for Israel’s incursion into Gaza at the time. But Tel Aviv and Jerusalem represented a quantum leap in escalation. Israel’s ”Iron Dome” anti-missile defense system has largely prevented rockets from hitting their targets in those three cities. At this writing, the F.A.A. has ordered the cancellation of all U.S. flights to Ben Gurion Airport, in Lod, which is near Tel Aviv on the road to Jerusalem, because of the landing of rockets nearby. Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesperson hailed the flight cancellations as a “great victory.”
Then, as now, much has been made in the press about the disparity between Gazan casualties and those of Israel. For some it is an attempt to gain support for Hamas by casting it as a David and Goliath situation. But Hamas started this round of conflict, and escalated it to a level that could not be ignored by Israel. It’s difficult to know what would satisfy these observers. Perhaps Israel allowing holes in their Iron Dome missile defense would cause many more casualties, thereby equalizing the number of casualties on both sides—but I would very strongly suspect that this is not in the cards. As Secretary of State John Kerry stated, “Every Nation has the right to defend itself,” and, Israel’s responses have been both “appropriate” and “legitimate.”