Posted by on July 22, 2014 in Blog

Summer Intern, 2014

The Israelis and Palestinians have entered another vicious cycle of violence in the name of “self-defense”. With over five hundred Palestinians killed and hundreds of rockets landed in Israel, a long-term peace agreement could not be further away. As seen in the past, the military operation in Gaza will strengthen Hamas and the Israeli-right, neither of which is enthusiastic about a two-state solution. Both Hamas and the Israeli–right will amass greater popular support in their respective communities by spreading “self-defense” propaganda.

In Israel’s perspective, Hamas acted aggressively with rocket attacks. In a conventional war, retaliating with force, in this case air strikes and a ground invasion, would give Hamas a high cost for such a behavior because Hamas cannot compete with Israel militarily. We would expect the IDF’s response to eliminate Hamas’ incentive to continue firing rockets. However, the Israel-Palestinian conflict does not resemble a conventional war and force has not given Hamas a strong incentive to abandon rocket attacks during the operations of 2008 and 2012 and will not today.

This is because Gaza has deplorable living conditions with high unemployment, high poverty rates, and dire environmental issues as a result of Egypt and Israel’s comprehensive blockade that restricts the transfer of arms as well as basic civilian goods. Given these dire conditions, the opportunity cost of launching Qassam rockets into southern Israel and facing the risk of retaliatory airstrikes is minimal; submission to the status quo is not much better than further destruction. Hamas was unwilling to accept an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire agreement until the siege on Gaza is lifted and “cannot accept Gaza’s return to the policy of slow death”.

From Hamas’ perspective, this is a struggle to change the status quo in the Gaza Strip. Hamas demands that Israel (and Egypt) allow the opportunity for economic development in Gaza to improve the unsustainably dire living standard for over 1.5 million Gazans.  Many sources claim that Hamas proposed an alternative cease-fire agreement that would ease Gaza’s economic suffocation. Amid the ongoing destruction, Hamas will likely win the hearts and minds of the Gazans and their Palestinian brothers in the West Bank as it has in the past.  Any act of violence toward Israel will be viewed as resistance to the oppressive occupation even if Hamas shows disregard in differentiating between civilian and military targets. While Hamas’ priority to protect its economic and political interests is legitimate, putting civilians at risk will jeopardize its credibility as a potential partner for peace talks and will further fuel Israel’s occupation.

The incumbent Israeli-right is able to capitalize on the Gaza conflict by fooling Israelis that the IDF response is solely within the state’s rights of “self-defense”. Furthermore, hawkish political parties such as Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu would thrive off of a ground operation that will take back full control of Gaza because it gives Israelis a false feeling of security.  In reality, hostilities in Gaza have only angered Hamas and the Palestinians more, and in exchange more rockets have and will strike Israel without regard for targeting civilians.

“Self-defense” for a nation requires an effective cessation of the aggressor’s actions to protect itself. In most cases, it requires a deep understand of the aggressor’s incentives to prevent any future acts of belligerence.  By creating havoc and destruction in Gaza, Israel’s demand for security will not be met while Gazan grievances are not addressed and Hamas’ incentive to target Israelis will continue to be strong. Likewise, Hamas’ demands for territorial integrity will not be respected as long as it continues hostilities towards Israelis.   Every day, the violence continues to polarize Israelis and Palestinians and threatens the possibility of coexistence.

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