Israeli-Palestinian Situation

Following a week-long aerial bombardment, an intense ground assault on Gazan military installations by Israeli troops is now underway.  The NYT (along with other outlets) is reporting the effective sectioning-off of Gaza, which allows only restricted humanitarian passage between north and south.  Commentary has split along predictable lines, and some people have (rather strangely) asked me what I think.

Frankly, I think Israel’s making a terrible mistake along the two important dimensions involved, security and morality.

The assault, ostensibly targeting Hamas’s capacity for firing rockets into Israel, can’t possibly satisfy Israel’s stated objective of stopping all such attacks.  (Far more likely is that it will prove specifically counter-productive in this regard, engendering more anger and increased rocket attacks; increased both in frequency and intensity.)  It will promote broader support for the Palestinian cause on the Arab street, which will limit the power of (relatively) America- and Israel-friendly governments in nations like Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, while emboldening hostile regimes like Syria and, more importantly, Iran. European and American popular support (and concomitant military and financial support) for Israel will be almost certainly diminished.

From a moral perspective, I simply cannot support the inevitable Palestinian civilian deaths (“collateral damage”) in pursuit of Israel’s objective of limiting what began as sporadic rocket fire.  I also don’t place much stock in the idea of its being necessary for Israel to regain some of the “deterrant” power it supposedly lost in 2006’s botched war with Lebanon.  (This is not, of course, to dismiss or excuse the actions of Hamas, which are, arguably, far worse than anything Israel has done.)

I’m choosing not to address the elephant in the room, politics.  True, the majority of Israelis seem to support this assault, and Israel is a democracy.  (The political timing is unsavory at best, and I would prefer to ignore it.)  Some have objected that any capable nation would respond forcefully to military attacks on its sovereignty, which I don’t doubt.  However, for reasons involving Israel’s unique history and religious foundation, I tend to hold this one small country to a higher standard of conduct than I do most other nations, the United States included.

In a future post, I hope to address what I see as possible ways for Israel and the Palestinians to achieve a peaceful 2-state settlement.

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