Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Same Old Thing

On Monday, Qassam rockets fired from Gaza killed Faina Slutzker of the Israeli town of Sderot, and seriously wounded two others. Despite almost daily rocket fire from Gaza into Israel over the last several months this is the first Israeli civilian fatality. To be sure, there have been wounded, and there has been property damage, and life in Sderot has been unbearably tense. But this is the first fatality.

Israeli public opinion is enraged. The mood is, "We can't take it any more! Do something!" Defense Minister Pertez, a resident and former mayor of Sderot, promises to hit the Palestinians hard. The right wing opposition parties call for the army to re-occupy Gaza, and for a change of policy orientation that will "let the army win". The army for its part, seems hesitant to undertake a full scale invasion, citing the heavy military causalities that can be expected in "going alley to alley, house to house" looking for "terrorists". So they propose more targeted assassinations, "precision" air strikes, and tactical raids by ground forces.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose !

Don't they all realize that there is no military solution? Israel’s recent prolonged invasion of the northern Gaza Strip has led to some 400 Palestinian fatalities, of which more than half have been noncombatants, including some 70 children; five Israeli soldiers have also been killed, and now one civilian. (And no one is counting the wounded!) In spite of this cost in human life, in spite of the destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure, in spite of the blockade that has left Gazans hungry and without medicine – Qassam rockets continue to fall on southern Israel.

"But we left Gaza, why do the bastards continue to shoot?"

From the Palestinian perspective we left only 20% of the occupied territories. We still actively occupy the West Bank, and of course we never did allow freedom of passage in and out of Gaza. From the Palestinian perspective, Israel only gives concessions when pushed. The first Intifada got them Oslo, the second, our withdrawal from Gaza. And from the Palestinian perspective, they are offering both the carrot and the stick - both factions. Hamas is offering a 20 year armistice (Hudna) for withdrawal from all the occupied territories and the release of all prisoners. Fatah is offering full peace, for full withdrawal from the occupied territories, the release of all prisoners, and a "just solution" to the Palestinian refugee problem.

But Israel refuses to entertain any diplomatic moves that might lead to a political settlement.

Of course, it needn't accept the Palestinians terms as offered, but it refuses to even enter into negotiations! The same with the Syrian offer to negotiate peace in return for the Golan. Israel is sure this offer is a trick, it is insincere - so why bother talking. The same with the "Saudi Initiative" - backed by all Arab states - which promises full recognition and peace with Israel if it withdraws from all the territories occupied in 1967, and solves the right of return. We refuse to even discuss it!

And now the same with the initiative proposed today by Spain - based on five components: an immediate cease-fire, formation of a national unity government by the Palestinians that can gain international recognition, an exchange of prisoners - including the Israel Defense Forces soldiers whose kidnapping sparked the war in Lebanon and fighting in Gaza this summer - talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and an international mission in Gaza to monitor a cease-fire. Perhaps this will not work. But Israel refuses to try. It is "unacceptable" according to Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. The PA, for its part, welcomed the Spanish initiative.

So what does the Israeli government propose instead. How will it achieve peace. Or, more prosaically and immediately, how will it protect its own citizens in Sderot and Ashkelon? By continuing to do more of the same old thing. And that will only bring more of the same old results!

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