Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Confused Policy

An article in today's Ha'aretz begins:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday rejected Hamas' offer of a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, saying the government would not hold talks with the Islamist group until it recognizes Israel.

Olmert's comments came as three Qassam rockets fired by Palestinian militants struck the western Negev, causing no damage or injuries.

So how does the Israeli government hope to stop the Qassam attacks on Sderot and the surrounding area? Military measures have not worked for years now. An economic blockade isn't working either. And no-one serious believes a total peace deal can be worked out with Abbas either, given that Israel is unwilling to put a stop to, let alone roll back, settlement activity in the West Bank.

Israeli policy towards Hamas (and Abbas too for that matter) is hopelessly confused. They still dream of a total military victory: an unconditional Palestinian surrender ala the allies defeat of Germany and Japan in WWII. But the history of the last 30 years has proven that this cannot happen. It is a pipe dream.

On the other hand, Israel refuses to take the far reaching steps that might - just might, I should add - strengthen the hands of moderate Palestinians enough to undercut popular support Hamas and its allies.

And finally, when Hamas itself shows signs of moderation, offering a long term cease fire - an armistice in fact, similar to that worked out between Israel and its neighbours in 1949 - Israel turns that down too.

It seems that the Israeli government (and the people too, I fear) have gotten used to the "low level" ongoing conflict. Of course Palestinians suffer much more from it than Israelis. The government would rather take a chance on escalation than peace. It would rather be self righteous, than save lives. It would rather war where they can blame the other guy, than peace where they must compromise.

Not so different from how we usually think of Hamas.

(After posting the above, I came across this article by Uzi Benziman that makes a similar point.)

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