Tuesday, December 30, 2008
And the Fighting Continues in the Middle East
War Over Gaza
By ETHAN BRONNER and TAGHREED EL-KHODARY
Published: December 30, 2008
Israel must defend itself. And Hamas must bear responsibility for ending a six-month cease-fire this month with a barrage of rocket attacks into Israeli territory. Still we fear that Israel’s response — devastating airstrikes that represent the largest military operation in Gaza since 1967 — is unlikely to weaken the militant Palestinian group substantially or move things any closer to what all Israelis and all Palestinians need: a durable peace agreement and a two-state solution.
Israel must make every effort to limit civilian casualties. Hamas’s leaders, especially those safely ensconced in Damascus, are unconcerned about their people’s suffering — and masters at capitalizing on it.
Before the conflict spins out of control, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries will have to find ways to cajole or more likely threaten Hamas (or its patrons in Syria and Iran) to accept a new cease-fire.
President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice should be pressing Cairo and Riyadh to use all of their influence with Hamas, and they should be pressing Israel to exercise restraint.
By Monday, some 350 Palestinians — mostly Hamas security forces — were reported killed. A Hamas security compound was among dozens of structures pummeled in the attacks, and the group’s leaders were supposedly driven into hiding. The Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, promised a “war to the bitter end.”
We hope he does not mean a ground war. That, or any prolonged military action, would be disastrous for Israel and lead to wider regional instability. Mr. Barak and Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, both candidates to succeed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in elections set for February, must not be drawn any further into a competition with the front-runner, Benjamin Netanyahu, over who is the biggest hawk.
There can be no justification for Hamas’s attacks or its virulent rejectionism. But others must also take responsibility for the current mess. Hamas never fully observed the cease-fire that went into effect on June 19 and Israel never really lived up to its commitment to ease its punishing embargo on Gaza. When the cease-fire ran out, no one, including the Bush administration, made a serious effort to get it extended.
Meanwhile, the peace process Mr. Bush launched with such fanfare in Annapolis last year is moribund. There is plenty of blame to go around for that, too. Mr. Olmert’s government failed to halt settlements and give the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas — Hamas’s sworn enemy — the support he needed. Mr. Bush refused to press Mr. Olmert to do what was needed but politically unpalatable. Arab leaders never did enough to boost Mr. Abbas, or to persuade or pressure Hamas to cut its ties with Iran and join peace efforts.
Ms. Rice once hoped to make a Middle East peace her legacy. It is too late for that. But she should do her job. That means getting on a plane for Cairo and Riyadh — now — to enlist their help in brokering a new cease-fire. Then it will be up to President-elect Barack Obama to quickly pick up the pieces and fashion a Middle East peace strategy that may actually bring peace.
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Alan Davidson is the author of the Free report
"Body Breakthroughs for Life Breakthroughs: How to Peak Your Physical, Emotional, Mental, Moral, and Spiritual IQs for a Sensational Life"
available at www.throughyourbody.com
Alan is also the author of Body Brilliance:
Mastering Your Five Vital Intelligences (IQs)