Israel and Hamas are going to war over Gaza because conflict is in the interest of both camps

The brutal, appalling truth is that a relatively low level of hostilities is tolerable and even politically beneficial to both sides, not least given forthcoming elections

Share

There’s a simple explanation for Israel’s decision to raise the stakes in Gaza. It’s because it can. It has the military superiority. And it knows the act has no consequences, at least in international terms.

President Obama turned aside, saying he quite understood why the Israelis were doing it but hoped they would try and avoid civilian casualties. The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, made clear which side Britain was on, declaring that “Hamas bears principal responsibility for the current crisis.”

Even Egypt, whilst condemning Israel’s air attacks, was cautious in response, whilst there are not a few Palestinians on the West Bank who would quite like to see Hamas receive a drubbing.

The only real consequence was the one we saw yesterday, when three Israelis were killed in a hail of more than 70 rockets fired from Gaza. But then that, too, could suit the purposes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The more the conflict escalates, the harder will be the Israeli response and the more Israel will feel itself a nation assaulted as the Prime Minister goes into a general election in two months’ time.

And so it goes on, as it has done since Israel gave up its occupation of the Gaza strip in 2005. And so it will no doubt keep going on for a long time yet.

It will do so because, for all the pain it inflicts, a relatively low level of hostilities (the number of fatalities on the Israeli side have been pretty small before this latest bout) is tolerable and even politically beneficial to both sides.

War and peace

Given peace, Hamas’s support might well fall among Palestinians desperate for a better future. Given war, they will rally round Hamas as the only organisation able to stand up to Israel and hurt them back.

But then peace is not seen as being in Israel’s interests either. It gave up the occupation of Gaza not because it wanted a viable separate Palestine, but because it knew it couldn’t continue direct occupation of a people whose numbers could overwhelm it. Controlling borders, disrupting trade, assassinating leaders is a form of occupation by other means. Continuous conflict in Gaza helps to ensure that the division between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas gets even deeper and the prospect of any viable Palestinian state gets pushed further and further away.

Unleashing the bombers in a climate of continual and rising rocket attacks on your population is an obvious response of any government facing election. That’s how Israel got propelled into an outright invasion in 2009. But it also has its uses for an administration that is facing increasing isolation within the Arab Spring, the election of a Muslim Brotherhood president in Egypt and a Hamas which has received the support and a visit from the ruler of Qatar.

Success and failure

Whatever else it achieves in the way of extra votes for Netanyahu, an escalation of hostilities at this stage puts the kibosh on any pressure for negotiations over Palestine. President Obama may be sympathetic to the idea of renewed talks, but he is not going to intervene when there is no possibility of success.

For peace to have a chance, you need to have an Israel that wants it and a Palestine united enough to deliver it. There’s not much chance of the former, still less now. There’s even less prospect of a united Palestine able to negotiate.

The one thing that is changing is the international context. When the Palestinians go to the UN at the end of this month to seek observer status, Israel will find it has few friends and even fewer who support it with enthusiasm. Beating up on Gaza won’t help that.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: We are winning the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. It's time to up the ante

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron addresses No campagn supporters in Aberdeen  

Scottish independence: Cameron faces a choice between destroying his country or his party

Matthew Norman
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week