Sami Abdel-Shafi: Israel puts security before peace

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The Independent Online

The international community must find a way to deal with Israel's continued belligerence and outright audacity in bombing the life out of Gaza. It is virtually meaningless when the Israeli government states that it is not deliberately targeting civilians in its air raids after having condemned them to a desperate and morbid humanitarian crisis.

Even the Middle East Quartet – of the UN, EU, US and Russia – will not have fully functioned until its representatives have come here. It is a moral requirement that they witness how Gaza has for so long been engineered into a hell on earth.

On 4 November, more than a month before the stated end of the truce, the Israeli army's incursion into Gaza drew renewed rocket fire and signalled the end of the ceasefire. Israel's Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, then offered Gaza two unfair choices. It would either be a dehumanising siege with bombs and rockets or a dehumanising siege with trickles of supplies under a ceasefire. These two scenarios clearly produce no benefit for ordinary people.

I often feel guilt that the plight of Gaza has received significant attention when other impoverished spots have not. Palestine possesses the infrastructure for a decent life. But that is simply short-circuited by Israel and aided by the international community's reluctance to challenge it.

The positive aspects of the British Government's practical measures to express its condemnation of continued Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank must be acknowledged. Its encouragement of Arab states to more effectively support reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is only fair. Likewise, US President-elect Barack Obama could feasibly use Washington's power to get the Quartet to engage with Gaza's plight, to see how Israel is manipulating vital supplies and to witness the devastating consequences first hand.

As Israel is hyperactive in punishing Gaza, it is also intent on convincing the world of its interest in peace. But it is pursuing not only a strategy of fruitless negotiating, but more dangerously – one of diluting initiatives so that they become unbinding and worthless. Israel's repeated sacrificing of peace for its security must be stopped before any credible peace plan for the Middle East can be implemented. Distractions – be they an extension of the truce with Hamas or the tragic military operations – are just that: distractions.

Sami Abdel-Shafi is co-founder and senior partner at Emerge Consulting Group, a management consultancy in Gaza City