Burying bad news: The cynicism – and brutality – of Israel’s invasion of Gaza

 

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With the eyes of the world on the catastrophe in Ukraine, the Israeli armed forces have kicked off the latest episode in a 66-year-old conflict whose resolution seems further away than ever.

Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza, which began on Thursday night, is part of the fourth such mini-war in the past decade. Having withdrawn from the densely populated Palestinian enclave in 2005, Israel sent its troops back in 2006 and 2008. In 2012, the offensive was confined to bombing. In each case, the reason was the same: to halt rocket attacks over the border by Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza and refuses to accept the existence of a Jewish state.

Each time, the sequence of events is utterly, depressingly predictable. Israel responds, inflicting far greater casualties than it suffers. (The current “score” of the 2014 hostilities is 260 Palestinian dead compared with only two Israelis.) As international accusations of Israeli overreaction multiply, a ceasefire eventually happens, either declared unilaterally by Jerusalem or brokered by a third party, most probably Egypt and/or the US. In the meantime, some Hamas leaders will be killed, and some rocket launch sites and tunnels from Gaza into Israel will be destroyed.

But in reality, nothing is likely to change. More arms will flow into Gaza; new Hamas leaders will emerge, and fresh tunnels will be dug. One day rockets will be fired again, and again Israel will feel compelled to act. All the while, as the root causes of the conflict remain untackled, the prospects of a final settlement grow ever dimmer.

The new fighting may well lead to a new Palestinian intifada, while Israel, protected by its barrier wall from potential terrorist attacks and by its Iron Dome anti-missile system from Hamas rockets, seems less interested than ever in a two-state deal. Far from worrying about the Palestinians, it now simply ignores them, pressing ahead with its settlements on territory that would be part of any future Palestinian state. Compared to all this, the crisis in Ukraine is positively simple.

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