Israel's brutal assault on Gaza only thwarts international efforts to forge a durable peace

Share
Related Topics

How much further can the Middle East spin away from peace? In the past four days, Israeli forces have killed more than 40 Palestinians in one of the biggest and most brutal operations in Gaza for years. Tanks and helicopter gunships have been deployed in an unusual, and deadly, show of force.

How much further can the Middle East spin away from peace? In the past four days, Israeli forces have killed more than 40 Palestinians in one of the biggest and most brutal operations in Gaza for years. Tanks and helicopter gunships have been deployed in an unusual, and deadly, show of force.

There should be no mystery about why Israel is acting as ruthlessly as it is in Gaza. The prime minister, Ariel Sharon, wants to pursue his plan for a unilateral withdrawal from select areas of the occupied territories as the first stage of enforcing peace on his terms. He has been unable to convince a majority of his Likud Party to support him, not because they opposed his unilateral approach, but because they feared he was giving too much away.

The assaults in Gaza are intended to destroy anyone and anything that could possibly be construed as a threat to Israel's security. Israeli officials have defended the raids in Rafah as targeting arms smugglers and the network of tunnels they allegedly use to bring weapons to Palestinian militants from Egypt. The objective is a neutralised Gaza that will pose no threat to Israel when its troops withdraw. The corollary is that there will be no question of any withdrawal unless that objective is achieved. If it is, we can be sure that the same tactics will be applied to those parts of the West Bank from which Mr Sharon says Israel will withdraw.

The lack of mystery about Israel's intentions, however, does not make what it is doing any more acceptable. Perhaps the only positive feature of recent days has been the extent and volume of the international outcry. Minds have not yet been so dulled by revelations about American mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq that they ignore brutality and injustice elsewhere. Nor have Israel's attempts to justify its conduct by citing the international war on terrorism carried conviction. Just how universally unacceptable Israel's conduct has been in Gaza became apparent on Wednesday when the United States chose for once to abstain rather than use its customary veto against a vote of censure in the Security Council.

As the White House said in a statement, Israel's actions in Gaza do not serve the purpose of peace and security, either in Israel or in the wider region. The massive use of force against protesters in Gaza is alienating a whole new generation. Blocking tunnels may interrupt arms smuggling, but it will do nothing to stem the resentment of those who live in the occupied territories, nor will it make a Palestinian Gaza into a stable and peaceable neighbour. Pacification by force does not work, as the occupation forces are learning every day in Iraq.

There are currently two plans for Middle East peace that have broad international support. There is the road-map, endorsed by the Quartet of the US, the UN, Russia and the EU, then there is the less official, but widely hailed, Geneva Accord, which was signed last year by leading Israeli and Palestinian representatives of civil society.

Yet Mr Sharon has given up on the first - blaming Palestinian intransigence and the lack of any Palestinian leader to negotiate with - and ignored the second, preferring to champion his own plan instead. The Sharon plan, which recently received President Bush's barely qualified stamp of approval, goes back on undertakings given to the Palestinians in successive UN resolutions and would effectively nullify all international peace efforts. It would produce an Israeli state whose security was guaranteed by self-imposed isolation. It would be a state behind walls and fences, which would exist alongside a Palestinian state in geography only. There would be no normal relations between two sovereign countries, and no realistic prospect of any developing. The promised state of Palestine would have been emasculated before it had even been born.

The only settlement that has any chance of enduring is one that requires Israel to play by international rules and carries international endorsement. The wilful defiance shown by Mr Sharon in Gaza makes such a settlement a more remote prospect than ever.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Pokot woman holds a razor blade after performing a circumcision on four girls  

The campaigns to end FGM are a welcomed step, but they don't go far enough

Charlotte Rachael Proudman
Our political system is fragmented, with disillusioned voters looking to the margins for satisfaction  

Politics of hope needed to avert flight to margins

Liam Fox
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game