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

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?