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
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - North West

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - South West

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator - IT - Fixed Term, Part Time

£17340 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Come and join one of the UK's leading ca...

Recruitment Genius: Property Sales Consultant - Chinese Speaking - OTE £70,000

£18000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity for a Fluent Chines...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Refugees try to cross the border from Greece into Macedonia, near Gevgelija, on Wednesday. The town sits on the ‘Balkan corridor’ used by refugees, mostly from Syria, to travel from Turkey to Hungary, the gateway to the EU  

The UK response to the plight of Syrian refugees is a national embarrassment

Kevin Watkins
The provincial capital of Idlib, Syria, which fell to al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra last week  

'I was sure I’d be raped or killed. I was terrified': My life as a gay Syrian refugee who had to flee Isis

Subhi Nahas
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent