Monday, January 5, 2009

how not to bring about peace in the Middle East

Some interesting thoughts by Kevin Jon Heller on the proportionality of Israel's invasion of Gaza. This is an excellent critique of Alan Dershowitz's Wall Street Journal editorial that argued that Israel can basically do whatever the hell it wants to.

To me, though, the main issue has always been about utility, rather that proportionality. What does Israel stand to gain from the latest Hamas offensive? Truthfully, not much. Hamas, conversely, could gain a lot, while Mahmoud Abbas could be greatly weakened politically. Abbas is coming to the United Nations tomorrow, and since the US already blocked one Security Council statement on the situation on Saturday, it seems increasingly likely that he'll come to speak at tomorrow's Council meeting and walk away with nothing. Meanwhile, Hamas vows to continue raining down rockets on Israel. Advantage Hamas.

The Arab League -- many of whose members have no love for Hamas -- has been meeting all day in the basement of the UN. But when Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa spoke to the press a few minutes ago, he downplayed every question about Hamas, focusing instead on the bombardment of Gaza by Israel. Here's what Moussa told us (emphasis mine):

Q: What does your resolution propose about Hamas? That's been the sticking point for the last few days here.
Moussa: This is a sticking point to certain parties, and the sticking point for us is what is happening to the civilians and the people with Gaza. If we can deal with all those efforts, all those points, and end the bombardment, and end the presence of the Israeli forces of occupation in Gaza, then we will open the door for a more understanding and a situation that will bring Gaza to a quieter state.

Q: How are you addressing American and British concerns?
Moussa: As you know, the Americans and many delegations of the Council have talked constantly about a balanced resolution. Now it is our turn to insist on a balanced resolution and we'll insist on that. It cannot be to address one party, the Arab party, without seriously and decisively addressing Israel as the occupying power with a lot of obligations, legal obligations, and also what happened to the civilians in Gaza. This is what we see as a balanced resolution.

Q: Then the Americans will surely block the resolution.
Moussa: Well, I hope they will not block the resolution, and we are not here to call for a veto or blocking the resolution. We are here to have a resolution by the Security Council that would help redress the situation in Gaza and save the civilians that are under constant attack by the Israelis.

Q: What can you do to prevail upon Hamas to stop firing rockets at Israel so you have a real chance of getting a sustainable ceasefire?
Moussa: We need to get back to the agreement that was reached under the Egyptian sponsorship, which is a ... truce. But any truce ... depends on the general atmosphere. There is no peace process. There is no progress in peace. There is nothing that we can say, "wait a minute, we are moving towards peace, this is what is needed!" We need to create an atmosphere of peace that would prevent a deterioration of the situation such as the one we have seen and still see in the Gaza strip.

Q: Will you condemn Hamas if you condemn Israel?
Moussa: This resolution, no, no, no, this resolution is not to condemn Hamas but to find a solution of the situation. Now it's not a question of Israel and Hamas. Now it's a question of the people in Gaza who are under constant bombardment with a lot of casualties on the civilian side. This is the point that we have to see. And we have to get back to an atmosphere of truce and serious, serious dealing with the question of peace. Serious dealing of that, not just to enter into a spin after spin after spin on so-called peace process, but a real, true, credible peace process with a time framework.

Q: But if you don't condemn Hamas, how will you have a resolution that is balanced?
Moussa: You have to condemn the bombardment of the civilian population too.

See where this is going? The longer the conflict goes on, and the more civilians are killed, the more popular support Hamas will obtain from the region, just as Hezbollah did in 2006. A militant group doesn't have to win anything to declare victory. It just has to survive, and let its enemy take the blame for the civilian casualties.

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