“The tragic scenario rarely varies much. Makeshift Palestinian rockets fly out of Gaza and Israel’s guided missiles and artillery shells rain in. The Israeli government vows to eradicate Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the teeming Gaza Strip. Hamas and its allies beat their breasts and vow eternal resistance. Hundreds of Palestinians, mainly civilians, die, until an international outcry calls a halt to the killing. Mediators manage to tweak the rules of engagement, and both sides reload for the next time. It is a desolate picture.
“Reaction to this conflict, the third in the past five years, has been muted. Syria’s savage civil war, the springboard for the lightning seizure by jihadis of swathes of Iraq, eclipses what for many looks like a new episode in a wearisomely familiar feud. That is short-sighted”.
A brief account of the background follows, recounting that the current conflict follows the kidnap and killing last month of three Jewish seminary students which Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s premier attributed to Hamas. It surmises that individuals from the powerful Qawasmeh clan in Hebron – with a record as spoilers of previous ceasefires – were responsible for the atrocity which was intended to break off the unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah.
A lose-lose situation
Hamas is described as being hemmed in and isolated; it refused to support Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian conflict and lost its ally in Egypt, Mohamed Morsi. Israeli policy has left it discredited as its land is eaten away by construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem. The editorial forecasts that Israel, in tacit alliance with Egypt, will now try to break Hamas, at a cost of many more lives.
The editorial concludes that Israel’s reputation in the world is eroding – a profound understatement – and that it is an illusion to think this country can remain ‘an oasis of peace and prosperity in a region on fire’, while the Palestinians have no prospect of a viable state of their own. Its advice:
“In this particular conflict, international actors need to mobilise countries such as Turkey and Qatar that have leverage with Hamas, and may persuade them of the ruinous futility of their rocket attacks.
“Ultimately, that should mean engagement with a Fatah-Hamas coalition government, conditional on an end to violence and a meaningful negotiating framework”.