Thursday, July 10, 2014

Israelis, Palestinians escalate their blood feud

In an escalating cycle of revenge, Palestinian militants rained rockets deep into Israel this week as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directed his military to “intensify even further” its airstrike assault on Gaza. The deadly confrontation was sparked by the discovery last week of three murdered Israeli kidnapping victims, and then a Palestinian teen killed by Israelis in an apparent revenge attack. When Israel responded to the murdered teens by attacking Hamas targets in Gaza, Palestinians launched a new wave of rocket attacks that struck deeper into Israel than ever before. This week two rockets hit Jerusalem, the first time Palestinian rockets have reached the city, and at least one was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile-defense system over Tel Aviv. Netanyahu warned that Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, would “pay a heavy price for firing at Israeli citizens.”

As part of its offensive, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” the Israeli military called up 40,000 army reservists, deployed tanks and armor to the border, and launched airstrikes on more than 450 targets in Gaza, killing 50 people. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose government agreed to a unity deal with Hamas earlier this year, called on the international community to help “stop the escalation.” A spokesman for Netanyahu refused to rule out a full ground invasion of Gaza to destroy Hamas’s leadership and military capabilities, saying, “We don’t want to have some sort of band-aid solution.”

What the editorials said

Since withdrawing from Gaza in 2005, Israel has already been forced to go to war twice to “stop a rain of rockets and mortars fired from the territory,” said The Wall Street Journal. This time, Netanyahu should address the root of the problem, not just treat the symptoms. Minor incursions haven’t worked; what’s needed is a “land campaign that destroys Hamas’s ability to wage war.”

The U.S. needs to use its influence to de-escalate this conflict, said The Washington Post. The Obama administration stepped away from the region in May after its failed peace talks, but “the last thing the United States—or the Middle East—needs is the eruption of another war.” What’s worrying is “the extent to which this conflict has moved from the political to the personal,” said The Baltimore Sun. The central issues used to be borders and the right to statehood. But with hate-filled extremists on both sides killing teenagers in grisly revenge attacks, it is turning into a “blood feud.”

What the columnists said

This could be the start of “a third intifada,” said Jonathan Freedland in Like the last Palestinian uprising in 2000, this outburst of violence follows “the very public failure of a peace process” that left a dangerous diplomatic vacuum. This should be a lesson for “would-be peacemakers, especially in the U.S.” Sometimes, forcing two warring factions to engage in fruitless talks “does not send you back to square one; it sends you back several steps further.”

The Palestinians are to blame for this mess, said Jonathan Tobin in Hamas knows full well that the world will treat the teenage murders as “canceling each other out”—ignoring the fact that while Israelis largely condemned the revenge killing and arrested suspects, Palestinians openly celebrated the death of Israeli kidnapping victims. But Israel is overreacting, said William Saletan in The government’s crackdown in Gaza—ruthlessly punishing the many for the crimes of the few—is the same “mentality at the heart of terrorism.” When you have Israeli warplanes flattening homes and summarily executing the families of Hamas militants, it’s inevitable that Palestinians will also justify “collective punishment” of Israelis.

Israel cannot win in Gaza, said former Mideast negotiator Aaron Miller in To truly uproot Hamas, Israel would have to undertake “not only a ground invasion but reoccupation”—a price Netanyahu finds too steep to pay. And when this latest conflict dies down, the U.S. will undoubtedly try to revive peace talks, no matter how dismal the prospects. All sides remain trapped in the reality that the two-state solution “is just too hard to implement, and yet too important to abandon.”
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