Friday, July 18, 2014

Israel vs Hamas 2014 edition

Recently, Israel and Hamas have engaged in conflict yet again. I haven already discussed the history of this conflict in a prior post, so I shall start with the beginning of the most recent one.

 On June 2nd, a unity government between Fatah and Hamas formed, hurting peace efforts and relations with Israel.  On June 12, 3 Israeli teenagers were kidnapped in the West Bank, presumably by a Palestinian. For the next several weeks, Israel searched throughout the West Bank for the teens, arresting several people and increasing tensions in the process. On June 30th, the three were found dead. Netanyahu blamed Hamas, and Fatah stated they were not responsible for the teenagers deaths. A few days later on July 2nd, an apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian teen occurred. Several suspects were arrested as  rioting occurred in Arab villages. At the same time, Hamas began to fire rockets into Israel. By July 7th, over 200 rockets had been fired into Israel. That same day Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, escalating the conflict.

     Israel's anti-missle defense system, in part funded by the U.S., has been about 90% effective. Sirens warn Israelis to take cover, also limiting causualties. In the next several days, Hamas fired rockets into Tel Aviv,  Haifa, and Be'er Sheva, major Israeli cities, as well less populated areas and places near Gaza. On July 8th, Israel called up 40,000 reserve troops in response. Israel also launched airstrikes and navel strikes onto many targets. Many missile and weapon sites have been hit as well as militants. Unfortunately, up to 70% of casualties have been civilian, however this does not appear to be intentional. Efforts have been made to avoid civilian casualties, such as warning shots and warning leaflets. The high civilian casualty rates have hurt Israel's international reputation. On July 9, with 43 Palestinian deaths and over 370 wounded, Palestinian President Abbas declared that Israel was committing genocide. Meanwhile, neither side appeared to be letting down.

         As the death toll continued to climb, and tensions continued to rise, Egypt proposed a ceasefire. On July 15, Israel accepted it, but Hamas rejected it and continued to fire rockets, leading to more airstrikes, more reserve troops being called up, and more deaths. On July 17 there was another temporary ceasefire, but it was again broken by rocket fire from Hamas. That day, with over 1200 rockets launched from Gaza, Israel launched a ground invasion into Gaza. An invasion was  sure to add to the over 230 Palestinian deaths and 1 Israeli death, although Israel with its heavy artillery and armored vehicles, including tanks, is likely to face far fearer deaths. To this day, over 20 Palestinians and one Israeli solider have died in the ground invasion.

      Whatever the result of the ground invasion, the real question lies with how to resolve this conflict for more than a few years. With the peace-process all but dead, the U.S. has little leverage to resolve it. Thus, it must be resolved among the engaged parties. Hamas will still remain belligerent towards Israel and does not appear to have the will to resolve it. Thus Israel is left with three options, none of them good. The first option is to withdrawal from Gaza after damaging Hamas's military, and have a ceasefire. This is what has happened in the past. However, every time Israel does this, Hamas  breaks the ceasefire within a few years, starting the process all over again. This is appears likely to occur again if Israel goes with the option.

      The second option is to forcibly remove Hamas as the government and replace it with the PLO. This has advantages in that the PLO is less hostile to Israel and has not launched attacks on it in several years. However, this is harder then it seems. Keeping Hamas out of power permanently and propping up the PLO would require some military supervision and could need some action against Hamas. Additionally, it runs the risk of the PLO being seen as a proxy government for Israel, which could lead to it being delegitimized or even overthrown and being replaced by another hostile government. Even if this could be accomplished, the PLO is not an ideal government. It is on bad terms with Israel, and may not be able to maintain power. Despite these risks, this is the option I prefer, in part because it reduces the risks of future attacks while minimizing the negative impacts.

     The last option is a full military occupation. This nearly eliminates the risks of future attacks by a government, all but removes the possibly of sophisticated rocket attacks, and could maintain relative order in the area. However, there are several problems with this option. First of all, a full occupation would be expensive, requiring near constant military supervision, and the potential use of force to maintain order. Secondly, a re-occupation would not be good for Israel's international standing, although based on history relations with the U.S.  would not be damaged severely. Thirdly, relations with the PLO would surely be damaged, making keeping order in the West Bank harder. This leads to the last problem, the potential rise of a third intifada. Re-occupation would anger not only the PLO, but the Palestinian people as well. Uprisings in Gaza and the West Bank could occur, causing many casualties for both the Palestinians and for Israel. This could turn much of the international community against Israel. The effects on its economy and moral would be severe.

      Israel and Hamas seem to be engaged in a never ending conflict. Unless either side changes their strategy, expect to be reading about the same thing in a few years.

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