As Israel continues to pound Palestine under its “Pillar of Defence” program questions are being asked as to why this conflict has become one of the most enduring and painful issues in world politics. The genesis of this conflict lies in the aftermath of the World War 2 when the Jews were given a separate homeland by displacing the Palestinians from their traditional homes. Since then the Middle East has become an arena for unending wars with the Arab states locked with Israel in a series of bloody conflicts. Israel with its superior arms and Western World support has always usurped the Arab states but the human costs have been too high.
It is the human costs in the Israel Palestinian war which has caused trouble among citizens around the globe. Yet very often they are not heard .Why –the reason being often the core issues remain unaddressed while people debate on the polemics of the peripheries.
The present round of attacks and counter attacks can be traced back to the 1994 Oslo agreements. Following the Oslo accords the Palestinian Authority was established to govern areas of West Bank on the East and Gaza Strip.It was the charistimatic Yasser Arafat who was at helm of this peace deal and it went a long way in ensuring peace in the Middle East or so the world leaders thought.
After the Accord some areas passed onto the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) hands over series of negotiations and deals; however it lost major areas during the Second Infatida where Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) retook strategic positions. After the Second Infatida the IDF unilaterally moved away from the Gaza Strip leaving it under the complete control of the PA leadership.
Trouble began to brew in 2006 when Hamas won the elections. As soon as Hamas won the elections Israel, the United States, Canada, and the European Union froze all funds to the Palestinian Authority, after Hamas refused to recognize Israel, renounce violence, and to accept the past agreements. These countries viewed Hamas as a terrorist organization.
The core point of Hamas was liberation of Jerusalem an issue on which Israel had a non negotiable position. The world leaders couldn’t effectively deescalate the conflict and bring the Palestinian leadership to the table, instead the world leaders rallied behind a new government under the Fateh leadership. The new Fateh leadership claimed to govern all areas of Palestine in essence its control was limited to the West Bank since the Gaza Strip was effectively under Hamas. Such a situation quickly escalated into a fratricidal war between Hamas and Fatah which further detoriated the condition of Palestine. In 2011 under the aegis of Cairo Hamas and Fatah agreed to form a joint unity government. However within one year situation degraded so much so that for the first time in 2012 Hamas declared that it was considering unilateral independence of the Gaza Strip. So in essence the net result of the fratricidal struggle between Hamas and Fatah is a further division of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people.
Yet it isn’t enough to blame the present crisis solely on the Palestinian leadership. The role of the international community is equally condemnable. In 2007 when Hamas adopted a hardliner stance with regard to Israel the world leaders didn’t get together to work out a peace deal .Instead they began to support the Palestinian Authority of Fatah in a bid to divide the Palestinian movement. What the world leaders have effectively forgotten is such divisive politics always bring more trouble than peace. In being unable to conclusively engage with Hamas and refusing to side Mahmoud Abbas in the UN bid the world leaders have effectively given an image of a party which stands against the expression of the legitimate interests of the Palestinian people.
This brings us to the third party in conflict Israel. Israel has always held the upper hand in the conflicts with the Arab states by virtue of its superior arms and superior technology. The Iron Dome now gives Israel an effective shield against rocket and missile attacks .But under the Benjamin Nethanyahu government Israel seems to have become more hard-line in its approach .Such an approach has not helped the Israel-Palestine conflict .What is needed and expected from the Israeli leadership is an acceptance of the fact that the aspirations of the Palestinian people are legitimate and they are here to stay. Hence they must make efforts to end this conflict conclusively and within a specified time frame. The 2009 Operation Caste lead cast a major shadow on Israel’s image in the Western World. The attack on the civilian Palestinian population during the attacks on Hamas has ended as a bad PR campaign for Israel’s rights. Most of the people in the world don’t accept the fact anymore that Israel is a small state which is fragile and surrounded by hostile states. The world today understands that Israel is strong enough to take care for itself and must engage with the Hamas leadership in a conclusive manner to end the never-ending crisis for one last time.
This brings us to the present crisis which has resulted in the renewed conflict between Israel and Palestine. The key to understanding the increase in rocket attacks this year is the internal rivalry within Hamas. A major distinction has to be made between the Hamas leaders in Gaza and the “politbureau” members who reside in the foreign nations- responsible for Hamas relationship with other countries. The traditional rulers in exile of the Hamas leadership had relations with the Shia leadership of Iran and Syria .This is seeing a rapid new realignment with the home government in Gaza warming up to the Sunni realignment of Turkey and Qatar. Thus we are seeing a strategic shift in the ideological composition and backing of the Hamas leadership.
Also since the PA government is effectively weakening and the PA soldiers are in effect working with the IDF to stop military attacks emancipating from the Gaza Strip ,by renewing the crisis the domestic Hamas leadership will try to gain the ground the PA government in West bank has lost. In trying to stand up to the “tyrannical Zionist state” Hamas hopes to emerge as the true leader of the Palestinian people and torchbearer of the Palestine aspirations for statehood.
Another major thorn in the present crisis is the issue concerning the Fajh-5 rockets. The Hamas leadership at this point seems to be in mood for negotiations but the Israeli government cannot afford to with Hamas possessing arms which can effectively target the heart of Israel. And at this point finding middle ground will be difficult since Hamas would not like to let go of weapons which can strengthen their position vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Israel simply cannot live with Hamas having these weapons in its arsenal.
Yet in the end for this conflict has to come to an end negotiations are the only way out. This is in interest of the people in the Middle East and long lasting peace in the region. Hamas must accept Israel’s right to exist while Israel must accept the Hamas leadership one that might eventually spread its control to the West Bank. The issue has to move beyond the Fajh-5 rockets and address the larger dimensions of the Israeli-Hamas leadership. A three way division would be unfortunate as it would effectively divide the aspirations of the Palestinians many of whom laid down their lives for this cause. So in the end a two nation theory would be the only way forward -a Palestinian state accepting the Israeli state ‘s right to exist and vice versa.