Hard Truths About the Gaza Conflict

[Washington Post] Robert J. Lieber - Despite the tragic deaths of civilians, Israeli's airstrikes have been precisely aimed at Hamas fighters, installations and rocket launchers. From initial figures announced by UN personnel, it appears that more than 80% of those killed were Hamas security personnel or other militants - a ratio that might compare favorably with the use of force by U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. In view of Hamas' practice of deliberately placing missile launchers and other weapons in the midst of densely populated areas, the precision is remarkable. What we are witnessing is not a "cycle" of violence. The IDF airstrikes are a reaction to the unrelenting rocket and mortar attacks against the Jewish state. The expanding range of Palestinian rockets now covers an area populated by as many as 700,000 Israelis. Israel and Hamas have profoundly different aims. Israel has accepted the principle of a two-state solution as the basis for ending the conflict. Hamas, by contrast, rejects this. Any realistic hope of progress toward a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a successful two-state solution requires that Hamas suffer a severe setback in ways that seriously damage its capabilities and weaken its political credibility among Palestinians. Leading officials of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority know this. Ultimately, peace will be possible only if most Palestinians and their leaders become convinced that terrorism and violence are a dead end and that they cannot under any circumstances prevail over Israel through the use of force. If today's conflict leaves a seriously weakened and politically damaged Hamas, that result is more likely to enhance the prospects for peace than to weaken them. The writer is a professor of government and international affairs at Georgetown University.

2009-01-01 06:00:00

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