What Israel Learned by Taking Risks for Peace

(The Australian) Jeremy Sharon - Two years ago this week, Israel launched a military incursion into Gaza in an operation that marked the breaking point of its patience after having absorbed more than 6,000 rocket and mortar attacks on its towns and cities since withdrawing from Gaza in August 2005. More importantly, the conflict marked for many Israelis the point at which they lost faith in the notion of land for peace. For them, ceding land had led not to peace but simply to more war. At a time when the international community is trying to revive the moribund peace process, primarily by pressuring Israel, it is important this sentiment is taken into account. When considering the manner in which Hizbullah filled the power-vacuum left by Israel in the wake of its withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, the calculation for Israelis became clear. Two territorial withdrawals in five years had significantly and irrevocably damaged their security, and another pull-back, this time from the West Bank, might well be suicidal. The current Israeli insistence on the deployment of Israeli troops on both the western and eastern borders of any future Palestinian state is regarded as of critical importance to Israel's long-term security. This is seen as one of the inviolable lessons of the Gaza withdrawal and the 2008 Gaza conflict. The other lesson Israel learned from the Gaza operation is that the country can in no way rely on the international community to support its right to self-defense. The torrent of condemnations, denunciations, diplomatic attacks and media outrage that was directed at Israel for having the temerity to defend its own citizens culminated with the publication of the Goldstone report that, were it to be enforced, would essentially prevent the Israeli armed forces from protecting its citizens in the future. World leaders such as French President Sarkozy and German Chancellor Merkel talked of the necessity of stopping Hamas from smuggling arms into Gaza. But these and other international actors have failed to prevent Hamas from comprehensively rearming and today this guerilla proxy of Iran possesses more advanced weapons and rockets than it did before the Gaza operation. The lesson for Israel is obvious; it can rely on no one to protect its citizens and stand up for its right to self-defense other than itself. Those who wish to see a Palestinian state established must contend with this accumulated sentiment, because Israelis cannot be expected to trust external forces with their security.

2010-12-29 08:40:37

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