The Danger of Invading Gaza

  • 10 June 2008

Despite repeated threats to invade Gaza since Hamas' takeover of the strip a year ago, the prospects of the invasion seem to be higher because of the rivalry to succeed Olmert, expectations of early elections in Israel, and the Prime Minister's own attempts to keep his job following accusations of corruption. Such a potentiality will lead to an explosion of the situation in Gaza but will not serve Israel's interests. Invading the strip means the takeover of an area of 360 square kilometers surrounded by a security fence and a number of settlements and bordered by the sea from the west and Egypt from the south. The objective, according to Israeli authorities, is the destruction of a "terrorist" structure, as they call it, headed by HAMAS. In reality, the victims will be one and half million Palestinians who will be threatened by death, arrest, siege, partition of cities, and possibly curfews. Incidentally, 85% of Gaza inhabitants are refugees living in eight camps scattered along the length of the strip.

Israel knows that great difficulties face its dream of "purifying" Gaza. If the Israeli political scene has allowed for the return of the Gaza invasion idea, it cannot be solely responsible for its resurgence. This Israeli threat raises questions about its timing when attempts are afoot to achieve reconciliation between Fatah and HAMAS, something Tel Aviv wishes would not happen since its interest is in a continuation of Palestinian divisions. Israel would also like to kill talk of a peace process on the Palestinian track at a time of pressures from Washington in the Bush Administration's last months in office. An invasion would first thwart reconciliation and, second, divert attention from the peace settlement because it would instead be directed to the victims of the invasion and Palestinian suffering.

Indeed, it was the danger of the impending invasion, in general, and its timing, in particular, that prompted Israel's strategic ally the United States to object to the action. Sean MacCormack, spokesman of the Department of State's, expressed the American position by saying that the US "believes in Israel's right to defend itself…but only as it relates to self- and border defense and the defense of its people. But it should be clear that Israel's actions might have an effect on the current peace process." He also explained that support for HAMAS will weaken if a peace settlement is reached.

Israel is intentionally being irrational. Stopping rocket attacks cannot be achieved with invasions but by participating in a real peace process that returns occupied Arab territories, establishes an independent Palestinian state, and repatriates refugees according to international legitimacy. What should happen is an Israeli acceptance of the truce upon which Palestinian factions agreed in a fashion that facilitates the right atmosphere for a re-launching of the peace process. The threat of invading Gaza should also prompt Palestinian parties to overcome their differences and begin a comprehensive national reconciliation process that would fashion a new national project capable of liberating the land and establishing the independent state.