Photo: AFP
Destruction in Gaza. Can negotiations produce more benefits for more Palestinians than war?
Photo: AFP

Gaza: How we got here and what next?

Op-ed: Any post Gaza reconstruction is going to highlight the pursuit of a fake justice for a virtual Palestine, or alternatively generate concrete opportunities for the next generation's future.

Despite the conviction in Israel that its military actions against Hamas in Gaza are justified, the notion that this third Gaza war in the past six years has been a consequence of the failure to conclude a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority is widely accepted across the globe.



For Palestinians, the argument continues, there is no choice but resistance and confrontation since diplomacy and non-violence have not ended the occupation. For that reason, many Palestinians claim that Hamas is fighting not simply to lift the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip but also to give them their freedom.


The claim resonates broadly with the international community. Even as they recognize Israel's right to defend its citizens, many political heads of state also emphasize that the Jewish state must adopt policies that offer Palestinians hope for the future.


Let us stipulate that the Oslo peace process has failed to fulfill the expectations of the Palestinians for a state with Jerusalem as its capital and recognition of what has been adopted as the nation's sacred right of return. But has the peace process been totally without positive consequences for Palestinians who live on the West Bank?


Palestinian institutions operate in cities; schools, colleges, and universities provide education for the population, security forces guarantee some measure of stability widening the ambit for economic growth.


All of this is less than ideal, but is it not better than the alternative circumstances in Gaza where the population has been held hostage to the political Islamist agenda of Hamas and its promise of liberation through perpetual war against Israel?


For the question is not whether resistance hurts Israel – it does – or whether constant confrontation reminds the world of what is widely regarded as an illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, but rather whether negotiations, in the context of a commitment to peaceful co-existence can produce more benefits for more Palestinians than war, always presented as the only alternative.


Given Israel's military capacity, the insistence on resistance and violence causes far more suffering for Palestinians than for the citizens of the Jewish state. Even the Iron Dome system that offers Israelis a shield against rockets helps save Palestinian lives as well by foreclosing the need for the kind of bombing Israel would be forced to unleash to protect its citizens.


Diplomacy may not fulfill all Palestinian ambitions, but doesn't war totally and continuously dispossess them of life, property, and a reasonable standard of living.


Further, isn’t it time to put aside refugee status in favor of actual citizenship and to stop allowing UN agencies specifically, UNRWA to perpetuate Palestinian refugeeness for generations?


Despite admiration in the country for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conduct of the operation, many experts have preferred to place blame on him for the outbreak of violence rather than accord him credit for responding to it responsibly.


Netanyahu's failure to meet the Palestinians conditions on settlements made Mahmoud Abbas and/or work with the so-called unity government endorsed by Hamas and the PLO inevitably, pundits insist, left a Hamas, deprived of the financing they expected, with no choice but to issue a call to arms and attack Israel on land, sea, air and even from under the ground.


Moreover, it is argued that because Netanyahu pursued policies that subverted the power of President Abbas, he can no longer realistically expect him to possess the capacity to rule over a Gaza devastated by war.


But it is important to remember that the unity government created by Abbas would have allowed Hamas to keep its weapons and presumably its power to decide when to deploy them. Hamas hoped to turn Gaza and perhaps, even the West Bank, into a kind of Lebanon where Hezbollah has veto power over policies without full responsibility for governance.


But the past three weeks of fighting have dramatically changed the circumstances in Gaza. A very weakened Hamas and an Egypt that insists on preventing arms deliveries can enable the PA to exercise control over all factions and begin to build Gaza above and not below the ground.


Any post Gaza reconstruction is once again going to highlight the ongoing Palestinian dilemma that is the pursuit of a fake justice for a virtual Palestine, or alternatively generate concrete opportunities that can be secured for the next generation that could have a future.


Donna Robinson Divine is Morningstar Family Professor of Jewish Studies and Government, emerita Smith College, and Asaf Romirowsky is the executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and co-author of "Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief."


פרסום ראשון: 08.15.14, 22:07
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