There is a tendency to condemn Israeli military action as being disproportionate to the attacks it has suffered. Images of helicopters destroying buildings with rockets and tanks leveling barriers hastily erected by stone throwing Palestinians have been seared into the minds of many thanks to the omnipresence of CNN and the 24 hour news networks. The decision in 1948 to create the state of Israel has had one of the longest running effects on world peace in recorded history, and it has been a history filled with wrong doings by both sides. The Palestinians under Hamas have adopted a hard line approach, refusing to accept anything less than a restoration of the status quo prior to the existence of Israel. Israel has refused to abandon settlements to create a continuous Palestinian state in the West Bank, in spite of intense international pressure to do so, and has responded very heavy-handedly to past attacks and threats. Israel’s neighbors have launched surprise attacks and wars of aggression in the past, and many states have sworn to see Israel pushed into the sea. Palestinian’s remain an impoverished people with no homeland and little hope. The result is an extraordinary level of mistrust and mutual hatred that has contributed to more than 60 years of unrest.
However, the Hamas government in Gaza has repeatedly attacked Israel’s defenseless civilians using long range rockets supplied by foreign powers, deliberately attempting to kill or maim non-combatants. Whatever the differences between the two peoples, there is no condoning such actions and Israel is well within its right to remove a known terrorist organization from power when both its words and deeds indicate it is opposed to the continuing existence of Israel. Israel has gone to great lengths to avoid innocent Palestinian casualties, in spite of the deliberate attacks on Israeli innocents. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article which cited an example of Israel giving advance warning a known bomb manufacturing site was going to be bombed, allowing ample time for it to be cleared. Instead of evacuating, Hamas ordered women and babies inside the structure in the hopes of achieving a public relations victory. In light of this information, Israel opted not to bomb the structure. The bottom line is that Hamas has begun this conflict by attacking Israelis, and has expressed no interest in coexisting, therefore they can hardly complain when Israelis protect themselves. The use of Israel’s military is perfectly proportionate – it is not their fault that Hamas lacks helicopter gunships. It is also a proportionate response to remove a terrorist organization from power when they express no desire for peace.
The truce demanded by much of the international community is simply a means of restoring a status quo that has seen terrorists rise to power and attack Israelis, and therefore would honestly not be in the best interests of Israel. If any lasting peace accord is to be reached, it must be accompanied by a firm commitment from an international body of peacekeepers to prevent any attacks by Hamas against Israeli citizens, and it must come with a mandate to use force if necessary. Similarly, it must carry the promise of sanctions should Israel launch aggressive actions against the duly elected government of the Palestinian people. Unless Israel can be guaranteed of its safety, it retains the right, and indeed the obligation, to defend itself against all enemies – no other country would accept anything less, and neither should Israel. Until such time as a serious and credible cease fire agreement is proposed with guaranteed international backing, Israel is right to continue pursuing Hamas in Gaza by any conventional means necessary, so long as it takes reasonable precautions to mitigate damage and civilian casualties.
The Palestinian people must accept the existence of Israel if there is to be a lasting peace. In the long run, a two state solution is really the only viable alternative to the status quo and a shot at real peace in the region. There are many details to be worked out among both sides and it will require concessions by both parties, however the continuation of a senseless, decades old conflict is in neither side’s interests. The past 60 years has seen the promise of complete generations lost and squandered by senseless violence. In a day and age in which people are more interconnected than ever before, it is a real human tragedy that senseless conflict that will ultimately achieve very little should continue, and it is feasible to envision a Palestinian and Israeli state, with a neutral Jerusalem creating a viable, peaceful solution. Until such time as both sides are willing to recognize one another’s legitimacy and cease the attacks on Israeli civilians, it is right to support Israel’s proportioned response to protect itself.
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