Israel has not convincingly explained why it needed to launch a full-scale attack on Gaza but the one thing we can be sure about is that it had little to do with rocket attacks from Hamas. It may be significant that elections are approaching in Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saw this as a good opportunity to shore up the right-wing base. Having already been contained from taking military action against Iran by US President Barack Obama and domestic pressure at home, the ultra-hawkish Netanyahu may have seen this as the only attack he could order. He may also have been trying to test the new Egyptian leader, Mohammed Morsi, who has yet to abandon his country’s peace treaty with Israel despite sentiment in the country urging him to do so.
Whatever the reason behind the attack, there can be no doubt that Israel has overreacted and deserves to be condemned vocally. Just how brazen the Israelis have been can be gauged by the fact that they released the video of the targeted assassination of Hamas Chief of Staff Ahmed al-Jabari and the Israel Defence Forces live-tweeted the attack as if it was a sporting event. Peace in the Middle East, at a time when many Arab countries are embroiled in internal struggles, has taken a further hit with Israel’s disproportionate response. Just how brutal this military action will be was rammed home by the death of a BBC reporter’s 11-month-old child, another victim of a senseless war.
As much blame as Israel deserves for this unilateral action, let’s not forget that Hamas is also worthy of criticism. It should know by now that it cannot militarily defeat Israel and so needs to make peace with its neighbour. The rocket attacks it frequently launches into Israel may not have resulted in the same number of civilian casualties as Israel’s response did, but it does leave Israel’s citizens in a state of fear, increasing the possibility of war. Hamas has now been in power long enough to realise that guerilla tactics do not work.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2012.