In what may become one of the best developments in the Middle East in the last few years, it looks as if (tentatively) that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Egypt’s Morsi Government, Hamas and Israel have reached a deal that would stop the conflict in Southern Israel. Part of this deal would see Hamas put an end to rocket fire over their border into Israel, which by and large would be a positive revolution beyond words, and would finally give Israel what it demands, which should also open the door to further discussions on enhancing the quality of life for those living in Gaza.
As stated in my most recent piece on the rocket war playing out over the Holy Land, targeted air strikes, high price-tag Iron Dome C-RAM defense systems, ground offensives and the like are a poor solution to a problem that can really only be solved politically, that problem being Hamas’s constant firing of unguided rockets into Israeli population centers and the degrading quality of life for the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. Although the military measures Israel has taken to suppress the rocket attacks will undoubtedly weaken Hamas’s arsenal and command and control apparatus, these gains will only be temporary, and considering Hamas has thousands of rockets, while Israel is struggling to keep its Iron Dome system stocked with incredibly expensive Tamir interceptors, this whole conflict will continue as a costly stalemate without a real solution or end in sight. Furthermore, a ground offensive may have further weakened Hamas’s ability to launch rockets but it would also polarize the citizens of Gaza further against Israel and toward Hamas, including the Palestinian youth that has a potential to change things for the better years down the line, while enraging the Arab street and inviting escalation of the conflict from outside entities and countries.
Still, many would say that enacting a lasting cease fire with Hamas’s rocketeers is impossible and that the organizations itself is to fractured to adhere to a single treaty or diplomatic agreement. This may be true, but if Hamas’s political wing actually orders a stop to rocket firing and attempts to police that ruling to a reasonable degree, this would be a massive step in the right direction. The issue is what will Israel do when the inevitable happens and even a single rocket lifts off from Gaza once again? In the age of Iron Dome such a threat should be somewhat impotent and mitigated during its flight. With this in mind, it will be key for Israel to be tolerant of such outlying actions, not just for a cease fire to hold but for any chance at reaching a larger peace to be possible. Some will say that is lunacy, that Israel should immediate strike back after any attempt against its security is made. I understand this viewpoint but I do not agree with it in the least. If Israel truly wants the rockets attacks to end, then it must drop the bravado and come to the negotiating table with an open mind while being prepared to display reasonable tolerance when it comes to non-sanctioned attacks. The tit for tat never ending string of violence is an unsustainable and losing strategy when it comes to Israel’s ability to exist and prosper in the future. Further, it distracts from the larger existential threats they face such as a nuclear armed Iran or a Hezbollah armed with chemical weapons looted from Syrian stockpiles.
The truth is that if the Morsi Government actually played ball with the US and Israel in facilitating a cease fire during this incredibly volatile situation, such an act would be a game changer and would set a positive precedent for the region in the post-Arab Spring geo-political environment. Many will say it is a ruse or that there must be hidden agendas behind the Muslim Brotherhood’s actions. That may be so, but I believe in actions over words, and if this deal is legit, and proves to have been made with the best of intentions, than it is a great opportunity to expand such efforts in the future. With this in mind, all parties must not only practice restraint but also use this momentum to immedietly sit down at the bargaining table to figure our long term solutions to the litany of problems that face all the parties involved. The US should demand this, using its billions in aid that is distributed to everyone at the table yearly for leverage if needed. These talks do not have to be grand peace accords or a road-map for a single state solution. Start small and concentrate on the mutually beneficial issues and go from there. You have to break the ice somehow and a small demonstration of potential compromise is ideal place to do so. Such negotiations will be without a doubt extremely challenging and at times highly volatile, but the alternative is not just destructive, it is unsustainable and virtually insane….