Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire in the Gaza Strip which is already broken. There was a proposal that Israeli and Palestinian delegations will travel to Cairo, at the invitation of Egypt, to attempt to reach a “durable” ceasefire. Israel has made it clear that it is unlikely to pull out its troops or accept a lasting cease-fire before all of Hamas tunnel network is destroyed. The tunnels, through which Hamas militants have attempted to infiltrate Israel, are the biggest concern for Israeli state as claimed by Israel itself and have been a key stumbling block in previous attempts at a cease-fire. Underscoring the obstacles to ending the war, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed before the truce announcement to destroy the tunnel networks “with or without a cease-fire,” as the Israeli military called up an additional 16,000 reservists to bolster its offensive in Gaza and restock its ammunition. Hamas also believes it has the upper hand because its fighters have exacted a huge toll, by Israel’s standards, on the Jewish state’s soldiers and citizens. Hamas wants its core demands met before it can agree to a durable truce. That includes Israel and Egypt lifting an economic blockade of Gaza, the opening of border crossings and the release of hundreds of Hamas members held in Israeli jails. It also wants Israeli forces to withdraw from Gaza. These expectations are unlikely to be entertained by the Israel.
Israel says it is fighting terror trying to halt rocket attacks by Hamas, the strongest force in the Gaza strip, and destroy tunnels through which Hamas fighters can raid Israel. But civilians and civilian infrastructure have borne the brunt of Israeli operations. Palestine’s health ministry lists some over 1,400 dead since start of the war, of whom four-fifths are civilians one-fifth of these are children. Palestine’s only power station has been destroyed, as have more than 4,000 homes, some with families inside. Fifty-six Israeli soldiers’ three Israeli civilians and a Thai have also been killed. Hamas’s rockets continue to fly, though in smaller numbers. Looking at adamant attitude of both sides a durable ceasefire seems highly unlikely. But as this conflict goes on Israel should also worry about its international image which is being affected day by day. As the toll from the war in Gaza rises, its echoes are rumbling in Europe’s streets. With growing anti-Israel protest in major European cities. A global poll in and about several countries, conducted for the BBC long before the latest strife in Gaza, reported that negative views of Israel’s influence in the world outweighed positive ones by more than two to one. In aggregate, Americans saw Israel favorably Europeans did not. But plenty of Americans worry about Israel’s reputation. Barack Obama has fretted about his country’s “limited” ability to manage the “international fallout” were a Palestinian state no longer within reach.
Many European retailers have labelled and sometimes stopped importing products made in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which Israel has held since winning the war of 1967. “Tesco: We’ve axed fruit from Israel,” ran a headline about the British supermarket chain in the Irish Sun on July 27th, referring only to harvests from the occupied Jordan Valley. Others have disinvested from Israeli firms or institutions with settlement-related assets. A Dutch pension-fund manager, PGGM, and Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank, have sold stakes in Israeli banks that finance settlement construction. The Netherlands’ largest public water-supplier, Vitens, cut ties to Israel’s water company, Mekorot, which takes water from the West Bank and then sells it back to Palestinians. Funding for the Palestinians, said EU officials, could also be affected since the union would no longer meet costs that legally should be borne by the occupying state. Once the violence in Gaza subsides, public opinion, a remarkably forgetful and fickle force, may move on. But the more protracted Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians becomes, the greater the risk that the violence and anger at Israel will acquire a life of its own. Israel remains much surer of its friendship with America. But even here, tempers have frayed. Last weekend anonymous Israeli officials accused John Kerry, America’s secretary of state, of proposing a Gaza ceasefire agreement tilted towards Hamas. And some Americans, especially the young, are becoming more likely to question the Israeli government’s version of events.
Another strange rift is opening too, between liberal American Jews and the conservative Israeli government. Seven-tenths of America’s nearly 7 million Jews say they vote or lean Democratic they strongly back a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Israel’s government has moved to the right in the past decade and the peace process has ground to a halt. Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has piqued Democrats’ anger by spurning Mr Obama’s demands for a freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Majority of the people and countries across the world believe that Gaza’s civilian population has been victimized in the name of a falsely construed right to self-defense, in the midst of an escalation of violence provoked in the face of the entire international community. Some analyst suggest that Israel is again relying on the ‘Dahiya doctrine’, which deliberately has recourse to disproportionate force to inflict suffering on the civilian population in order to achieve political (to exert pressure on the Hamas Government) rather than military goals. This is backed by that fact that most of the recent heavy bombings in Gaza lack an acceptable military justification and, instead, appear to be designed to terrorize the civilian population. Moreover, even when targeting clear military objectives, Israel consistently violates the principle of proportionality: this is particularly evident with regard to the hundreds of civilian houses destroyed by the Israeli army during the current military operation in Gaza. With the declared intention to target a single member of Hamas, Israeli forces have bombed and destroyed houses although occupied as residencies by dozens of civilians, including women, children, and entire families.
Israel could counter the threat of delegitimisation by the international community by changing its policy and thinking seriously of two state solution. It would have a chance of securing diplomatic relations with the world’s 56 mainly Muslim countries by agreeing to the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 and ending its military occupation. Israel should discard the policy of collective punishment for Palestinian as it won’t achieve secured and peaceful survival for Israeli’s as well it will only act as the fuel for future bloody conflicts.
(Author is freelance columnist for Middle East and Af-Pak region based in New Delhi and Editor of a geo-political news agency Viewsaround can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)