Over the past two weeks Israel has been waging an unprecedented massive assault on Gaza. The operation could hardly be viewed as merely retaliation for the killing of three Israeli teenagers. Could it be that Israel could have a different reason for attacking Gaza?
According to the Israeli military spokesman they have carried out about 3,250 strikes against terrorist locations, killing 210 Gaza militants since the ground operation began. Israel has said the goal of its Gaza operation is to weaken Hamas’ ability to fire rockets at Israel, and destroy Hamas tunnels leading into Israel.
According to figures presented by Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, starting from July 8 Hamas fired some 3,000 rockets at the Israeli territory, killing three Israeli civilians.
Meanwhile Gaza toll amounts to 695 Palestinians killed and more than 4,100 wounded. According to U.N. figures, three-fourths of the Palestinians killed were civilians, one in four - a minor.
So, Gaza operation could hardly be called a symmetric response. So, what are the true objectives Israeli government is pursuing in Gaza?
Says Taleb Ibrahim, political analyst from Damascus:
I think that the strategic goal of Israel’s military operation in Gaza is very simple – to disarm Hamas and to remove all its military capabilities, especially missiles. So, Israelis are planning to do that and to prevent any kind of unification between different Palestinians from Gaza and West Bank, because Israel has found out that it’s very easy to deal with Palestinians when they are divided. When Palestinians are unified, Israel will find some difficulties in the peace process. So, it’s for those reasons that Israel launched its last military operation in Gaza.
Dr. Ibrahim, do you see any connection between this operation and other crises - in Ukraine, Iraqi war against ISIS?
Yes, this is a very important question. About the timing – there is local dimension, regional dimension and broader international dimension. Local dimension concerns Israel and Palestinians. As I said, there’s a reconciliation between Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas - Israel wants to put an end to this reconciliation. Regionally, Egypt is now an enemy to Hamas and so Israelis found that it’s a very good chance for them to get rid of Hamas and to disarm Hamas. Now Israel under the table is an ally to Saudis and this is a very good reason for them to find Saudi support in finishing their operation. And regionally - now Syria is in a great crisis and it cannot support Hamas. And as you see, all the people are finding that the Islamic movements, like ISIS, Muslim Brothers and al-Qaeda, are very dangerous to the regional security. Now Israel wants to put Hamas in the same bag with all of these movements and Israel will say – “yes, we are in all the Middle East, we are making a war against terrorism in Iraq and against al-Qaeda, and now Hamas is a terrorist group and we are fighting it”. That’s regionally. Internationally, on the international scope, - yes Israeli now have found it’s a very good occasion for them. Russia is very busy now in Ukraine. And Europe somehow is busy in this crisis and other crises. We are in the end of Obama’s presidency. The United States is paralyzed and cannot make historical or very important decisions. So, Israeli found, yes, it’s a very good chance to put an end to Hamas.
Dr. Alon Ben Meir, Professor and Senior Fellow at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs and Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute:
The truth of the matter and the focus of Israel and the Palestinians is, in my view, the double folly here. And Hamas has always maintained that it’s going for the destruction of the state of Israel, knowing full well that this is elusive at best and this will never happen. On the other hand, the Israelis have always maintained that they need a secure border, perhaps a cover for their expansion into the West Bank. And now this conflict has shown that there is no such a thing as secure border. No matter how high the walls are, or the fences, with the current type of war there is no such aim any more. And as Israel accepted from the very beginning some kind of territorial concessions, this might have been again avoided altogether. That’s one aspect. The conditions in Gaza have been awful, to say the least. Instead of spending the local money that Hamas has to build the infrastructure, it spends about 60 percent of this immense money to build tunnels. Palestinians have been living in a terrible despondency. And then, of course, the Israeli blockade continues to inflict continuing pain on the Palestinian people. So there were errors made by Hamas, terrible errors made by Israelis and unfortunately, tragically for Palestinian people. And the Israelis, for that matter, are suffering from misguided policies of their leadership. I think the Mr. Netanyahu made at least during the late negotiations, I think there were opportunities to reach some kind of a breakthrough. But you know Mr. Netanyahu and his right-wing by-and-large government, supported by two other very right-of-center political parties, basically resisting and objecting to making any significant concessions. Specifically on the territorial issue, you know, to establish borders, insisting, for example, that national security depends on how secure the borders are. The negotiations, you know, failed completely. And the United States to some extent openly blamed Israel for the failure of these negotiations. So here we have the second mistake that Netanyahu made. The moment there was the unity government announced between Hamas and Fatah, Netanyahu said there would be no negotiations with the Palestinian authority as long as Hamas is part of this government. And at that time, I argued that Israel should have given a chance to the unity government to see how much it can adhere to the principles of recognizing Israel, accepting power agreement and abandoning violence as a means to achieve its objectives. So, these are mistakes, fundamental mistakes made by Israelis. And of course there is also a fundamental mistake made by Hamas of having these dreams of trying to change the equation, the power equation on the ground, knowing full well that they are no match for the Israeli military might. And it will be crushed time and again and again. But that’s one way. They think they can substantiate or secure their legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinian people. I mean this is one way to go, sacrificing the well-being of the community which is already poor, despondent and suffering for so long and then they have these reoccurring events of destruction and death. And there is no end in sight. So we need to change that basic premise here in this conflict, and I don’t think, for example, that having just another ceasefire is a solution. We need something far more substantial that can endure and I wish could welcome a sustainable peace deal. And that’s why I personally advocate –time has come. Yes, establish ceasefire first, but sit down and develop a plan whereby the pressure on the Palestinians is eased, Israel feels more secure and to build on that in the hope of establishing some kind of peace, sustainable peace to between the two sides.
Professor Seyed Mohammad Marandi, Tehran University:
Well, I think, the most important issue from the prospective of many Iranians is that the whole problem is one of colonization. In that, indigenous people of Palestine have been expelled from most of their land and those lands have been taken be people, who’ve been brought there from Europe, basically, a pro-Zionist Jewish population. And the second is the ideology of Zionism, which again is strongly perceived to be highly racist and advocating the notion of the chosen people, who have exceptional rights over the land, despite the land being occupied for thousands of years by the indigenous Palestinians. And since Palestinians are viewed as sub-human or less human than Zionist Jews, the Israeli regime, when it launches these vicious assaults on the civilian population, the local Israeli population supports these acts and that’s why, we often see Israelis, celebrating deaths of Palestinians, when bombs strike civilian targets, these people show their support. But the problem really is that the Israeli regime doesn’t have a strategy in Gaza. By carrying out these attacks, Israeli wants to subjugate the Palestinian people and to impose their will upon them. But at the end it simply doesn’t work; it simply creates greater hatred and anger towards Israeli regime not only among Palestinians, but among people across the board and across the globe. Despite the fact that the Western media is supporting Israel and it tries to depict the situation in the way, which is favorable to the Zionist regime, but public opinion simply isn’t buying the story.
One issue that stands out in my opinion is the fact that Hamas and the Palestinian authority agreed to form a coalition government and the Israeli regime was outraged at them. And I think that all of this was basically pushed forward in order to wreck that agreement between the Palestinian authority and Hamas. If you recall, first there were two young Palestinians who were killed, subsequent to that, there were three Israelis, who were kidnapped and killed. Although they knew about their death very early on, the Israeli government tried to pretend that they didn’t know about their fate. And they carried out massive raids in the West bank, arresting hundreds of Hamas activist, although they had nothing to do with the deaths. And they killed a number of people as well. Then they launched an attack on Gaza, killing seven Palestinians. So, the whole incident in Gaza really was initiated by the Israelis and the Israelis, it seems, when you trace back the series of events that took place, they began this whole affair in order to destroy the agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian authority.