By Daniella Peled
January 8, 2009
We need a ceasefire in Gaza now. We need massive amounts of humanitarian aid to be allowed into the Strip. And we have to find a longer-term, more durable way to prevent a repeat of this horrific situation.
Jerusalem needs a political solution soon, too. Even though international opposition has been slow in coming, a consensus is building for a ceasefire. And Israel can’t allow itself to end the operation without some sort of diplomatic or military achievement. Certainly, Hamas is not going to be destroyed, and by merely surviving will declare itself victorious. The IDF feels more confident now, judging its performance and organisation as a clear improvement on that of the 2006 Lebanon War.
But at some point soon, Israeli troops will pass the point of no return and engage in serious, urban warfare, with all the consequential losses that will entail. It could end up reoccupying the Strip, which no-one wants. Palestinian deaths, already at an unacceptable level, continue to rise.
Gordon Brown has talked about the Gaza conflict as the Middle East’s “darkest moment yet”. This seems rather optimistic. There seems to be no limit on just how dark things in the Middle East can get.
Foreign Minister David Miliband was closer to the mark when he told the UN this week that the crisis was a symptom of an international failure.The US response has been a continuation of the shameful neglect of the Bush administration. And for all the breathless anticipation, we can’t expect Barack Obama to produce any magical answers when he takes office on 20 January.
But even a short-term solution is going to involve a wider effort. Israel is asking for an international effort to stop smuggling arms across the Egyptian border (with the quid pro quo clearly being the opening of the crossings again). This will involve engineers and a whole complicated system of monitors.
And further ahead? The rebuilding of Gaza (for which the EU will be expected to pay) and the rebuilding of any political track with the Palestinians is going to take much, much longer.