Analysis: Israel must learn that the military is not the solution

By Daoud Kuttab, June 3, 2010
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Violent Israeli attacks against the Freedom Flottila, an international humanitarian mission to Gaza, show the failure of Israel's strategic deterrence policy.

The idea of deterrence is that you mete out enough pain to the other side that it stops trying to challenge your authority. This deterrence policy only works if the other side does not have the ability or the will to up the ante. If the other side does, this forces another round of confrontation, which by its nature requires an even harsher degree of punishment.

In a world that has attempted to regulate world affairs through humanitarian laws and international courts, such attempts are bound to backfire.

Over the years, the use of violence in international settings has been codified. For example, how an occupying power is supposed to act towards people under its military control is detailed in the Fourth Geneva convention.

The Israelis were not given the right to boycott an entire community

Crimes of war have also been developed in recent years to hold violators of the laws of war accountable irrespective of time or settings.

In addition, economic boycotts or sieges need to be mandated by the UN's Security Council.

Unable to confront a difficult political situation, Israel has attempted to find a military solution. But the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including the situation in Gaza, is a political issue that cannot be resolved be resolved by military means.

What is required is sheer will and an understanding of the implications of letting the conflict fester. Treating all issues dealing with Palestinians as irresolvable except through military means is bound to produce tragic results for all concerned.

For decades, Israel has enjoyed protection from international censure as a result of its special relationship with the US. Yet even with the support of a permanent security council member, the Israelis have not asked for and were not granted the right to boycott an entire community as it has done over Gaza.

Amnesty International has called the boycott a "flagrant violation" of international law, under which Israel is an occupying power and is accountable for the people of Gaza under its control.

The fatal attacks on humanitarian ships legally registered and bound for the shores of Gaza reflects more than the flaunting of specific laws and covenants. Israeli attempts reflect an attitude that rejects the very the concepts for which international humanitarian law is based on today.

For a country that was born and has existed with the help of the international community, this reflects the ultimate in arrogance and contempt for the rest of the world.

Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and former Ferris professor of Journalism at Princeton University

    Last updated: 3:07pm, June 3 2010