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How the world is failing the Palestinians

  • 19 January 2009
With nearly 1200 Palestinians dead in the Gaza Strip after three weeks of fighting, Israel has offered a ceasefire. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has declared that Israel has achieved its objectives. This is highly doubtful.

What will be the achievements of Israel's 'shock and awe' campaign in Gaza? The objective has been to destroy the infrastructure of Hamas in order to prevent the firing of further missiles at Israeli cities.

This was a very tall order. Not only because it expected the Israeli Defence Force to accurately target Hamas fighters in the densely populated Gaza Strip when they could simply blend in with the general population, but also because it did nothing to prevent the resurgence of Hamas, which is inevitable once the IDF leaves Gaza.

The overwhelming show of force was supposed to act as deterrence against future Hamas missiles. This is a tried and failed tactic. The 2006 operation against Hizbullah was conducted along the same lines.

Instead Hizbullah surprised Israel with its resilience and grew in esteem in the Arab world. The 2006 campaign in Lebanon proved to be a major embarrassment for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who was criticised by his peers for not defeating Hizbullah once and for all. Now the Israeli leadership claims to have learned from that experience. That is why the military operation in Gaza has been so intense. The IDF threw all its weight on Hamas.

But that was a wrong lesson. It must be obvious to any observer that even in the unlikely event of the IDF destroying the fighting capability of Hamas, the grievances that propelled Hamas onto the political stage in 2006 when it won the parliamentary elections, will continue to sustain it.

This is bad for Israel and bad for the Palestinians. Mahmoud Abbas, who is still recognised by the international community as the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), has been losing popularity and support because of his failure to achieve Palestinian statehood.

A veteran of the Oslo peace process which established the PA in 1995 as a first step towards statehood, Abbas must seem like a spent force. His diminishing popularity and that of his associates among the Palestinians leaves the political stage open to less accommodating leaders. The intensity of Israel's operation in Gaza has sidelined moderate Palestinian leaders who have lost credibility to the more radical factions.

For the Palestinians, it must seem