Our position on the situation between Israel and the Palestinians long has been that the United States should leave the matter to the two parties.
If that happened, then Israelis and Palestinians would have to deal with one another without the meddling of Washington, possibly bringing about an agreement.
We also long have opposed sanctions because they are much more likely to hurt the common people rather than the country’s leaders. They establish a “common enemy” that redirects internal criticism off the leaders and onto the country imposing sanctions.
Consider the near-five-decade U.S. boycott of Cuba, which has helped keep dictator Fidel Castro in power, allowing him to blame the country’s socialist failures on America.
If no blockade had existed against the Palestinians in Gaza, then the recent tragedy would not have happened, in which Israeli commandos attacked ships running the blockade, killing at least nine. The blockade supports sanctions against Gaza by Israel and Egypt and is supported by the United States.
The embargo exists as punishment for the Palestinians’ election in 2006 of Hamas, a strongly anti-Israel party with a paramilitary wing that has frequently attacked Israel. Ironically, the United States supported the elections that brought Hamas to power over Fatah, the party of the late Yasser Arafat, as part of America’s policy of expanding democracy in the Middle East.
A new flotilla of aid ships was gathering in the Mediterranean in another attempt to run the blockade. The ships represent several humanitarian groups carrying food and medical supplies. The Israelis contend the ships also could be carrying weapons for Hamas.
Israelis might heed the observations of retired military strategist William Lind, who has helped formulate the U.S. Marine Corps’ strategy on what’s called fourth-generation war. When Israel invaded Gaza 17 months ago, seeking to crush Hamas and stop mortar attacks against Israel, Lind said the result was to push Gaza more toward “ungovernable chaos.”
Lind added that Israel “should have opened the border crossings, avoided raids (an Israeli raid into Gaza first broke what had been a fairly effective cease-fire), and let Hamas become immersed in all the problems of governance. It should have sought a Hamas state in Gaza that was strong enough to prevent rocket-firings. … As a state, Hamas would have gradually ‘normalized,’ even if it did not want to and even though, in theory, it would have remained devoted to Israel’s destruction.”
Currently, Hamas can blame all the Palestinians’ problems on the Israeli embargo. But if the embargo were lifted, then Hamas itself would have to take the blame for supplies lost or stolen.
The strategy Lind recommended for Gaza is similar to the one the United States has pursued in Iraq in recent years. Instead of fighting the Sunnis in Iraq, the previous strategy that brought so many casualties, U.S. forces simply have bribed them to behave. Of course, once U.S. troops leave, the violence well could return. But, at least for now, our troops are much safer.
Again, we don’t favor U.S. intervention in the area. But so long as we are involved, our government should encourage Israel to pursue a policy on Gaza similar to the one that has worked for the United States in Iraq.