This past Tuesday, my colleagues and I were discussing the absence of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the news. I found the absence of media attention to be disheartening–a sign not of an improved situation but of a growing public indifference to the persistence of the problem. I also thought it might have to do with a reluctance on the part of the international community to press Israel on the question of the occupation, given the current uncertainties of the Syrian civil war. Needless to say, our conversation felt like a moot point after the Israeli assassination of Hamas official Ahmed Jabari (along with his son) and the subsequent escalation of violence between Hamas and the Israeli state.
So why did Israeli decide to kill Jabari? It is too easy to write-off the assassination as the obvious choice, to say that all Hamas officials are somehow subject to execution at any time. Israel can use the term “terrorist” as a way to justify this killing, but this simplistic language belies the more nuanced forces at work. As this article points out, Jabari was a known entity to Israel, and was even instrumental in ensuring the recent calm between the Strip and Israel. As this article points out, Jabari was considering the terms of a long-term truce when he was killed. Gershon Bashkin, an Israeli activist interviewed in that article, is explicit in his suspicions that the Netanyahu government, on the eve of an election, was eager to appear tough on Gaza.
I can only imagine that the assassination of Jaabari has bought us the entry card to Cast Lead II. This time, the experts say, “Let’s finish them off. Let’s do the job that we didn’t do last time. Let’s do a regime change.” Well, I ask: what then? Do we really want to reoccupy Gaza, because that will be the consequence of a regime change. I don’t believe that Netanyahu wants re-occupation. So if that is not what he wants, he must be aware that, on the morning after, we will still be living next to Gaza, which still be run by Hamas. They are not going away and the people of Gaza are not going away.
The assassination of Jaabari was a pre-emptive strike against the possibility of a long term ceasefire. Netanyahu has acted with extreme irresponsibility. He has endangered the people of Israel and struck a real blow against the few important more pragmatic elements within Hamas. He has given another victory to those who seek our destruction, rather than strengthen those who are seeking to find a possibility to live side-by-side, not in peace, but in quiet.
As always, be skeptical of what you read about this conflict. Be skeptical of U.S. government statements which urge countries like Egypt and Turkey to urge Hamas to exercise restraint on firing rockets but say that it is “up to the Israeli Government” whether or not they launch a ground assault into the Strip. If the United States truly wants to avoid indiscriminate killing of civilians (which, if it were real, would be an admirable goal) then it would recognize that Israeli assaults on Gaza are anything but surgical or targeted. I sincerely believe that there is not going to be a military solution to this conflict. This revival of violence will only postpone any eventual solution, and once again, it will be ordinary individuals who pay the heaviest price.