What the Israel/Gaza violence means
November 15th, 2012
05:04 PM ET

What the Israel/Gaza violence means

By International Crisis Group

The International Crisis Group’s Robert Blecher, director of ICG’s Israel/Palestine Project, discusses the latest outbreak of violence between Israel and Gaza, and what it means for the region. The views expressed are Blecher’s own, and are based on a video interview conducted today.

Why is the violence we’re seeing today so much worse than in recent years?

The violence today between Israel and Gaza is the worst that there’s been since Operation Cast Lead four years ago. Israel right now is in an election season and the government is running on a platform of security and stability. It makes them look completely impotent if they can’t stop hundreds of rockets from raining down on their citizenry. The citizenry has a real demand for safety and security.

Also, from the perspective of the Israeli government, they want to change the rules of the game. They want to reestablish deterrence with Hamas – the kind of deterrence that has not existed in a number of years now. So they want to force Hamas to do things differently.

And I think on the Palestinian side, it’s the same, it’s the adverse calculation: that Hamas wants to show that despite the fact that it gets hit hard by Israel, it can continue to send rockets and they will not bow to the pressure being exerted on them from the other side.

What are the implications of all of this, both regional and local?

If this goes on and Israel gets pulled into a ground invasion into Gaza, that can really change the political dynamic completely. What will Israel do if it does end up incurring into and potentially re-occupying parts of the strip? That’s a very important question. That’s an especially important question within the changing regional framework. We’re in a new Middle East, with new actors, and we have both Israel and the Palestinians and Hamas trying to calculate what this violence will mean for each of them vis-à-vis their relationship with Egypt. They have to calculate what this might mean in terms of consequences in the West Bank for a weakened Palestinian Authority that now has a people watching Israel repress Palestinians in Gaza – even as the authorities in the West Bank are shutting down demonstrations in solidarity with Gaza.

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You have questions about Jordan. There are protests happening as we speak in Jordan, which mainly are economic so far. But, it looks horribly unseemly for a Jordanian government to be repressing a citizenry of which 50 or more, 60 percent is Palestinian, at the same time as Israel is going after Palestinians in Gaza.

And then you have the question of Hezbollah, with its back up against the wall in Lebanon because of pressures from the Syrian uprising. And what does Hezbollah do? Does Hezbollah get involved? Does it not want to get involved from Lebanon, so it chooses to maybe try to get involved from Sinai? What does that then mean in terms of Israeli action in Sinai? And the potential reaction of Egyptian public opinion to the Israeli involvement on Egyptian soil? These are incredibly complex questions with regional consequences, as a result of the changes within the Middle East region.

How does this current round of violence end?

This ends most sustainably by a regional agreement to respond to the regional challenges that I was just talking about. What we’ve seen over the past couple years is a succession of bilateral agreements, or indirect bilateral agreements, between Israel and Hamas that obviously have not gotten to the root causes.

In order to get to the root causes you’re going to have to normalize life in Gaza, both on the border with Egypt as well as the border with Israel. That should go along with a normalization of Hamas’s political position. It has done so to an extent regionally, but that’s going to have to be broader if we want to sustainably end this violence.

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There needs to be real cessation of rocket attacks and violence for Israel, because hundreds of rockets landing on Israeli territory and terrorizing Israeli citizens is obviously not acceptable either for the Israeli public or for its government.

Finally, there needs to be a resolution or an agreement for what role the Ramallah-based PA in the West Bank plays in this Gaza equation. If we were to have a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there needs to be a Palestinian entity to implement that agreement. Until all of these pieces are included, the situation is Gaza, the violence for Israel, the West Bank piece, and the regional piece, how these three actors are going to interact with their regional neighbors and partners, you’re not going to have a sustainable resolution. What we’ve learned is that until there is a regional solution, the bilateral violence cannot stop.

Edited for print

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soundoff (477 Responses)
  1. John

    Iran who has been always bluffing about helping Hamas went silent as if nothing is happening. NasrAllah the black turbin guy who lead hizbilla caught a flu and his voice cords are infected. assad is losing his power and soon he will face the same fate as ghaddafi. I asked Hamas to halt launching missiles and think before you leap. Israel is defending it self. Gaza is losing and no arab country has the ball the stand against israel. by the end of the day Hamas is the biggest loser. Ahmadinenijad , Nasralli and assad are scam bags their end is coming very soon. israel can launch a war against all the arabs and occupy them combined from Tanga (marocco) to the residence of AYATU ALLLA and nijad. Nasraalli theblack turbin's day are numbered.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Reply
  2. unimpressed ashamed for humanity

    What brave men to thow bombs among women and children. Cowards I say. Men should go to the streets alone (Hamas to fight Israli men alone leaving the women and children out of harms way. The only thing that will change this is is that every man throws down his weapan ( despite great human loss ) to say I will kill no more for a few hundred feet of soil. Yea there is nothing worth keeping on the killing. A truce to save the children instead of a pep rally to go and kill some more. Some more of what, another child. No one in the world say "Great is he who killed a 5 year old. One thousand years killing is enough. Stop now. Simply say no, we beg you who watch this 2012 field of killing.

    November 19, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Reply
  3. fiftyfive55

    If my neighbors moved onto my property,I'd be ticked also.

    November 20, 2012 at 7:14 am | Reply
  4. Lee Oates

    The Israeli have forced the Palestinians back in their Ghetto so that the Israeli can contininue to rob, steal and cheat them with the approval of the US. The US is still following its Native American policy of segragation and apartheid, only now it is against the Palestinians. They have already robbed the Indians blind.

    November 20, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Reply
  5. Fred Moss

    Lee Oates are you a jihadi extreemist? Are you one of those crazy arabs who blows themself up in the hopes that 40 virgins will be waiting for you in heaven?

    November 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Reply
  6. Fred Moss

    Crazy Jihadi idiots – have you not seen these dirty arabs dragging a dead body behind a motorcycle? This is all that needs to be said to describe these dirty Arab camels. All of them should have pigs stuck up their ar$eholes, and nuked back to their 40 virgins in hell!

    November 20, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Reply
  7. Nick

    Israel is a 'big and old problem' in the Middel East. At the moment it is not easy to remove without terrible consequences. That theocratic democratic western military colonial base need to be accepted until the balance of power shift to more just and balanced world.

    November 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Reply
  8. Fred Moss

    Nick are you a jihadi idiot? Israel has done more for the world than any of your stinking Arab camels have ever done. Take the camel S%IT out of your eyes!

    November 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Reply
  9. Rightster

    Why don't you display the "Most Recent" comments first, and put the "post a comment" portion at the top of the comments so readers don't have to always scroll all the way to the bottom to post a comment?

    November 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Reply
  10. Rightster

    Fred are you a neocon/Likud warmonger and apartheid ethnic cleanser. Do you beliieve all the way out of proportion killing of Palestinian kids is ok? Did you agree with Madeline Albright that the death of 500,000 Iraqi kids as a result of the embargoes, no-fly zones, sanctions, and destruction of infrastructure was "worth it"?

    November 20, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Reply
  11. Babymaker

    there is one piece of the argument noticeably missing from all of these comments.
    does anyone really think that Hamas is doing this on its own
    they wouldn't do anything without permission from Iran
    Iran is supplying them with the rockets and everything else
    this is a divergent orchestrated by Iran to keep Israel from going after their nuclear development
    everything else is window dressing

    November 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Reply
    • massoud

      Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. the IAEA says Iran is building a nuclear weapon you know the IAEA the same "independent' organization that said Iraq had weapons of Mass Destruction, that got us the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars that killed many civilians and injured and killed many American soldiers. Cost us Trillions of Dollars and created more enemies around the world. Iraq and Afghanistan are worse of since our invasion and wars and so is America. We need to stop policing the world because it has clearly done us more harm than good.

      November 20, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Reply
  12. Jennifer

    So many of us support a world view simply because it seems to be the closest to their own hearts, when we forget or never really know the reasons behind it; it's so often been buried in years of politics, false stories, or even war. But at some point near the very beginning of all conflict, you'll find a man who lacked in morals, a man who wanted more power than one man should have over another. Maybe he felt smarter, or stronger, or somehow more worthy. Who knows? But he felt righteous, and so he claimed more than his share. And so it began. Don't all problems stem from this, really? Someone exerting will over another? What will happen unless we all accept that we all should have equal access to the things we most desire as human beings? Failure to embrace that mankind has to possess certain moral qualities to co-exist is our enormous achilles heel. The people without the morals required to co-exist are the weak link to our entire race. Many would agree with me that those fighting so hard against Democracy are less enlightened, that the basic morals seem to have been bred out of them. They threaten mankind. What a huge realization, so huge maybe we don't see it? But they do. And there will never be peace as long as there is idealism such as this. I have no solution, no comfort, just this simple observation that comes at a bad time and my own need to voice it.

    November 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Reply
  13. sensible human

    Yep, and i'm sure the israeili PM called his HAMAS buddies and asked them to fire rockets so he could HELP his election! REALLY?

    November 20, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Reply
  14. Overand Under

    The world today lives on manipulation of Facts and Figures... Those with resources are able to manipulate the environment to their advantage. The same goes to this conflict... As long as money can be made... There will be war

    November 21, 2012 at 6:44 am | Reply
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    April 9, 2013 at 2:13 am | Reply
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