Is it to stop the Hamas rocket attacks? Or is it to destroy Hamas completely and usher in a new regime in Gaza? (Perhaps one that is like the “moderate” Palestinian Authority?)
When the Israeli ground offensive in Gaza started, the stated goal, at least from what I saw on CNN and Al Jazeera, was to cripple Hamas’ capability of launching rockets into Southern Israel. Destroying Hamas did not quite appear as the openly stated objective.
But now, after listening to the speeches before the UN Security Council of the Israeli Ambassador to the UN and the US Secretary of State, it seems that the real goal is the destruction of Hamas and any form of Palestinian resistance to Israel in the Gaza Strip.
We heard the Israeli Ambassador to the UN say that there can be no peace as long as Hamas is in power in Gaza. Virtually the same line was echoed by US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Isreal has repeatedly spoken of a “new equation” in Gaza.
Also, if ever Israel hints at a ceasefire (as vaguely as this could get), any negotiations would be with the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. Hamas is totally out of the equation as far as Israel and the US is concerned. Hamas will not be given any form of international recognition.
Ever since Hamas won the majority in the 2006 parliamentary elections in Palestine, Israel has enforced a crippling and brutal economic blockade of Gaza. Now Israel and the US want to pin blame for the violence SOLELY on Hamas; despite the fact that Israel has put Gaza under a severe economic blockade, collectively punishing the Palestinian people for two years now. It is the actions of Israel which has made people turn to Hamas because it offers armed resistance to the Occupation.
Perhaps it was not just about the Qassam rockets fired into Israel after all. Maybe all that was just a pretext for a larger goal. As events continue to unfold, it is becoming clear that the Israeli aggression will not stop until it sees the destruction of Hamas and the crushing of all Palestinian resistance to the Occupation.
Does it even matter what the real objectives are? From a political standpoint, there’s little debate that the Israeli armed aggression, under whatever pretext, is condemnable. From a military standpoint however, the implication is that the offensives will not cease with the destruction of the Hamas rocket launchers. The ultimate destruction of Hamas and any form of Palestinian resistance to Israel would mean the destruction of the entire political, military and social infrastructure of Hamas and Palestinian people.
This means the war is bound to drag on and the casualties are expected to rise.
On the question of “proportional response”, this concept sometimes doesn’t help clear up the issues. It sort of takes the view that Israeli military action on Gaza is ok, it just has to be proportional to the Hamas rocket attacks. This of course begs the question “what is proportional response to the Hamas rocket attacks?” The proportionality argument tends to take attention away from the context of the whole Israel-Palestine conflict. It tends to limit the debate on the kind of military response that is warranted instead of seeing the conflict from the broader perspective of the occupation of Palestine by Israel.