There is something obscene in the spectre of one of the world’s most sophisticated military forces, Israel, being launched against the Palestinian population in the rescue of captured Israeli soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit .
Corporal Shalit is yet another young victim of a conflict with a seemingly endless capacity to destroy life – mostly Palestinian life. I don’t know what an appropriate Israeli response to the kidnapping is. I do know the route that Israel has chosen to pursue meets no international legal, moral or even effectiveness criteria. The desperation being imposed on Palestinians now and since the election of the Hamas led Palestinian Authority provides perfect conditions for the continued supply of Palestinian militants pathologically opposed to any accommodation with Israel.
Every profoundly uneven contest in history has seen the weaker party resort to so called “terrorist” activity – the struggle for a Jewish state included. This does not justify the actions of Palestinian militants of course. But it does explain them.
A state that wields its power against the defenceless as Israel does, diminishes itself and its claims and ultimately compromises its own future by swelling extremist ranks.
Most Israelis accept and seek an accommodation with the Palestinians. Most Palestinians seek the same. Nobody is served except those on the extreme fringes when Israel unleashes its vast military power killing civilians, crippling hospitals and devastating already bleak Palestinian lives.
Whether there is any prospect of peace with Hamas is difficult to know. The same might reasonably be asked of recent Israeli governments. There have been many occasions – especially during the interlude after the death of Arafat and prior to the election of Hamas - where it seemed that the US sponsored and mutually agreed “roadmap” was wilfully sabotaged by Israel. Israel continues to work on an assumption that its military strength and the US alliance will provide permanent security in a hostile region becoming more so.
The approaching multi polar world will be far more complex however. Add to that Israel’s demographic timebomb - where Palestinian births outnumber Israeli births dramatically - and it seems a brave and painful gesture for peace is Israel’s only option. The US and Australia’s support for Israel’s approach to the Palestinian problem damages our countries and ultimately builds the delusion that Israel can continue to depend on an unassailable military advantage supported by the US as its primary negotiation tool.
A world where Russian, Chinese and Indian economic and military power will reshape international relations everywhere, will also complicate Israel’s capacity to depend on its overwhelming military strength as its only lever in dealing with Palestinian national aspirations. Add to that the strengthening of Iran, the ongoing instability in Iraq, and the argument for a radical Israel inspired solution for peace becomes more urgent. Hamas may be a hopeless partner for peace. Israel needs to prove that. Every new day of misery imposed by Israeli occupation and Israel’s total refusal to open a channel to test the democratically elected Hamas led Palestinian Authority only provides fuel for those intent on Israel’s destruction.