The Big Picture brings together a range of PS commentaries to give readers a comprehensive understanding of topics in the news – and the deeper issues driving the news. The Big Question features concise contributor analysis and predictions on timely topics.
Israel Goes to War
In recent days, Israeli fighter jets have bombarded the sealed-off Gaza Strip, laying waste to neighborhoods and sending residents rushing to evacuate, while the government has halted supplies of electricity, food, water, and fuel to the territory. This is just the beginning the country’s newly declared war on Hamas, triggered by the militant group’s brutal assault on Israeli civilians last weekend.
Princeton’s Peter Singer condemns the “gruesome murders and abductions” that Hamas carried out in the name of Palestinians – crimes that eroded the “moral high ground” Palestinians have long maintained in the eyes of many outside observers. But this brutality “did not emerge in a vacuum,” he points out; it can be traced back to the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, which bolstered Israeli nationalists, especially Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
In fact, former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami argues that Netanyahu’s “fanatical government made bloodshed inevitable,” by “ruling out any political process in Palestine” and provocatively asserting, in his government’s binding guidelines, that ‘the Jewish people have an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel.’” Moreover, Netanyahu effectively facilitated the recent attack by failing to ensure that the military and intelligence services were paying adequate attention to Gaza.
With the latest Hamas operation, writes Barak Barfi, a former research fellow at New America, Netanyahu was “instantly turned” into a “paper tiger.” But, like him – and, more immediately, his subordinates – Hamas is now set to face a reckoning, executed by an Israeli security establishment that has long sought an opportunity to “destroy ‘the terrorist infrastructure.’” Unlike the 1973 Yom Kippur War, this conflict is “unlikely” to be followed by progress toward peace.
But, according to Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations, “[r]ewarding those Palestinians willing to reject violence and reach an accommodation with Israel is still the best way to marginalize Hamas.” That is why “restoring meaningful deterrence without widening the war” will require not only a “military component,” but also a diplomatic one, including a “credible Israeli plan for bringing about a viable Palestinian state.”