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Israel Must Learn the Limits of Bombing and Violence in Palestine

Author: Steven A. Cook, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies
January 5, 2009
U.S. News and World Report


Despite the best efforts of the Israel Defense Forces to stop Hamas from raining rockets on towns and cities in southern Israel, it is unlikely that Operation Cast Lead will achieve this goal.

To be sure, Israel has every right to defend itself. No government can stand idly by as its citizens absorb thousands of indiscriminate attacks. Yet, while Israel's version of "shock and awe" has demonstrated the lethality and proficiency of its military machine, especially the air force, the bombing's failure to suppress the rocket fire indicates the limits of the use of force in the Middle East.

For 60 years, Israel has been applying force in one form or another against the Palestinian population located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The Israeli government and its supporters have always argued that the exercise of military power in light of terrorist outrages is, as it is now in the Gaza Strip, entirely justified. Yet the important point is not whether violence was employed legitimately but whether this policy achieved its desired goals. The answer is emphatically no. To be sure, the Israelis have scored tactical victories such as the "targeted killing" of Hamas leaders that helped weaken the organization during the 2000-2003 Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation. Yet, the setback for Hamas was only temporary. The organization rebounded, won the most seats in the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections, and defeated its rivals in a bloody confrontation in June 2007, driving Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction from the Gaza Strip entirely. As the military operations in Gaza indicate, Hamas has remained a potent and capable adversary.

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