Sunday, December 28, 2008

Israel's raids over Gaza, to what end?

Every country has a right to defend itself, so in one respect Israel's air raids over Gaza this weekend are totally understandable. When there have been multiple attacks from the other side of the fence, of course you're going to fight back. On the other hand, where legitimate military targets and residential areas are so closely packed together, the type of pinpoint precision required to make it a successful operation is next to impossible. So no one should be surprised at the already high death toll, well over 270 civilians.

If Israel thinks this is going to put Hamas out of business any time soon, it is tragically mistaken. Hamas' stated goal is the destruction of Israel and there are millions around the world willing to underwrite such an effort. In the short term, some military advantage might be obtained by making a group of already impoverished people even further. In the long run, though, I think Israel as well as other countries facing terrorist threats need go after wire transfer companies and informal money remittance systems such as the hawalas to even begin to get a grip on the situation let alone get the upper hand.

When all of this comes to an end, and there is an actual peace agreement and one that manages to stick, the notion of a contiguous West Bank and the Gaza as an exclave of it is almost impossible to imagine. Instead, one will see multiple enclaves and exclaves -- not of the type that distinguishes the Belgian-Dutch town of Baarle with its bizarre map (bizarre but manageable with Europe's open borders) but more like Cooch-Behar on the India-Bangladesh border where even basic services are denied because one lives on the wrong part of the map.

No country can viably exist with such inherently stupid and irregular borders which is almost certain to happen if the illegal and legal settlements on the West Bank are not evacuated. Palestine is doomed to be a failed state from day one unless it actually has viable territory and is able to suppress any and all terrorists and from all quarters also from day one. If it can't get either, then Israel will be even more vulnerable than it is right now -- when someone even worse than Hamas takes over Judea and Samaria as well as Gaza.

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