The Free Press, Mankato, MN


July 16, 2014

Our View: Futility reigns in Middle East

Why It Matters: Israel and the Palestinians remain trapped in a generations-long cycle of violence.

It’s deja vu all over again: A low-level war between the state of Israel and the quasi-state of Gaza/Hamas is boiling up.

This spasm started with the abduction and murder of three Jewish teens and ramped up with the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian youth in apparent retaliation. Now Hamas is firing dozens of rockets a day from the Gaza Strip, and Israel is shelling Gaza.

Same as it ever was: The most militant people in the two camps force the action, with the official leadership at best unable to stay their hands and at worst encouraging the escalations.

There are many limits to American power and influence, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is certainly outside those limits. Every president since Nixon has sought to resolve the conflict, some more strenuously than others, but there has always been at least one party unwilling to take yes for an answer.

John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, has spent much of the past year and a half pursuing a peace process in which the more militant Hamas has no interest and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu little investment.

Yet the interest of their people are not served by the cycle of violence. Hamas is not capable of overrunning Israel. Hamas can inflict pain, and all it accomplishes by inflicting that pain is provoking Israel to inflict pain on the people of Gaza.

For its part, Israel finds itself once again teaching a generation of Palestinians to despise the Jewish state. Short of a genocide — appallingly unthinkable under any circumstances, but even more so for a state whose moral grounds rest on the history of the Holocaust — Israel will always be surrounded by Palestinians.

The inability or unwillingness of the two sides to come to an accommodation is the very epitome of futility.

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