Eight straight days of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza amounted to 167 dead Palestinians and more than $1.2 billion in damages. Israel contests that its actions were out of self defense. Hamas’ rocket attacks amounted to six Israeli deaths. While the Israel-Palestine conflict is one of the more complex conflicts in the world, it is still clear that Israel’s actions were overly aggressive. The ceasefire which concluded fighting brought victories to both sides, but the Palestinian people undoubtedly won this conflict.
Life in the Gaza strip can be quite bleak. Gaza is home to 1.6 million people. These people are confined to a space that is about 4 miles wide and 25 miles long. When I say confined, I do actually mean confined. Gaza is essentially walled off from the outside world. It is patrolled by Israeli Defense Forces and is under Israeli blockade by sea. While the blockade has been eased in recent years, a recent United Nations U.N. report stated that the Gaza strip will be “unlivable” by 2020.
The conflict itself was a brilliant military victory for Gaza. While most rockets that Hamas, the de facto leading group in Gaza, fired into Israel were shot down, Hamas demonstrated that they now have the capability to reach major population centers such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel probably noticed that this is a problem, not only for immediate safety, but also on a logistical level.
Israel finally realized the inherent problem of missile defense: It is impossible. Hamas launched over 1,500 rockets in the conflict, each costing less than $1,000. Intercepting each rocket cost Israel about $100,000. Furthermore, Hamas could easily launch non-explosive rockets to trip the Iron Dome, easing the costs of the attack. Israel would have no way of knowing which rockets were armed.
While the system was effective on some level, when Israel implemented a multi-million dollar system to counter a Fourth of July-esque arsenal, it crossed the Rubicon of insanity. Hamas did not need sophisticated rockets with huge payloads, and Israel knew it. All Hamas had to do was launch rockets, thus waging a logistical war of attrition.
If Israel had decided to retaliate with a ground invasion of Gaza, estimates predicted such a move would cost $380 million a day. Hamas leaders even dared Israel to mount an invasion, not because they would win militarily, but because Israel’s military efforts are unsustainable. I say this only because America pays for most of these “security” measures. So when Israel announced its plans to upgrade its missile defense system by 13 batteries, each costing $50 million, it is clear that the U.S. will pick up most of the tab. U.S. citizens should keep this in mind as the great debate over our country’s fiscal cliff begins.
The ceasefire signed to end the eight-day conflict represented a turning point in the relations of the region. Israel struck hard in Gaza, yet Hamas did not give into a unilateral ceasefire. Israel’s actions in recent years have revolved around isolating Hamas in Gaza. The fact that they actually negotiated with the faction implied a certain degree of recognition. All factions in the West bank and Gaza celebrated the ceasefire. If the unity of Palestinians actually holds and is implemented on governmental levels, we could see a more cohesive state in the future. With this unity, it will bring a two-state solution closer.
Recently, the U.N. general assembly voted to upgrade Palestine to a non-member observer state. While this passed with overwhelming support and signifies an international recognition of the state of Palestine, it is unlikely to sway either the U.S. or Israel. One of the U.S.’s main concerns with the upgrade is that Palestine will seek to join the International Criminal Court and prosecute Israel. However, the United States’s ability to interact and intervene in the Middle East is subpar at best.
If anything, America should be voicing concern over the incredibly high cost of fighting in the Middle East, a region we know far too well. Sooner or later, America and Israel will realize the inevitability of the situation. Palestine is a country. It is time that we recognize that fact and help institute peace in the region.
Seth Ellingson ’15 firstname.lastname@example.org is from Powder Springs, Ga. He majors in political science and Russian.