Dagens Nyheter op-ed, Jan 8th 2009

Beyond All Reason

About the war in Gaza

THE ONLY THING that can be safely said about the ongoing war in Gaza is that it will exacerbate the conflict and obstruct the peace. That is, a peace which cannot be obstructed much further, since every child can see that the conditions for peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians have been undone, and that this war, as the previous ones will undo more.
About war as a means much can be said, but historically wars have sometimes been a means to peace. So not this war. This war is only a means to hatred, humiliation and despair, and thus to new wars. With this war Israel has fully devoted herself to the task of creating an enemy that has nothing to lose and nothing to hope for, and who therefore like Samson in the Bible is nourishing a suicidal wish to die with its tormentors.
The launching by Hamas of rockets against Israel is of course criminal and self-defeating and beyond all reason, but so is Israel’s on-going occupation of four million Palestinians. With the occupation and the settlements and the repression needed to sustain both, Israel has kept busy undoing her only option for long-term peace and security in the region.
Everybody knows what reason demands (to start with); a mutually negotiated and assured partition of that narrow strip of land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River into two independent states
Everybody knows what the alternative is; mutually assured destruction.
It has been said many times, and it feels somewhat tedious to repeat it, but this conflict has no military solution, no matter how militarily superior one party is to the other.
In this conflict, every battle is a defeat, and every war is a disaster.
To both parties.

THE CORE OF the present conflict is Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the military suppression of four million Palestinians. The fact that Israeli troops and settlers left Gaza in 2005, did not mean that Israel surrendered military control, only that it exchanged direct control for indirect control, now changing back to direct control again.
The Israelis say that they have no option since the enemy persists in launching rockets against a civilian population. The Palestinians of Gaza say they have no option since the Israelis persist in boycotting them, blockading them, isolating them and locking them up in an outdoor prison.
Everybody knows that these options only deepens the conflict, feeds its evil circles, and benefits the extremists on both sides. Reason is a vanquished force in this conflict.
Can it be resurrected, and if so, how?
It is clear that the parties involved are not able to do this on their own. It is also clear that the political damage of this conflict exceeds its territorial limitations, and therefore cannot be regarded as a matter only for the parties involved. An international intervention is not only legally justified (the number of UN-resolutions and international conventions broken are too many to bother counting), but also politically urgent, since the potential for regional conflagration is apparent.

ONE OF THE most wrong-headed ideas behind the US war in Iraq was that it would also solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Through regime change in Baghdad (and threats of regime changes both here and there) Arab regimes hostile to Israel would become friendly to Israel and their support for Palestinian extremists would stop and the Palestinians would become conciliatory and the conflict would be brought to an end. This idea was wrong-headed because it saw the conflict as mainly the result of a problem with the policies and actions of the Arabs, and not as the result of a problem with the policies and actions of Israel and the US.
As a consequence the United States has put all its military and political prestige behind a policy to remake the Arab World instead of a policy to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The outcome has been an epic loss of military and political prestige in two non-winnable wars, while not only neglecting to use that prestige to vigourously pursue a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but actually undermining the conditions for such a solution.
This is of course beyond all reason.
What reason now demands is that the new US president immediately declares a new policy in the Middle East. That he as soon as possible brings the counter-productive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a conclusion and invests what is left of US power and prestige to push for the implementation of the only reasonable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict..
But who is saying that reason always wins?