Israel-Palestine Round 2014:
Mutual Assured Destruction not the correct recipe
The latest round of violence in the Israel-Palestine saga reinforces a few timeless truths.
- attempts at mutual slaughter achieve nothing but mutual slaughter;
- persisting with a politically-biased external mediator returns nothing but frustration; and
- an unreformed United Nations wringing its hands on the touchline ensures the continuation of a politically-biased external mediator.
The latest round of violence was sparked by the abduction and murder of Israeli teenagers. The script for the next act can immediately be written, scene-by-scene. The IDF launches unfriendly incursions into Palestinian neighbourhoods. Hamas fires rockets into Israel, which ineffectually bounce off the Dome. The Israeli military machine is woken from its light sleep and dutifully rains destruction on Palestine-Gaza. The world stands witness, silent and impotent.
At no stage does any relevant leader possess the insight, and display the courage, to go against the default atavism that so deeply characterises the relationship, and appeal for self-restraint, staking his/her office on it.
At no stage does the Palestinian leadership marry a rhetorical condemnation of abduction with a policy of non-violence. At no stage does Israel marry its insistence on democracy and secure borders with a readiness to abide by the rule of international law, as determined by others and not by itself.
Israel has ignored the latest calls from the UN secretary-general for restraint. Collateral damage or civilian casualties from Operation Protective Edge continues to climb. Latest reports have the death toll rising towards 100 civilian casualties with over 500 injured. Should Israel decide to invade Gaza with a ground force the potential for far more civilian casualties will grow.
When Israel invaded the Gaza strip in 2009 more than 1400 people were killed. The United Nations condemned their actions in a 500 page report. The world and New Zealand needs to act now to prevent such a terrible loss of civilian life occurring again. As depositary government of the 4th Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians in Time of War, Switzerland should convene a special meeting of the parties to consider potential violations of the Convention, particularly Common Article 1 and Art. 146.
The bilateral military relationship between Israel and Palestine is highly asymmetric – the USA makes sure about that. In any exchange, the number of Palestinian deaths far outnumbers Israeli deaths. But the political relationship is not asymmetric. And mutual destruction is assured in an existential sense, because pride, along with fear and grievance, drives the relationship, and that will not be altered by rivalry in numerical death. That is the final truth to be entered into the political-moral calculus that shapes the relationship between two great peoples.
New Zealand should condemn the rocket attacks by Hamas and by Israel; call on Israel to abide by all decisions and advisory opinions made in international law; and call on the United States to halt military assistance to Israel and to abide by majority vote on the subject in the Security Council.