It is good to put the idea of demilitarisation on the table. Whether we are talking about the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) or the conflict in Gaza, I think it’s very smart. And to put it in the context of reconstruction is also very smart, because it sends an important message: we are not at war with the people of Gaza, we are war with Hamas and its ideology.
- Alan Johnson interviews Einat Wilf | Gaza Symposium: Is reconstruction for demilitarisation the way forward?
- Alan Johnson interviews Benedetta Berti | Gaza Symposium: Is reconstruction for demilitarisation the way forward?
- Alan Johnson interviews Gershon Baskin | Gaza Symposium: Is reconstruction for demilitarisation the way forward?
- Alan Johnson interviews Jonathan Rynhold | Gaza Symposium: Is reconstruction for demilitarisation the way forward?
- Alan Johnson interviews Jonathan Spyer | Gaza Symposium: Is reconstruction for demilitarisation the way forward?
- Alan Johnson interviews Asher Susser | Gaza Symposium: Is reconstruction for demilitarisation the way forward?
- Alan Johnson interviews Michael Herzog | Gaza Symposium: Is reconstruction for demilitarisation the way forward?
- Alan Johnson interviews Matthew Levitt | Gaza Symposium: Is reconstruction for demilitarisation the way forward?
- Toby Greene interviews Pnina Sharvit-Baruch | IDF operations and the laws of war
- An interview with Ahron Bregman | Israel and the Territories
- Bethany Coates interviews Simcha Getahune | Israeli Youth in Distress
- Ben Cohen interviews Michael Doran | America’s Global Dilemma
- Philip Mendes | Jews and the Left
- Toby Greene interviews Benedetta Berti | The state of Hamas
- Alan Johnson interviews Ari Shavit | Saving the Promised Land
I would start by praising the approach. The two analysts argue that what has been done so far has not worked. I would want to build on that: Israel’s approach with respect to Hamas has been focused solely on security and on trying to achieve deterrence; it hasn’t been seen as part of a larger political process, so it has not led to stability.
What the two authors are saying between the lines is that the post-2007 policy – focused on trying to isolate and squeeze Gaza as much as possible, to try and weaken Hamas – has not worked. That’s the part of the assessment I agree with.
You cannot resolve the problem by just throwing money at it. The reconstruction of Gaza is essential, but when we began the official negotiations to free Gilad Shalit, one of the messages I was asked to send to Hamas by the Israeli government was that when Gilad was free, Israel would allow a large amount of development to take place. I discovered Hamas wasn’t the least bit interested in this. This was not what motivated them. It is very much an Israeli/Jewish mindset which says ‘let’s throw money at the problem and resolve it.
Framing the whole idea of moving forward in terms of demilitarisation for reconstruction shows nicely that Israel’s war is against Hamas, not against the Palestinian people, and that if Hamas was to give up terrorism – even without changing its ideology – reconstruction could take place. This puts the onus on Hamas to explain why they are unprepared to give up their rockets in exchange for reconstruction.
The paper accepts that the implementation of demilitarisation will be limited. But it also proposes a list of immediate steps that Israel should take in order to help get the process started. These include the opening of crossings into Gaza, allowing steps for economic recovery, payment of salaries, and so on. Unless I have misunderstood something, this sounds to me like a plan for reconstructing Gaza with Israeli assistance, under continued Hamas rule, in return for nothing, in the hope that it will create an environment in which Hamas will agree to demilitarisation. If that is the idea then I think it’s a very bad idea.
The principle is very much on the mark. I think demilitarisation is a long term objective, although the reconstruction of Gaza should certainly be accompanied by the non-remilitarisation of Hamas. I doubt we will get very far with the reconstruction of Gaza unless there are two things in place. First, the relaxation of border controls; this is a Hamas demand that Israel should acquiesce in. Second, very tight supervision of what goes into Gaza during reconstruction. Remilitarisation would send us back to square one, with rockets and tunnels and everything that goes with those threats.
I support the approach as a matter of principle. However, we have to distinguish between shorter and longer term goals. The shorter term goal is to reach some kind of ceasefire arrangement, where both sides commit to a cessation of hostilities, coupled with the opening of Gaza to reconstruction and humanitarian assistance. The longer term goal is to secure regional and international backing for a more ambitious approach of demilitarisation for reconstruction, opening Gaza to a ‘mini Marshall Plan’.
The question is, how do you go about changing the situation on the ground in a positive way for all parties concerned? There is a real opportunity here; I’m glad that the authors grab onto it. For years now the Gaza Strip has been misgoverned – polls taken just before the conflict began indicate that as many as 80 per cent of Palestinians in Gaza wanted Hamas out. They see that their fellow Palestinians are living better lives in Israel and the West Bank and they feel left behind. That, plus the legitimate and obvious desire to demilitarise the Gaza Strip, leads to this type of a plan.
Toby Greene: Many critics of Israel’s military operation are looking at the number of casualties on both sides and concluding that Israel’s actions are disproportionate. From an international legal perspective, what does the legal demand for proportionality actually mean? And how is Israel applying it? Pnina Sharvit-Baruch: There are indeed many casualties, especially on the…
Fathom editors spoke to Ahron Bregman about his new book Cursed Victory: A History of Israel and the Occupied Territories (Penguin, 2014). Bregman served in the Israeli army for six years, taking part in the 1982 Lebanon War. He worked as an academic consultant / associate producer on two major BBC documentaries: The Fifty Years War: Israel and the Arabs (1998) and Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs (2005). He left Israel in 1989 and now teaches in the Department of War Studies, King’s College, London. The views expressed here by Ahron Bregman are his own and not those of the Fathom editors or board. Cursed Victory, which has sparked an international controversy, will be reviewed in a future issue of Fathom.
Dr Simcha Getahune, Director of ELEM – Youth in Distress spoke to Fathom’s Bethany Coates about troubled youth in Israel, the Ethiopian Israeli community, and her personal experience of making Aliyah to Israel from Ethiopia in 1984. Simcha explained how ELEM tackles problems such as child prostitution, violence and crises of identity, by reconnecting young people with their families and empowering them.
‘Reset,’ ‘Pivot,’ ‘Leading from Behind,’ ‘Red Lines,’ – the catchphrases of President Obama’s foreign policy are now often read as markers of failure, though non-intervention has been popular at home. What are the consequences of US retrenchment for the Middle East, and where will US policy go next? Fathom advisory editor Ben Cohen talked to Michael Doran about America’s global dilemma.
Questions have been raised about the direction and intentions of Hamas since the signing of a reconciliation agreement with rival Palestinian faction Fatah at the end of April. To explore this issue, Fathom deputy editor Toby Greene interviewed Dr. Benedetta Berti, a fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University and co-author of a new book, Hezbollah and Hamas: A Comparative Study, published by Johns Hopkins University Press. The interview took place on 15 May 2014.
Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land: The Triumph and the Tragedy of Israel is one of the most talked about books to be published about the country in recent years. According to Thomas Friedman, Shavit’s ‘painful love story’ offers, ‘the real Israel, not the fantasy, do-no-wrong Israel peddled by its most besotted supporters or the do-no-right colonial monster portrayed by its most savage critics.’ Fathom editor Alan Johnson spoke to Ari Shavit, a senior correspondent at Haaretz and a member of its editorial board, in London in February 2014.