AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
As the death toll continues to rise in the latest conflict between Israel and the Hamas, one has to wonder how many people will have to die before the two parties can agree on a cease-fire and reach some sort of permanent truce.
As of last week, news reports claim that more than 1,800 Palestinians have been killed, while another 9,000 have been wounded in the Gaza region by Israel attacks. On the Israel side of the border, only 64 soldiers and three civilians have been killed. But those lopsided statistics are due in large part to the effectiveness of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which has intercepted more than 3,200 rockets that Hamas has fired into Israel.
The question of course, that begs to be answered, is how many more people, the vast majority of whom are Palestinian civilians, must die before the leaders of Israel and Hamas can reach a peace settlement.
But bringing peace, or at least a long-lasting truce to the Middle East, is going to be very difficult to achieve because the two sides are approaching the conflict from two completely different positions.
For the Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by many Western countries, the end of the conflict will only happen with the destruction of Israel. And that destruction can either happen by physically destroying the country though rockets or armed conflict, or by so terrorizing the citizens of Israel that they pack up and leave.
And for the Israelis, the end of this particular conflict will come when, in their opinion, they have been able to destroy the Hamas-built tunnels that allow terrorists to infiltrate their country, as well as be able to significantly reduce Hamas’ ability to wage war against them.
The battle lines have been clearly drawn. And those battle lines haven’t really changed since Israel was carved out of Palestine and became an independent state in 1948.
While there are moderate Palestinian groups that are committed to recognizing Israel and want to have peace in the region, there are always other groups of Palestinians who view the Israelis and the state of Israel as evil and as something that must be destroyed.
Israel is committed to being a free state, and they recognize the very real dangers that are lurking outside their borders. Which is why they have developed perhaps the most effective missile defense system in the world, as well as created a very good military. They know from where their danger to freedom comes. In the past, it may be have been from militant groups from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iran or Lebanon. Today the conflict is with the Hamas. And at some time in the future, there will be another militant group that decides that their goal is to destroy Israel.
With such distrust and hatred between these two very distinct and different groups, it is no wonder that any degree of peace or truce between Israel and the Palestinians has been so short-lived.
Is it possible for a true peace to ever exist between Israel and the rest of the Middle East? History would say that if peace is to finally come to the region, it will be via a long and rocky road. But it is a road that needs to be traveled. And it is a road that the United States and the rest of the world must be willing to travel if peace is to last in the region.