x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Israel's strategy in Gaza leads to endless conflict

'Cutting the grass' is the euphemism some Israeli strategists are using to describe the policy being conducted in Gaza. The problem is the policy is realist nonsense.

'Cutting the grass" is the euphemism some Israeli strategists have used to describe the policy that has been conducted in Gaza. The idea behind it is that Israel - unable on the one hand to make peace with its neighbours, and unable, on the other, to completely dominate or deter them by force - must resort to regular military incursions and strikes to degrade their military capability.

Such a policy explains the latest Gaza offensive. If Israel cannot deter Hamas and extremist groups from firing rockets, the theory goes that it must regularly degrade the military groups' weapons capabilities. It also explains the belligerence towards Iran: even though Israel lacks the ability to end Iran's nuclear programme, it can set it back a couple of years.

The problem is the policy is realist nonsense. It ignores or reinterprets the facts to fit a military-first and military-only doctrine, blatantly disregards the experience of Palestinians (for whom, as the occupying power, Israel has legal responsibility) and ignores the rather obvious point that Israel's actions are not considered in isolation - they bring with them consequences and reactions.

Israel's military adventures are always framed by the country's apologists as inevitable and proportionate reactions. Yet these actions incur reactions, and those reactions are making the country less safe. After every conflict, whether with Hizbollah in Lebanon or with Hamas in Gaza, and after every threat against Iran, the hardliners in those countries are strengthened and new weapons and technologies are developed to stop Israel's next bombardment.

In 2006, Israel barely fought Hizbollah to a standstill. That conflict revealed that Hizbollah could utilise anti-ship missiles, in the same way as the latest conflict in Gaza has proved the supposition that Hamas has rockets that can hit Tel Aviv, although that arsenal has been degraded to a degree.

Most importantly, the idea that Israel cannot reach a peace with its neighbours is ridiculous. Palestinians have been extending the hand of diplomacy for decades. If Israel ended its occupation of the West Bank, ended the siege of Gaza, withdrew settlers and stopped threatening its other neighbours, there would be no need to wage war against anyone, and no "grass" to cut. That equivocation fools no one - Israel's campaign is killing civilians.