The situation in Gaza continues to be one of the most complex, explosive and tragic components of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In the years since Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza and the rise to power of Hamas, we have seen four rounds of full-fledged military confrontation between Hamas and Israel. These clashes have had devastating consequences for Gaza’s civilian population, economy and basic infrastructure, contributing to one of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises. Israeli civilians all along the southern border and beyond have been subjected to indiscriminate rocket fire and terror attacks. Thousands of Palestinians and over one hundred Israeli soldiers and civilians have been killed or wounded.
Multiple parties bear some measure of responsibility for the ongoing crisis. Hamas, an Islamist terrorist organization that preaches violence and hatred against Israel, has turned Gaza into a base for terrorist operations against Israel, while oppressing and essentially holding hostage the civilian population. Since 2007, Israel, along with Egypt, has maintained a strict military blockade of Gaza that guarantees the scarcity of many vital goods and materials. The Palestinian Authority and the Fatah party, while rightly opposing Hamas for its extreme ideology and support for terror, has at times taken provocative and destabilizing actions that further harm the people of Gaza.
It is clear that Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas rocket fire and terrorist operations. At the same time, there is no long-term military solution to the situation that can guarantee Israeli security and a normal life for the people of Gaza. Ultimately, Hamas must recognize Israel’s existence, renounce violence and agree to abide by previous Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic agreements. In the interim, what is needed is a diplomatic process, supported by the United States and the international community, that engages all parties and encourages steps toward a solution.
A real solution for Gaza must:
- Address Israel’s legitimate security concerns from both rockets and tunnels.
- Address the serious humanitarian issues that face the civilian population in Gaza, including greater freedom of movement for people and goods for non-military purposes and the absence of vital infrastructure.
International experts and Israeli security officials have proposed various innovative steps that could improve the humanitarian situation and alleviate rising tensions. One such proposal would include the construction of a seaport that would ease Israel’s blockade, increase the flow of vital goods and supplies into Gaza and house much-needed new electricity and water-supply infrastructure.
J Street urges leaders on all sides to seriously pursue proposals like this, and to act responsibly and proactively to improve the situation in a way that helps avoid future rounds of conflict and ends the continual cycle of violence.