Reflections on the Israel-Hamas Conflict in Gaza and Stray Voltage on Genocide, Proportionality, Apartheid, Collective Punishment, and the Impact of the (Demise of) the Right of Conquest  

Disclaimer: The posts, views and opinions expressed on this site are completely my own and do not represent the views or opinions of my employer, the Department of Defense (DoD), the Armed Services, nor any part of the Defense Industrial Base.

It has been a long time since I posted anything to Kapok Tree. But there is just so much going on in the world with the Ukraine-Russia conflict, the Israel-Hamas conflict, rising antisemitism, flagrant violations of international law, rising national debt, etc.  I thought this might be a good time to lay a couple things on the table that might get us thinking.  I do want to talk about the conflict in Gaza and clarify a couple things on proportionality, apartheid, collective punishment and genocide, as well as do something unique by looking at the right of conquest, but I’m not going to get into an analysis of U.S. policy or what the U.S. should or shouldn’t do.  I will aim to keep my discussion confined to the topic of international law.  Let’s get into it.

The Permanence of Warfare (well, until Jesus comes back) 

What is happening with Israel and Hamas is really nothing new considering biblical truth.  Warfare and violent conflict have always been a sign of spiritual failure. 

James 4:1-3 says: 

“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (Bible Gateway, NKJV, 1982).  Jesus added, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52, NKJV).  This principle of ‘violence begetting violence’ applies even if the cause is just.  There’s no way around it. 

Moreover, there is no justification in international law or the Bible for an indiscriminate use of violence to deal with injustice, no matter how bad the injustice.  Warfare is not a tool to be taken lightly and used for dubious reasons when other methods of conflict resolution might prove successful.  It is important to note that God wants man to live in peace. “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:19, NKJV).   Jesus said to, “Love your enemies, and bless those who curse you” (Mt. 5:44, NIV).  It’s good to be a peacemaker. 

Having said all of that, warfare is not going away, at least not anytime soon.  Both the Council on Foreign Relations and Crisis Watch put out Global Conflict Trackers.  The CFR map reveals numerous conflicts ongoing in Africa and the Middle East, not to mention that a genuine threat of genocide exists in the Sudan, Myanmar/Burma, Darfur and Nigeria.  Genocide, though, is one of those words that get tossed around and applied to all sorts of conflicts without much thought to the actual definition, often depriving genocide of its true meaning and impact thereof.   

What is Genocide? 

According to Article 2 of the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the term is defined as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:  

  • killing members of the group;  
  • causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;  
  • deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;  
  • imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group 
  • {and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group 

Based upon that strict definition, I do Not believe that genocide is occurring in Gaza, or in Ukraine, or to Native American Indians in the 1800’s for that matter, where disease claimed 75-90% of the dead.  I should add that motives are an integral part of proving genocidal intent, and that the convention fails to address what percentage of a group must be impacted to qualify as genocide. Genuine examples of genocide include (but are not limited to) the Holocaust and genocides in Armenia (1915-1917), Rwanda (1994), and Cambodia (1975-1979).   In the international laws of armed conflict (LOAC), Intent and Context are everything. 

For Israel to be committing genocide against Gaza, they would have to be deliberately trying to destroy, in whole or in part, all manner of Palestinians in Gaza, but their efforts are focused solely upon the Hamas military leadership, a legitimate target under the Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC).  The political leadership of Israel has never stated they want to exterminate the Palestinian population in Gaza.  Hamas have stated, however, in their 1988 charter, “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” It gets worse, rejection of peace proposals, etc., but I think you get the point.  If Israel isn’t committing genocide, aren’t they violating the principle of proportionality in international law? 


Article 48 of the Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions prohibits direct or indiscriminate attacks on civilians and requires military forces to take all reasonable measures to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties. Article 52 limits attacks to specific military objectives.  “International Humanitarian Law prohibits attacks that may cause “incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated” (API Arts. 51, 57).  It obliges to balance the military advantages sought and the damage and civilian losses related to it.” (The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law) 

But the Final Report to the Prosecutor by the Committee Established to Review the NATO Bombing Campaign Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia brought up some interesting questions regarding proportionality.  “The main problem with the principle of proportionality is not whether or not it exists, but what it means and how it is to be applied.”  The prosecutor posed the following questions: 

  • What are the relative values to be assigned to the military advantage gained and the injury to non-combatants or the damage to civilian objects?” 
  • What do you include or exclude in totaling your sums? 
  • What is the standard of measurement in time and space? And 
  • To what extent is a military commander obligated to expose his own forces to danger in order to limit civilian casualties or damage to civilian objects?”  Excerpt from International Law – Norms, Actors, Process, 2nd Ed., by Dunoff, Ratner & Wippman. Aspen Publishers, 2006.  

At face value, I think these are tough questions to answer sometimes.  It is easy to say we can’t take out a city block to kill one sniper. Got it. But proportionality decisions are often much more cloudy, vague, and closer in net sum calculations on balance. Does Israel make mistakes in its calculations sometimes? They probably do. The U.S. did in its prior wars. And technology and precision-guided munitions don’t always work right. As I stated before, in the LOAC intent and context are of supreme importance.

Inherent (and legal) within the proportionality principle is the reality that civilians will die.  Women and children will die.  This is a terrible and tragic outcome, but so is war.  If military facilities are collocated within hospitals, schools or mosques, which Hamas often does, they are still legitimate military objectives even though there may be civilian casualties despite the best efforts of the military commanders.  When I see a school or apartment building that was bombed, and then I see children carrying dead children out of the rubble, my first instinct is to assume that it was probably a disproportionate response. My heart breaks.

But … (1) I don’t have all the facts and classified intelligence, and (2) I don’t know the relative military value of that building, and (3) I don’t know what future danger it posed to Israeli troops.  If that was a really high-value target, how do I know its destruction and the loss of civilian life was excessive in relation to the military advantage gained by taking it out? I don’t.  It may have been; or it may not have been.  There’s not much value in playing armchair quarterback.  Oh, by the way, international law prohibits using civilians as human shields, and if you can’t distinguish the lawful combatants, it’s a tougher calculation.

Gaza is an Open-Air Prison … True or False?   

It seems to be the new fad to throw around the term that Gaza is an open-air prison.  But is it really?  If it’s a prison, then you shouldn’t be able to leave or come back. But people do, through Israel and Egypt.  “Before the Oct. 7 attacks, nearly 60,000 Gazans a month entered Israel for work purposes. Between January 1 and October 6, 2023, 113,234 people left Gaza for Egypt while 116,651 people entered Gaza from Egypt” (aish 2023). It also seems that Gaza and Hamas have plenty of food, fuel and medicine. 

According to the New York Times

“As supplies of virtually every basic human necessity dwindle in Gaza, one group in the besieged enclave remains well-stocked: Hamas. Arab and Western officials say there is substance to Israeli claims of Hamas stockpiling supplies, including desperately needed food and fuel… Hamas has hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel for vehicles and rockets; caches of ammunition, explosives and materials to make more; and stockpiles of food, water and medicine, the officials said.”  

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) also reported: “Hamas-controlled health authorities have been claiming — for weeks — that Gaza hospitals will have to close in a day or two due to lack of power, and this has been repeated by numerous media outlets. But what Hamas is omitting is that thanks to a UN/WHO program, Gaza hospitals have extensive solar panel installations on their roofs which can supply a substantial portion of their power needs” … See this curious video, posted by Hamas media outside Shifa Hospital on November 4th, showing perhaps a thousand people … with the lights on in many rooms of the hospital, the entrance ablaze with light, and many of the spectators holding up working cell phones.”  Hmm  

As to the question of whether Gaza was occupied prior to October 7th, I would refer the readers to an amazing analysis doen by Elizabeth Samson back in 2010, although still valid in 2023, that covers everything from territorial waters and airspace, to borders, infrastructure, electricity, fuel, water supply, taxation and security.  Article 42 of the Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land, The Hague, 18 October 1907 defines belligerent occupation as follows: 

“Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised” (ICRC).

Military occupation is considered to exist in a territory, or part of a territory, if the following elements can be demonstrated: the presence of foreign troops, which are in a position to exercise effective control without the consent of the sovereign. It is often asserted in the mainstream media and by goofs like Scott Ritter, that Israel has effective control without boots on the ground.  Samson delineates the effective control view by noting the reasons often cited by its proponents.  They argue that Israel has effective control over Gaza because it: 

  • Patrols Gaza’s territorial waters and maintains exclusive control in the air space  
  • Controls the entire Israeli border with Gaza including Erez and Karni  
  • Controls Egypt’s border with Gaza, including the Rafah border crossing  
  • Supplies Gaza with electricity, fuel, telecommunications services, water, and sewage removal and is said to “control” the administration of these services in Gaza 
  • Maintains a population registry of Gazans and collects, on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, taxes on goods bound for Gaza passing through Israeli ports  
  • Has identified security considerations and reserved for itself the right to re-enter Gaza for broadly self-defined “self-defense”, and 
  • Has the “ability” to exercise power over Gaza (Samson, 933-934).

Samson methodically destroys each of those arguments one-by-one and proposes a “three-part test for assessing the existence of “effective control” over a territory. The test, which is derived from the standards set forth in the Hague Regulations, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the Hostages case, analyzes whether: 

1. the territory is “actually placed under the authority of the hostile army [,]” and the “authority has been established and can be exercised” 

2. the state in power “exercises the functions of government in such territory” 

3. the authority of the occupier is “to the exclusion of the established government” (Samson, 935).

If a circumstance fails any of the requirements of the “effective control” test, it follows that “effective control,” and consequently an occupation, does not exist” (Samson 2010).  There has been no Israeli military or civilian presence in Gaza since 2005, so the first plank of that test is a Fail.  Hamas has been running the show in Gaza since 2007, so the second and third planks are a Fail as well.  Israel protects its borders and supplies things like supplemental water and power, for example, but it doesn’t exert effective control over Gaza. That is left to the ineffective government of Hamas, which is not exactly united with Fatah.  

Is Israel Guilty of Apartheid 

Amnesty International recently put out a bogus report accusing Israel of apartheid and Western media, college campuses and of course the pro-Hamas crowd are starting to run with it.  This lie is of the same fabric as the “open-air prison” lie.  The Wall Street Journal points out that there is apartheid in the region, just not in Israel.  After pointing out several examples of what apartheid actually is, the Journal notes, “All these policies are practiced in the West Bank and Gaza—by the Palestinian Authority government against Jews. What makes the “Israel apartheid” meme particularly despicable is that is not just a lie, it is an inversion of the truth. In all areas controlled by Israel, Jews and Arabs mix openly. Yet the Palestinian Authority has for decades ruled over Gaza and about half the West Bank—and all the areas under its jurisdiction are Jew-free.”  Is that not the definition of apartheid?   

Eugene Kontorovich, writing for the WSJ, also points out addiitonal instances of Palestinian aparthied: 

  • Palestinian law makes selling land to Jews a crime punishable by death, often without trial. 
  • In Israel, by contrast, Arabs enjoy full property rights, enforced by the courts against Jews. 
  • In all the territories controlled by the Palestinian govt, Jews are prevented from worshipping at their holy sites, despite explicit provisions in the Oslo Accords requiring the Palestinian Authority to protect such worship. 
  • The Palestinian Constitution defines Palestine as an exclusively “Arab nation,” with Islam the official religion and Arabic the sole official language. At the same time, Palestinian officials and educators deny any Jewish history or connection to Israel. 

By any practical measure, the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, is guilty in spades. “Arabs participate in elections, hold seats in the Knesset, and one Arab is now a cabinet minister. The Palestinians in the West Bank could have their own state with comparable rights if they had accepted the concessions that Israel offered, under U.S. auspices, in the 1990s and again in 2000. Their leaders refused and the ugly stalemate continues” (WSJ, The Apartheid Libel of Israel).  How is this a tolerable existence for the Palestinians?  

What About Israeli Settlements in the West Bank – Don’t They Violate Intl. Law?  

They do not.  This idea was started by a four-page 1978 memo, written by legal adviser Herbert Hansell, that “concluded that Israel was an “occupying power” in the West Bank. Next, it invoked an obscure provision of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which says the “Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Hansell concluded that Jews who have moved past the Green Line into disputed territory have somehow been “deported or transferred” there by the state of Israel” (WSJ, Kontorovich, 2019).  I haven’t seen any buses and convoys.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo disagreed, saying, “After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees with President Reagan. The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law.” Kontorovich explains, “Under international law, occupation occurs when a country takes over the sovereign territory of another country. But the West Bank was never part of Jordan, which seized it in 1949 and ethnically cleansed its entire Jewish population. Nor was it ever the site of an Arab Palestinian state.” He adds

“Moreover, a country cannot occupy territory to which it has sovereign title, and Israel has the strongest claim to the land. International law holds that a new country inherits the borders of the prior geopolitical unit in that territory. Israel was preceded by the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, whose borders included the West Bank. Hansell’s memo fails to discuss this principle for determining borders, which has been applied everywhere from Syria and Lebanon to post-Soviet Russia and Ukraine.” 

It also appears that the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan would bring the occupation status to an end, “but the State Department neglected to update the memo.” Moreover, Stephen Schwebel, formerly President of the International Court of Justice, notes that “a country acting in self defence may seize and occupy territory when necessary to protect itself. Schwebel also observes that a state may require, as a condition for its withdrawal, security measures designed to ensure its citizens are not menaced again from that territory.” Having said that, and even at risk to its own citizens and sovereign territory, Israel has withdrawn from over 90% of the territory it captured in 1967.  

I should note that Kotorovich and Abraham Bell have put together an even more powerful and comprehensive defense of Israeli settlements being legal under international law as part a research paper they did on the doctrine of Uti possidetis juris. I would highly recommend reading it to understand the IL implications.  

“Uti possideitis juris is widely acknowledged as the doctrine of customary international law that is central to determining territorial sovereignty in the era of decolonization. The doctrine provides that emerging states presumptively inherit their pre-independence administrative boundaries. Applied to the case of Israel, uti possidetis juris would dictate that Israel inherit the boundaries of the Mandate of Palestine as they existed in May 1948.” (Bell & Kontorovich, P. 633).  

Collective Punishment

I thought I had covered every catch-phrase and buzzword when I initially finished this draft, but I guess I forgot “collective punishment,” another term that gets casually bantered around social media, usually without any critical analysis as to whether there is any substantive or objective evidence for it. The typical assertion goes something like this, “Israel’s attacks on Hamas in Gaza amount to the deliberate administration of collective punishment upon Gazan civilians, because there have been so many casualties.”

It also stems from an article in 2014 by two Israeli think tank strategists, Efraim Inbar and Eitan Shamir, who coined the phrase “mowing the grass” in reference to periodically degrading Hamas military capabilities as part of a long-term strategy of attrition. This phrase has been picked up by others over the years and popularized. I should note that these two authors in particular do not believe in a two-state solution and are pretty hostile and pessimistic towards any other political solutions in the near term. I do not endorse “mowing the grass” as a viable long-term strategy or as some sort of perverse interpretation of proportionality. It doesn’t really solve the root problem and may actually create a “self-perpetuating” aspect to the conflict. I do not think such a strategy will bring enduring peace into that region, although I understand the pessimism and the strategy itself even if I disagree with it. But let’s talk further about the assertion of collective punishment as it relates to the latest chapter in this conflict.

Art. 33 of the Geneva Convention states, “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.” As Oved Lobel notes, “This provision is generally interpreted to apply only to populations directly under the control of the warring state – such as Prisoners of War or conquered civilian towns – who have penalties imposed on them for crimes or actions committed by another person or persons, such as the Nazi practice of butchering whole towns if one of their soldiers was killed by a partisan. The provision doesn’t generally forbid actions that may adversely affect the citizens of enemy territory, and certainly not legitimate military actions that have the side effect of doing so.”

I think Kontorovich said this in an interview somewhere, and I am paraphrasing, but he asked whether it was collective punishment by the state against the children of a father who was convicted of murder and subsequently sent to jail? I don’t think most reasonable people would see it that way. This is urban warfare in a very densely populated area. There are going to be civilian casualties. If a rocket gets fired from or near a mosque or a hospital, that area becomes a military target. The collective penalty provision does not necessarily prohibit Israel from taking out those threats, even if civilians might be impacted. Each decision has to be weighed very, very carefully. This principle kind of goes hand-in-hand with proportionality. Context and Intent mean everything. Has Israel ever made a mistake with respect to proportionality that adversely impacted civilians? They have, but context and intent matter.

Lastly, by ordering Palestinians to stay in their homes after Israel issued extensive evacuation orders prior to their ground offensive, by diverting steel and cement intended for civilian construction projects into military tunnels, and by turning sewer pipes into rockets, or stealing funds intended for civilian economic growth projects and using it for terror, etc., etc., isn’t Hamas really the one guilty of collective punishment? Conversely, “mowing the grass” isn’t a long-term solution, even if one is only hitting military targets (which is unlikely 100% of the time in urban warfare). There is nothing ever simple and straight-forward about this conflict.

Right of Conquest in Context to Gaza 

Ok, it might take me a little bit of time to get to the Gaza part, but I think I can make it worth it. Sharon Korman absolutely crushed it in 1996 when she wrote the powerful book, The Right of Conquest – The Acquisition of Territory by Force in International Law and Practice. I will be basing my analysis over the next page or so on the ideas in that book. Lassa Oppenheim stated in 1905,  

“As long as a Law of Nations has been in existence, the states as well as the vast majority of writers have recognized subjugation as a mode of acquiring territory” (Korman, 7). Henry Wheaton added, “The title of almost all the nations of Europe to the territory now possessed by them, in that quarter of the world, was originally derived from conquest, which has been subsequently confirmed by long possession and international compacts, to which all European states have successfully become parties” (Korman, 67) 

If you go back far enough, the title to every nation was held by someone else, and someone else before that nation. Every land was someone else’s land at one point. Quoting Brownlie, Korman notes, “the right of states to go to war and to obtain territory by right of conquest was unlimited, although some qualifications to this position had appeared by 1914” (Korman, 80). The United States annexed Texas, the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico in wars fought between 1846 and 1898 respectively. To be clear, the U.S. defeated Mexico in 1848 in a war over the annexation of Texas in 1845. The U.S. won that war, and they have rightful title to Texas by conquest … period, end of story.   

Fast forward through the 20th century with two world wars, the rise of the principle of self- determination as well as the idea that belligerent occupation must be temporal, the establishment of the United Nations and the idea that war is simply too terrible and dangerous to allow, and we can see the gradual demise of the right of conquest. The Charter of the UN, Article 2, Chapters 3-4 indicate: 

3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.  

4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations. 

Then Chapter VII, Article 51 says this: 

“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” 

Lest anyone be confused, I am a supporter of those UN principles. I do not believe it is right or legal from the perspective of international law for states to violate the territorial integrity or political independence of other states. I believe that states do have an inherent right of self-defense. I believe that for all intents and purposes the “right of conquest” is no longer valid. I believe in Just War principles. But I am also a realist, and I would say the international system is anarchic and no central authority exists that can guarantee compliant behavior by other states to these principles. So let’s also be honest. States still acquire territory by conquest; they just do not acquire territory lawfully by conquest (Korman, 304).  

International law does not deter states from acquiring, occupying, and/or annexing territory. Did it deter Russia in Georgia, or Crimea, or Ukraine? Granted, there has been substantial push-back on Ukraine, but not enough to deter Vladimir Putin from annexing Ukrainian territory. The UN General Assembly recently voted by a count of 143-5 to condemn Russian annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, although 45 countries including China, India and Iran abstained or declined to vote … lol. Even the relative lightweight of Azerbaijan annexed the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in September with many blaming Valdimir Putin, who had peacekeepers in the area, for abandoning Armenia. 

Furthermore, international law does not deter China from releasing outrageous “ten-dashed-line” maps claiming almost the entire South China Sea, infuriating Asian neighbors like the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and India, all of whom have legitimate territorial disputes with China. International law has also not deterred China from turning reefs and islands in the South China Sea into full-blown military bases to include 20 outposts in the Paracel Islands and 7 in the Spratlys, as well as Scarborough Shoal. Wang Xiangsui wrote the manual on Unrestricted Warfare and explain that “strong countries make the rules while rising ones break them and exploit loopholes.”  Bottom line, if you have sufficient power, you can decide which international rules to obey, even if it might ultimately backfire.

But I digress. What does this have to do with Gaza? I’m making the case for power politics trumping legal considerations. Indonesia invaded Portuguese East Timor in December of 1975 and then formally annexed it in July 1976, and nobody stopped them. Why? In short, it was because the U.S. valued Indonesia as a key ally along with Australia and Japan. “The U.S. wished things to turn out as they did, and worked to bring this about” (Korman, 285). “Considerations of international legality were clearly overshadowed by the considerations of realpolitik” (Korman, 289). “There does come a time when the reality of an annexation or an absorption of this kind has to be accepted” (Korman 291).  That is why the poster boy for 2020’s violations of international territorial integrity, Putin, may get his way in Ukraine.

If Israel were the U.S., or Russia, or China, or maybe even an under-the-radar rising power like an Indonesia or India in limited circumstances, or in a perfect world, they could simply annex Gaza, or the West Bank, and many would complain, but the international community would eventually accept it. This is not one of those scenarios; Israel doesn’t have that kind of power in this case, for several reasons.  Israel did, however, effectively extend “Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration to the Golan Heights” in 1981 (Korman, 261). Syria forced Israel’s hand with its long-standing refusal to negotiate a peace treaty for 30+ years. Syria’s reluctance to sign a treaty was grounded in their fear of possibly losing legal rights to the Golan Heights.  So they simply prolonged the conflict.

The loss of the right of conquest as a basis of title, says Korman, “raises the question whether the absolute denial of the right of conquest in the post-1945 period has not actually contributed, in some cases to international disorder.” She adds, “It had, at least, the virtue of aiding the termination of wars by encouraging the process of bargaining for a political settlement … (but) the current legal regime may be one which, far from promoting international peace and stability, rather promotes deadlock … [given Syria’s ability to] escape the consequences of its refusal to arrive at a peace settlement” (Korman, 266). What do you guys think? If Israel was simply allowed to conquer and annex Gaza, or the West Bank, like Russia is doing in Ukraine by annexing four oblasts, would that terminate this conflict quicker? It’s not going to happen, and Israel doesn’t want Gaza. Just theorizing.


The best possible outcome that I can see out of Gaza is that Israel does the international community a favor if it can successfully and decisively degrade Hamas military capabilities, demilitarize the region, and pave the way for some type of international and indefinite peacekeeping force. Peacekeepers, though, are often better at conflict management than conflict resolution. They just give you a stalemate. When the U.S. left Afghanistan, the Taliban rushed back in to fill the void. If Hamas is destroyed, what Hamas-like organization will rise and fill the void?  Any peacekeeping force will be expected to stop that. And what countries would contribute peacekeepers? That’s a tough one.

This is going to be a very, very difficult military campaign and probably not a short one. I’m not sure how long the international community’a “big three” and other big players in the Middle East like Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, will allow this to continue. The Russian-Iranian alliance will play a significant role, I think, in whatever the final outcome of this looks like. Public sentiment is not in Israel’s favor. I’m not sure about the two-state solution either. It’s a great idea on paper, but this is Israel and Palestine. We kind of have a two or three-state solution right now, and it’s not working.  

Palestine also rejected peace plans three times, in 1947, 2000 and 2008. They cannot reject the next one. Its Arab neighbors cannot let it do that again. Negotiators may need to throw out some of the old boundaries and borders of prior UN plans. There’s nothing sacred about the pre-1967 borders. Those borders didn’t solve anything. Could it be that the UN got it wrong? Security is the paramount need of all states, and survival is the number one goal of all states. Haven’t we seen enough violence to understand that?  Future borders have to reinforce security, not jeopardize it.

I used to have some hope that the “land for peace” framework, which was endorsed not only by the Oslo Accords but also by the Egypt-Israel and Jordan-Israel peace treaties could improve the situation. In addition, the Arab Peace Initiative, which has been approved by all Arab League member States, explicitly endorsed the “land for peace” principle. I thought we were making a little bit of progress. This framework may be in jeopardy, by the way, at the Intl. Court of Justice.  I like this idea I saw recently touting an Israeli-Palestinian confederation, loosely based on a European Union model, “that would allow tens of thousands of citizens of each state to live on the other side of the border as permanent residents.” This might have a chance to enhance trust and cooperation.

For the record, I am not a pro-Israel apologist. Israel isn’t this perfectly innocent little angel that can do no wrong. I do believe actions taken by Israel over the years to secure a lasting peace leave something to be desired. They could do more. But they need help and significant prodding from the major powers. Israel and the Palestinians cannot and will not do this by themselves. History has proven that. Without major power intervention rooted in a sincere desire for lasting peace, we will be right back to square one.

I believe I have a moral obligation when I cover a conflict like this to offer non-mainstream perspectives and shed light on concepts and assertions that are not fully rooted in objective fact, even though the catch-phrases and buzzwords have been casually repeated so much that they are accepted as fact with very little scrutiny. Having said that, there are grey areas, like with proportionality, that do not always neatly align to distinct conclusions of right and wrong. The big powers need to encourage some sort of compromise by both sides and put security at the core and foundation of any new one or two-state solution, or alternative model, once the dust has settled in Gaza. Historically, they have been failing at this since 1948. One must wonder if Iran and Russia really want peace in the Middle East? My hope is that we can get to a real negotiations phase without this conflict blowing up regionally, God forbid.  

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