On Gaza

So Hamas was still launching second rate rockets blindly out of Gaza, and of course this time it was just too much and Israel had to respond or risk a second Holocaust. Or something like that.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is sort of a catch-22 for me. On the one hand, I’m rather obsessive in following it, for fairly obvious reasons given its implications for the rest of the world. On the other hand, I probably give it less thought than most, because for the most part I think everyone else gives it entirely too much brain power as a result of assuming good faith on the part of the players.

For starters, obviously I’ve got to say that everyone is in the wrong here. Hamas shouldn’t be firing rockets into Israel, Israel shouldn’t be launching massively disproportionate responses into densely populated areas, or blockading Gaza in ways that make mass poverty an inevitability for that matter, and the United States’s predictably one sided response is just shameful. Everyone needs to do better, and soon.

But the larger issue here, and the one that never gets any attention at all, is the incentive structure of the parties involved. Obviously there’s a very real interest in establishing peace for the people of Israel and Palestine, but unfortunately the incentives for the people in power are to keep the conflict going. For Hamas, the conflict creates a reason for power, even for existence. In the event of a peaceful solution, the Palestinian people are going to want to focus on building a decent place to live, as opposed to fighting against Israel, and Hamas will either have to adapt or lose popular support. Obviously this would seem to create an even better reason for Israel to coe up with a way to create a 2 state solution, but to assume that is to misunderstand the concious decision to sacrifice some internal stability and security for regional hegemony Israel has been operating under for decades. To make a long story short, the main lever of power in the region is control of the Jordan River’s headwaters, and the way to control them is to control the West Bank and Golan Heights, something Israel has done since 1967. To come to a peaceful settlement means a West Bank that is part of an independent Palestine, and returning Golan to Syria, something that gives the Arabs control of the Jordan. Now there’s reason enough for Israel to worry about this, obviously, and a good international effort to bring peace would be looking for a way to give Israel some guarantees about the security of their water supplies. But that doesn’t mean there’s any reason not to understand how the various players are making decisions, or to accept that Israel wants to bring about a peaceful solution to the problem when they very simply do not.