POMEPS Background on Israel and Gaza

The recent escalation of violence in Gaza has prompted new debate and reignited old questions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here is a selection of important articles from The Monkey Cage and The Washington Post that help to put the current crisis into its broader political perspective:

Is Israel’s blockade worth fighting for? by Michael Robbins and Amaney Jamal (August 4, 2014): “Weakening Hamas is one of the key reasons for maintaining the controversial blockade of Gaza. Hamas says that there will be no truce without a lifting of the blockade, while Israel’s central demand is a disarming of the Gaza Strip. What do we really know about the effectiveness of the blockade in achieving this aim? Has the blockade of Gaza in fact substantially weakened Hamas?”

Gaza and the U.N.’s dilemmas of protection, by Alex J. Bellamy (July 30, 2014): “Gaza offers a sober reminder of the limits of what outsiders can do in the face of deeply entrenched conflict and that the Security Council and other key institutions do not sit above the political milieu, but are very much part of it. When it comes to Gaza, the council has few obviously good options available to it and a difficult political terrain to traverse. It also needs to be careful to avoid making matters worse.”

Political science after Gaza, by Marc Lynch (July 29, 2014): “Indeed, besides the immediacy of the stomach-churning images of death and devastation circulated over social media, much of the analysis of the war could probably be recycled from 2008 or 2012 without changing much beyond the dateline. That very stasis might actually be masking interesting questions, however. How has this conflict remained so impervious to the dizzying turbulence happening everywhere else in the region? Why are we still having the same arguments in the same terms when so much has palpably changed? Which changes in regional and international politics are likely to seriously destabilize the situation and which will be comfortably absorbed into the status quo? Will we soon look back at the long years of relative stagnation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as something akin to the false stability of Arab authoritarian regimes circa 2010?”

– Failing to forecast the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, by Charles Kurzman (July 29, 2014): “A month ago, three Israeli teenagers were found murdered near Hebron, presumably by Palestinians. Then a Palestinian teenager was found murdered in Jerusalem, presumably by Israelis. Within days, war had broken out between Hamas and Israel. Was this conflict predictable? In a general sense it seems almost inevitable. Hamas and the state of Israel have long vowed to destroy each other, and their resumption of violence can hardly be considered a surprise. But the timing of the conflict, sparked by murder and revenge – how could that be predicted?”

Paying for Israel’s wars, by Jonathan Caverley (July 28, 2014): “In Israel, however, the keenly-perceived threats of indiscriminate rockets and terrorism combine with growing economic inequality and an increasingly high-tech IDF to create a perverse incentive for a majority of voters to support aggressive operations for increasingly marginal gains in security. Given that none of these trends appear to be reversing, the level of violence pursued by Israel (and other wealthy democracies) to provide its voters near-total security will likely only increase.”

– ‘Foreign Fighters’ for Israel, by David Malet (July 22, 2014): “The deaths on July 20 of two Americans serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) provided an opening for critics of Israel to compare them to the foreign fighters of the Islamic State, formerly referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Similar complaints have already called for other governments to criminalize volunteering for Israel to create equivalence to the prosecution of would-be jihadi Islamists. The IDF reports 4,600 foreign “Lone Soldiers” currently serving, over one-third of whom are American (it is unclear how many hold dual citizenship). Are IDF Lone Soldiers comparable to al-Qaeda-inspired jihadis or the volunteer brigades who joined the Spanish Civil War?”

– Does the Gaza operation threaten Netanyahu’s political future? by Brent E. Sasley (July 18, 2014): “It is certainly true that Israeli voters, particularly the Jewish electorate, care about security matters. And the conditions in place during a given election matter, of course; in moments of war or large-scale violence, security and foreign policy concerns become predominant. They can also affect the outcome of elections: for example, the Hamas suicide bombing campaign in the mid-1990s gave Netanyahu the edge over his opponent, Shimon Peres, during the 1996 election. But according to data from the Israel National Election Studies (INES), the picture is less clear, in that social and economic issues – rather than security issues – are often at the forefront of citizens’ concerns.”

Five myths about Hamas, by Nathan J. Brown (July 18, 2014): “What concerns Hamas’s leaders is their relevance, their ability to articulate the deep senses of frustration and injustice that most Palestinians feel — and whether their rhetoric will resonate with the public. The current path of the conflict, and its fiery rhetoric, offer Hamas opportunities to present itself as more in line with the times.”

– Rockets and bombs make Israelis and Palestinians less willing to compromise, by Anna Getmansky and Thomas Zeitzoff (July 16, 2014): “If the two sides indeed agree on a ceasefire, talk will turn to the long-term political effects of the most recent hostilities. Does exposure to rockets from Hamas—which provoke terror in the Israel populace, but do not result in many casualties—pressure Israeli leaders to make peace? Or, do they make Israelis more likely to support aggressive policies towards Hamas and the Palestinians? Likewise, how does Israeli violence affect Palestinian positions towards Israelis and their support for a political solution to the conflict?”

Arabs do care about Gaza, by Marc Lynch (July 14, 2014): “The new round of violence between Israel and Gaza puts these competing hypotheses to the test: Has the Palestinian issue really lost its centrality to Arab identity or did it retain the latent power to galvanize Arab attention? As a simple, preliminary test, I searched the Twitter proxy service Topsy for all tweets in Arabic about Syria, Iraq and Gaza over the last month. The results are pretty striking.”

– The ‘price’ of radical flanks and the conflict in Gaza, by Peter Krause and Ehud Eiran (July 11, 2014): “Amidst increasing Israeli missiles fired into Gaza and Palestinian rockets fired out of it, one can quickly lose sight of what pulled the parties into this conflict in the first place. Killings, like those of three Israeli teenagers — Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah – and a Palestinian teen, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, may unfortunately seem commonplace to outside observers, but they were not simply a routine Pleiku that the Israeli or Palestinian leadership was seeking to initiate the next round of fighting. On the contrary, these killings were carried out by radical flanks that pulled their respective movements into a fight neither wanted.”

The threat or promise of justice in Palestine, by Mark Kersten (July 9, 2014): “But an ICC intervention also poses a real threat to certain Palestinian groups. It is a common misconception that Palestinian authorities can “press charges” or refer Israel to the ICC for alleged crimes committed in their protracted, decades-long war. In reality, Palestine can only refer itself to the court and, if it did so, ICC investigators would be restricted to investigating crimes perpetrated on Palestinian territory – a territory that is, for purposes of criminal investigation, still unclear. Any alleged crimes perpetrated in Israel – including the construction of illegal settlements – would be inadmissible.”



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