By Christian Stellakis
Edited by Liz Maria Kuriakose, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
To say that a conflict has arisen recently in the Israel is somewhat of a superfluous statement. In reality, conflicts never really left the troubled nation. Existing in a region surrounded by enemies, where neighbouring countries bemoan its very existence, Israel has faced its fair share of hardships. With tensions palpable and threats looming, Israel endures in a seemingly perpetual state of unease and vulnerability. Nevertheless, the small nation has not only survived the challenges, it has thrived in the large part due to its hardball approach to terrorism. The recent escalation of violence between the Israeli military and Hamas is a testament to this fact.
In the preceding weeks, Israel launched multiple precision airstrikes against Hamas, an action that claimed the lives of at least 46 Palestinians and reignited the age old Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The attacks targeted areas of the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian region under the authority of the known terrorist organization Hamas. An operation designed to cripple Hamas’rocket attack capabilities; the Israeli airstrikes have struck 550 targets, including 60 rocket launchers, 31 tunnels and 11 homes of high-ranking Hamas leaders. While the Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have argued that the airstrikes were necessary to maintain the peace and security of the Israeli people, the Palestinians view the recent aggression as a call to arms.
Israel’s recent airstrikes are part of a larger operation that began in 2012, formally known as “Operation Pillar of Defense.”It is a response to the increasing frequency of rocket attacks coming out of the Hamas-controlled territory. According to Netanyahu, the attacks have “made normal life impossible for over 1 million Israelis.”In short, a retaliatory response was an absolute necessity.
Not surprisingly, that line of reasoning failed to resonate with the people of the Gaza Strip, who witnessed the retaliatory airstrikes take the lives of eight women and eleven children. Hamas has vowed vengeance against all Israelis for the “horrendous war crime”committed against the Palestinian people. Meanwhile, hundreds of rockets continue to be fired from Gaza aimed at Israeli cities and towns. About 40 of the rockets have been intercepted by Israel’s missile defense system Iron Dome, the structure that has helped to prevent the deaths of an untold number of Israeli citizens. Heralded as both a “game-changer”and “the most effective, most tested, missile shield the world has ever seen,”the Iron Dome is yet to allow an Israeli casualty among the recent barrage of rocket attacks.
At least in the opinion of the Israeli military, the protective capabilities of the Iron Dome are not enough to secure the lives of the nation’s people. In response to Hamas’threat that Israel has opened “the gates of hell on themselves,”the Israelis have expanded their military operations against the terrorist organization. In preparation for a potential ground operation or invasion, the military has called upon 40,000 military reservists to become activated for duty. The show of force is undoubtedly the largest Israel has mustered in quite some time, and while some fear that this escalation may well lead to a military occupation of the Gaza Strip; such an operation would come at a high cost for both sides.
Personal opinions regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict aside, a full-scale military occupation is not optimal for the Israelis given their strategies and objectives. Their first and primary motivation is ultimately the protection of their citizens from threat and harm. Accomplishing this goal means the elimination of threats, both real and perceived. This objective may lead Israel to strike Hamas hard and fast, using their military might to cripple the terrorist regime, thus removing the threat. Following up such an operation with occupation, though, would quickly become a drain on resources and would likely end in failure. Hamas would almost certainly hide behind civilians, seizing every opportunity to drive public opinion against the occupying force.
On the other hand, it is entirely possible that the activation of the 40,000 reservists is a form of sword rattling, a posturing technique designed to dissuade an opposing force through a show of strength. By threatening invasion and utter annihilation, the Israeli military may be trying to pressure Hamas into forgoing its campaign of rocket attacks. Still, if Hamas were to call Israel’s bluff, the Jewish nation would be inclined to take action rather than appear weak.
It appears almost inevitable that conflict will continue to escalate between the nation of Israel and the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. And while it may not be in the best interest of either of the groups to clash directly, their strategies, positions and beliefs push them ever closer to a bloody confrontation. It’s like a game of Chicken, with each force determined not to balk. The end result is always a head-on collision.
Christian is a Junior at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. As an honors student and member of the Dean’s List, Christian is pursuing a degree in Economics and Government. He was accepted into Hamilton after graduating Valedictorian of Chittenango High School, where he served as the Opinion Editor for the school newspaper. Christian is an avid member of the Hamilton College Debate Society and a frequent contributor to the political discourse at the college.