Those who know well the Palestinian-Israeli conflict say the fundamental issue is one of fear and distrust. Israel has the quite reasonable fear of one who fights for very survival in a hostile neighborhood. The Palestinians, on the other hand, have their very reasonable profound distrust of Israel and its intentions.
These elements are in permanent play and the current crisis is no exception.
In this case, Israel cannot accept that the Palestinian organization, Hamas, which controls Gaza, is firing hundreds of rockets at the Israeli civilian population. Israel, as with any other sovereign nation, has the right and responsibility to protect itself and its citizens.
Israel’s military response attempts to be surgical, concentrating its focus on Hamas leadership. However, Gaza is one of the most densely population areas in the region and as such, Palestinian civilian casualties are inevitable.
An Israeli military invasion of Gaza would be, as with past military actions, as disastrous for the civilian population as it would for the state of Israel. That is why it is so important that Israel be measured in its response.
In the Middle East, the more deaths there are, the more enemies are born. This is the inescapable truth. That’s why the only real path to peace is at the negotiating table. For negotiations to be successful, however, they must address Israel’s fear by recognition of its right to exist. Its neighbors must accept Israel’s presence in the region and its right to live in peace.
At the same time, Palestinian distrust of Israeli intentions will only diminish with concrete actions that bring credibility to the belief that Israel has the goal of arriving at a two-state solution. The permanent expansion of Israeli colonies along the border is just one example of what undermines trust. And, as we all know, violence is the recourse of those who have no other path.
Until there is the will to tackle fear and build trust, peace will be difficult to secure.