We should be clear from the beginning. Hamas is the freely elected party running the Government in Gaza. Hamas and the PLO have split, with the PLO running the West Bank.
The UN maintains that Israel is the occupying power, but Israel limits itself to the blockade, attempting to ensure military equipment does not enter the Gaza Strip.
Amongst local bloggers, at least one, Kad Barma, has complained about the Israeli commando attack on the Mavi Marmara—see here and here.
I am prepared to stipulate that the Israeli commandos may have responded with excess force. In terms of error I wouldn't say it rises to the level of your typical SWAT takedown of the wrong apartment in the US. However, ten dead is too many. Ten is too many even given the other side was using flash bangs and several were on a suicide mission to make their point.
The flip side of this is the reaction of some of those outside Israel. Quoting one commentator:
Until [EU] High Representative [for foreign affairs Catherine] Ashton’s demand to end the blockade, the EU had been party to a clear, explicit policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. Since 2002, a group known as the Quartet—consisting of the EU, Russia, the U.S. and the U.N., with Tony Blair as its current special envoy—has said that no one could deal with Hamas, the occupier of Gaza, until Hamas fulfilled three conditions: Recognize Israel’s right to exist. Renounce violence. Accept agreements already made by previous Palestinian negotiators.The problem is, as the commentator, David Foster, of the Chicago Boyz notes, the likes of Kim Jong Il or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might take note and decide that they have less to fear from "the West" than they had previously thought.
Hamas hasn’t met any of those conditions. After Ms. Ashton’s outburst, it knows it doesn’t have to.
Don't get me wrong. Israel has some problems to deal with, including the Gaza Strip. The easy short run answer is to turn it loose, in cooperation with Egypt and just accept the rocket attacks, up to the point that people are dying in fairly large numbers, and then go in and clean out the Gaza Strip and detain the Government leadership (Hamas) for war crime trials. The question is, how many Israelis is that? 10? 100? 1000? 10,000?
If you divide 300 million by 7 million, you get 43 (we are working with rough numbers here for the US and Israeli populations). Now let us divide 3,000 by 43. I get 70. So the Israelis meet with the Gaza Strip Government, and invite the Quartet. They do it in the middle of a road between Israel and the Gaza Strip, meeting on the border. The Israeli negotiator says: "It is all yours, free trade is hereby declared. Don't mess it up." He then bends over and with a big piece of chalk he writes 100 on the road, so it can be read from the Gaza Strip. If any rockets fly from the Gaza Strip the number is adjusted (reduced toward zero) to account for the dead in Israel.
It is one thing to be a guerilla movement. It is another to be a legitimate nation.
I am interested in other options for solving this mess. NB: My Middle East History Professor ruled out "Jewish Dakota" when I suggested that as the answer to a classroom project focused on achieving peace in the Holy Land.
Regards — Cliff