Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub: A Battle for the Future of Gaza

Writing exclusively for Slugger O’Toole the Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Daniel Taub writes about his views about the recent conflict in Gaza and the prospects for the future.

As I write this article, after a fortnight of quiet, hopes are high that the latest ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has brought two months of fighting to a close. We are now left to reflect on what has been achieved.

For many international observers, the answer is very little. Rockets once again rained down on Israel’s towns and cities. Israel conducted air strikes once again against terrorists in Gaza. Civilians—both Palestinian and Israeli—once again found themselves caught in the crossfire. At face value, this conflict between Israel and Hamas—the third in six years—might appear futile. Ordinary people have suffered, but nothing, seemingly, has changed.

Yet this conflict could yet prove to be a pivotal moment in determining which of two vastly different visions of the future of Gaza becomes a reality.

Hamas’s vision is brutal and absolute: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist,” proclaims its founding charter, “until Islam will obliterate it.” To this end, Hamas murdered hundreds of Israeli civilians during the Second Intifada, and has fired over 14,000 rockets at Israel’s towns and cities. To this end, Hamas seized control of Gaza by means of a brutal coup against Fatah, its more moderate Palestinian rival, in 2007, and, as recent reports have revealed, planned to do the same in the West Bank, overthrowing the Palestinian Authority, this year. Nothing is more important to Hamas than the violent destruction of Israel, and no Palestinian willing to entertain an alternative course of action is allowed to stand in its way.

Yet Hamas is under pressure. In the years preceding this conflict, Hamas lost the support of several backers in the Arab world who themselves feel threatened by Islamist terror and is facing the discontent of a population who have felt Gaza stagnate and suffer under its rule while watching the West Bank, under non-violent leadership, experience calm and steady economic growth. For Hamas, therefore, victory consists in showing both external and internal observers that its strategy is not fundamentally flawed. Thus, it rejected appeals from Israel to de-escalate in early July. Thus, it violated all 11 ceasefires prior to the current truce, including every humanitarian window. It has kept fighting until it could claim achievements that it could plausibly flaunt to the gallery as a reason to fight again. Or until it could fight no longer.

Israel’s vision is of a prosperous Gaza living side by side with Israel. When we withdrew from Gaza in 2005, we did so in the hope that it would flourish as an independent city. We left behind greenhouses that could have served as the basis for a flourishing agricultural economy, and looked forward to commerce with a prosperous trading partner. All this changed when Hamas seized power. The greenhouses were smashed, and resources were co-opted to serve Hamas’s own ends. Over recent years, 20% of the cement imported to Gaza—intended for civilian construction—was instead appropriated by Hamas to construct the cross-border terror tunnels.

But Hamas is now weak. It has failed to inflict serious damage on Israel. Its terror tunnels lie in ruins and its rocket arsenal is depleted. Moreover, it has not succeeded in regaining the support it craves. Far from condoning Hamas’s campaign of terror, the Arab League backed the Egyptian ceasefire proposal of 15th July, which Israel accepted—and which would have saved thousands of lives had Hamas followed suit. The same Egyptian proposal to which Hamas ultimately agreed six weeks later. And ordinary Gazans agree: a recent opinion poll found that over 90% of Gazans favoured an immediate and lasting ceasefire, and journalists report widespread anger against Hamas from people sick of being used as pawns in an eternal conflict they do not want.

There is now an opportunity, therefore, to change the paradigm. It depends on the international community working together to marginalise Hamas, demilitarise the Strip, and create the conditions for a lasting peace between Israel and an independent Gaza. That is our idea of victory. That is what we have been fighting for, and what Hamas is fighting against. The future of Gaza depends on this opportunity not being squandered.

Daniel Taub is the Ambassador of Israel to the Court of St. James’s.

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  • Mister_Joe

    An elephant in the room is that “The West” called for democratic elections in Palestinian controlled territory and these were held and Hamas prevailed in Gaza.
    I don’t think that Hamas need necessarily to be marginalized although they do need to drop their avowed intention of destroying the Israeli State.
    I don’t think that Netanyahu is committed to the two state solution.

  • Séamus

    Hamas did drop their avowed intention way back in 2006, before the elections. Surprise, surprise though the West has chosen to ignore that all this time.

  • Michael Henry

    The Israeli government or other Israeli political party’s don’t seek or won’t get the Votes in GAZA- a area of that country that Israel says it controls / owns – reminds me of the exact situation here- the British government says it owns the six counties but the Tory’s or Labour will not seek a Vote here in the next general election next year-

    Israel and the Brits are good bed buddies with that same principle-

  • gunterprien

    What I want to know is how the EU and the Media put pressure on France to stop selling warships to Russia.
    But Germany has just delivered a Submarine to Israel.
    Nobody blinked an eye Or said a word.
    What a disgrace.
    Russian seperatists kill 300 on a plane. No warships for Russia.
    Israel kills 2,000 in Gaza.
    Have a Submarine 75% paid for by Germany with extra large torpedo tubes capable of firing nuclear missiles aka Weapons of Mass destruction.
    I am sick of this massive hypocrisy.

  • tmitch57

    Netanyahu only is in favor of a two-state solution as long as he knows that it can’t be negotiated, which is why he puts conditions on it that he knows are unacceptable to the Palestinians. The trick to negotiating a solution is to create a situation in which both Hamas and the Likud feel that the present situation is no longer tenable. Peace was originally negotiated in NI after the British demonstrated to the Republican Movement that it couldn’t win through armed struggle. Then there was the problem of getting both Sinn Fein and the DUP to implement an agreement that was negotiated by their respective rivals. But at least the moderates reached an agreement before they were fatally weakened. In the Middle East the moderates were weakened before they could reach an agreement and the hardliners took power in both Jerusalem and Ramallah.

  • Michael Henry

    ” the British demonstrated to the Republican movement that it couldn’t win through armed struggle ”

    How did the Brits do that – they said their would be no All party talks but after two tonne bombs in England the Brits agreed to All party talks-and the rest as they say is history- ( the Peace Process is brilliant )-

  • tmitch57

    Gunter,
    Those killed in Gaza were in close proximity to legitimate military targets: military storage sites, homes of Hamas commanders, etc. The 300 plane passengers happened to be passing over an area that wasn’t even a declared war zone at high altitude. The former are comparable to German civilians killed in allied bombings during WWII. The latter are comparable to the Iranian airliner shot down in August 1988 when by chance it came on to the radar screen of an American warship that had just been attacked by Iranian Revolutionary Guards boats.

  • gunterprien

    I would compare Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto..If you must make a WW2 reference.

  • Reader

    Brilliant, yes indeed. Far better than a united Ireland.

  • Jag

    On average, 30 new Jewish settlers in the West Bank today. Another 30 tomorrow, and 30 the day after that.

    Can we really all not see what this is yet?

    As a non-semite, I regard the problems of the big-nosed populations of Israel/Palestine as their own, good riddance, except (1) it’s in my interest to have a strong Israel to counter nuclear/WMD issues which might affect me, in a region which generally has values different to my own and (2) the bother between the Israelis and Palestinians sometimes overflow into our own countries, such as when it justifies violence and a distant (3) a sense of fairness and justice motivates me sometimes to give a toss about the freedom and security of the Palestinians in particular faced with a more conventionally powerful Israel (though the same sense of fairness and justice sometimes motivates me to side with the Israelis and their rights to security)

    As a non-semite, 4,000kms distant from Israel/Palestine, I support the 2-state solution generally agreed to by the Quartet. But with one extra Jewish settler in the West Bank in the past 45 minutes, it doesn’t take a genius to see how this is going to end.

  • Mister_Joe

    Netanyahu not only puts unacceptable demands on the Palestinians such as requiring them to accept the condition that they agree that Israel is a Jewish state (making Palestinian citizens second class citizens) but also continuing illegal acts such as keep building Israeli settlements on occupied land in defiance of International Law. All of his actions are designed to make a permanent two State solution practically impossible. He has outwitted Obama at every step. Shame on the US without whom Israel couldn’t act as they do.

  • chrisjones2

    Ok …go live on a different planet, Israel has a right to live and to self defence

  • chrisjones2

    Intellectually lazy comparison. The jews in Warsaw were victims. They didnt rocket Germans or start the violence
    by killing German children

  • chrisjones2

    Michael SF was led by the nose into negotiations after it had militarily lost the war. That was the strategy and it worked – SF sitting in a British Assembly as British Ministers

  • chrisjones2

    “problems of the big-nosed populations of Israel/Palestine as their own,”

    What puerile Racist rubbish

  • chrisjones2

    Nor do FG or FF and SF tell one set of lies in the North and a different set of lies in de Suth

    PS its a party of first class principles – especially on what seats to buy on flights to Australia

  • JR

    Your assertion that marginalizing hamas and demilitarize the gaza strip could bring about the conditions for a lasting peace assumes that the root cause of the conflict is hamas and a militarized Gaza strip. We all know that the causes are much more complex and your “solution” addresses none of the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people. Such as the 1.2 million refugees who reside there having been cleared from their homes and villages at the point of a gun a generation ago. Or the blockade which has turned the Gaza strip into an open air prison camp and has robbed every human who lives there of the basic human right that is fulfilling their potential through access to fair opportunity to prosper.

    If 20% of the cement that has gone into Gaza ( A place with demand for hundreds of thousands of homes, schools, offices, hospitals, roads etc) has been used to build 20 or so tunnels, it would indicate to me that Israel isn’t allowing in very much cement.

    I don’t think anyone outside Israel believes the fairytale that Gaza was evacuated of settlers for anything other than security reasons.

    As for the greenhouses
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/15/international/middleeast/15mideast.html?_r=1&

    To be honest I could sit here all evening and write about the huge civilian death toll in Gaza, the fact that despite the rockets almost no Israelis were killed by Hamas for years until the Israeli invasion, the Palestinian authority in the West Bank having their relative good behavior rewarded with more land grabs, more illegal settlements on stolen land and more of a two tier society based on what religion you are born into but I won’t bother. I know from experience that you wouldn’t listen anyway. I just thank god I wasn’t born a Palestinian.

  • gunterprien

    Self defence..Does that include first strike nuclear weapons?
    Against stone throwers???

  • gunterprien

    FG or FF have No candidates in 17% Ireland.. So your comment is bizarre.

  • tmitch57

    “in GAZA- a area of that country that Israel says it controls / owns -”
    Israel has NEVER claimed sovereignty in Gaza. Even in the Likud party most people are happy letting the Palestinians run the place as long as they don’t fire rockets at Israel. Among the Israeli Right Gaza has always been looked at very differently than the West Bank because it doesn’t have the historical/sentimental connections that the West Bank has and it doesn’t border on its capital or nearly bisect the country.

  • tmitch57

    Hamas and Islamic Jihad are much better armed than were the Zionists and Bundists in the Warsaw ghetto who had a handful of pistols among them at the start of the German liquidation campaign.

  • tmitch57

    With the system of divided government, and the corrupt election financing system in the U.S. it is easy to stymy the intentions of the Executive if the lobbying organization is well financed and determined. The Irish should understand this with their schemes of passports for sale, etc.