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Saturday, 3 January 2009

Israel has plenty of tactics for war, but none for peace

A leadership dazzled by its own military might ignores the political reality and believes the only solutions lie in force

All those involved, and most of those following the bloodshed in Gaza from afar, are sure who is in the right and who is in the wrong. They know who the innocent victims are and who are the wicked perpetrators. These certainties are held equally firmly by those who will be demonstrating in solidarity with the Palestinians in London today and those who plan to stage similar shows of support for Israel later this month.

Both sides see the conflict in moral terms. For supporters of the Palestinians, it could not be clearer. Israel is committing a war crime, killing people in their hundreds, hammering a besieged population from the sky (and soon perhaps on the ground too), claiming to aim only at Hamas but inevitably striking those civilians who get in the way.

Israel's cheerleaders are just as clear. Israel is the victim, hitting out now only belatedly and in self-defence. Its southern citizens have sat terrorised in bomb shelters, fearing the random rockets of Hamas, since 2005, longer than any society could tolerate without fighting back.

Both sides say they would have maintained the six-month ceasefire that had held - albeit imperfectly - until December 19 had the other side not broken it first. And who did break the deal first, Hamas with its rockets or Israel with its blockade? Both sides point at the other with equal vehemence, a Newtonian chain of claimed action and reaction that can stretch back to infinity.

So perhaps a more useful exercise - especially for those who long for an eventual peace with both sides living side by side - is not to ask whether the current action is legitimate, but whether it is wise. More

Israel's War Crimes