Try digitalPLUS for 10 days for only $0.99


News Opinion Editorial

Another war in Gaza [Editorial]

The five-hour cease fire between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip was the calm before the storm. Hamas rockets began raining down on Israel at the moment the United Nations-requested lull ended on Thursday afternoon. Israel waited a bit longer — three hours or so — before resuming air strikes but then followed with a long-anticipated ground offensive aimed at eliminating so-called "terror tunnels" that allow militants access to Israeli territory. For the moment, Egyptian efforts to broker a truce appear to have amounted to nothing, and the prospects for a more permanent peace appear dim, indeed.

Israel had amassed thousands of troops on its border in anticipation of a ground offensive, and the military announced that had begun shortly before 11 p.m. local time, with the goal to "establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continuous indiscriminate terror." Hamas had shown no inclination to stop militants from firing thousands of rockets at Israeli towns and cities, and early Thursday morning it celebrated the incursion of what appear to have been a group of heavily armed militants into Israel just a mile from a kibbutz before they were beaten back by Israeli air power. High-ranking Israeli and Palestinian officials were in Cairo on Thursday, but efforts by the government there were unable to stop a repeat of the 2012 Israeli invasion and occupation of the territory.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure from right-wing members of his cabinet to destroy Hamas once and for all, even though that goal probably is not achievable. For their part, Hamas leaders face mounting pressures from more extremist Islamist rivals in Gaza not to back down from confronting Israel militarily, even though its chances of prevailing are virtually nil. With the hardening of positions on both sides, officials in Israel and Gaza have become hostage to events rather than shaping them to advance a clear and consistent strategy.

Israel insists — quite correctly — that no state can allow its citizens to be attacked and killed with impunity by a hostile government. Over the last week its air force has conducted strikes against Hamas leaders, command centers and arms depots that have killed or wounded more than 1,500 Palestinian civilians as well as militants. Yet an Israeli military spokesman conceded Wednesday that airstrikes alone wouldn't be able to stop the rocket fire from Gaza.

Hamas has amassed a formidable arsenal of home-made Qassam rockets as well as several thousand longer-range Syrian- and Iranian-made missiles capable of hitting targets as far away as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It says the attacks won't stop until Israel frees hundreds of militants and ends its blockade of Gaza, which has strangled the territory's economy and made life miserable for the 1.8 million people living there.

There's little doubt that Israel's ground invasion will quickly overwhelm the defenders and destroy most of the 5,000 or so rockets still believed to be in the group's arsenal. But then what? The last thing Israel needs is to get bogged down in a messy occupation that could lead to more civilian casualties and a loss of international support. Yet a quick withdrawal that leaves Hamas in control of the territory would allow it to claim victory and might even help restore its sagging reputation among Palestinians frustrated by its corruption and inability to deliver basic services or prosperity in the territory.

And while it's unlikely Israel can stamp out Hamas entirely, it wouldn't be in the country's interest to do so even if it could. If Gaza descended into chaos as a result, the power vacuum thus created would quickly be filled by radical Islamist groups like Islamic Jihad that are even more hostile to Israel than Hamas. Empowering such groups not only would make the rocket problem worse but would also risk destabilizing the more moderate Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank as well.

However this invasion plays out in the days and weeks ahead, it is unlikely to produce a permanent peace and security for either the Israelis or the Palestinians. The collapse of the U.S.-led peace process demonstrates the unwillingness of either side to make the concessions necessary for a lasting accord. Instead, Israel and Hamas have backed each other into a corner from which neither side can escape without appearing to bend to the other's will, and neither Israel nor Hamas appears to have any interest in doing that.

To respond to this editorial, send an email to Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Jerusalem a product of Israeli apartheid

    Jerusalem a product of Israeli apartheid

    Jay Bernstein's letter advocating that Israel "maintain exclusive sovereignty" over Jerusalem ignores the fact that Jerusalem today is under an illegal Israeli military occupation, which is universally condemned by the international community of nations ("U.S. should view Jerusalem as Israel's,"...

  • Israel has acted responsibly against Hamas [Letter]

    Israel has acted responsibly against Hamas [Letter]

    The recent letter writer critical of Israeli actions in Gaza ("Israel committed war crimes during its invasion of Gaza," Oct. 1) conveniently forgets the origins of the Gaza conflict and the effort that Israel made to reduce civilian casualties. Hamas for the last eight years has been firing rockets...

  • Hold Israel accountable for war crimes

    Hold Israel accountable for war crimes

    The Sun editorial, "Horror in Peshawar" (Dec.16), describes the Taliban attack in Pakistan that left 140 children dead and states, "What happened there can only be described as an atrocity committed by murderous criminals." Why didn't The Sun equally condemn the actions of Israel, which caused...

  • Israel's actions in Gaza were self-defense

    Israel's actions in Gaza were self-defense

    In condemning Israel for finally taking action to counter terrorist and rocket attacks, Ray Gordon ignores the history of the last nine years of the conflict between Hamas and Israel ("Hold Israel accountable for war crimes," Dec. 23). After Israel voluntarily withdrew from Gaza without any reciprocity,...

  • What if Obama spoke to Knesset?

    What if Obama spoke to Knesset?

    I wonder how Benjamin Netanyahu would feel if President Barack Obama wrangled an invitation from an opposition Israeli politician to push the Obama-Iran plan in the Knesset without informing the Israeli prime minister ("Israel spy HQ bucking premier, opposing Iran sanctions," Jan. 23). But that's...

  • Netanyahu speech was pointed, not 'pointless'

    Netanyahu speech was pointed, not 'pointless'

    After reading the full text of the speech by Benjamin Netanyahu before the joint session of Congress, I beg to disagree with The Sun's analysis that the speech was pointless ("Netanyahu's speech," March 4). The Israeli prime minister described in detail the threat of a flawed nuclear agreement...

  • Netanyahu visit: Maybe Congress should delegate all its policy work to foreign leaders

    Netanyahu visit: Maybe Congress should delegate all its policy work to foreign leaders

    Has Speaker John Boehner has a brilliant idea in inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress on the subject of Iran ("Netanyahu invitation unwise," Jan. 27). What else can he do when, apparently, no Republicans in the House have what it takes to address the issue? Why...

  • Palestinians have more to answer for at the ICC than Israel

    Palestinians have more to answer for at the ICC than Israel

    I must respond to your recent report that the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has launched a preliminary probe into alleged Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian territories ("International Criminal Court opens probe into possible war crimes in Palestinian territories," Jan. 17).