As Israel drives deeper into the Gaza Strip, French President Nicholas Sarkozy continues to attempt to negotiate ceasefire accords between Hamas and Israel. With over 500 casualties, roughly half being Hamas fighters, the unease over civilian casualties has heightened the European Union's humanitarian efforts. Sarkozy and other world leaders have expressed their concern with the deteriorating welfare of Palestinian civilians, yet have conceded Israel's right of retaliation:
Hamas "bears a heavy responsibility" for the suffering of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip because it fired rockets into Israel, Sarkozy said in an interview with the Lebanese newspaper L'Orient-Le Jour.
Sarkozy also "condemned" Israel's offensive in Gaza "because it makes the conveying of relief to the population more difficult," according to the interview, published today in the Beirut-based daily. Sarkozy will also visit Lebanon and Syria tomorrow.
Nicholas Sarkozy's tone during this crisis is much different than what many in the French community expected. Throughout his campaign for presidency, he was portrayed as a fanatic, racist, and even irrational statesmen by the French media. Sarkozy has now proven committed to the French policy of ‘dove-diplomacy,' first in Georgia and now in the Middle East. While this approach might seem commendable to those harboring strict humanitarian concerns, one has to nevertheless question the motives and effectiveness of Sarkozy's diplomatic strategy.
Throughout the crisis Sarkozy has met with world leaders at an almost frantic pace, stressing peace. The problem is that Sarkozy hasn't identified any substantive foundations for such an accord. He has failed to convince the international community (and Israel) that Hamas will cease its attacks if Israel suspends its military initiative. To suggest that Israel unconditionally halt its military activity under the pretense of peace is a severely flawed bargaining chip.
A temporary ceasefire agreement could have disastrous consequences for the Israeli investment in this conflict. First, it would enable Hamas to regroup and re-supply. Second, such an agreement could prompt a powerful psychological card for Hamas. In order for Hamas to retain power, it must convince its citizens that their violent actions are justified. Without public approval (or obedience), Hamas cannot function as an effective guerilla response to Israel. A ceasefire would validate Hamas' message of temporary sacrifice for the greater good -- i.e., the fight against Israel. Allowing Hamas to fire rockets from civilian locations no longer poses a threat to the public welfare so long as Israel cannot be expected to attack the source of these rockets-e.g., civilian locations.
The Nakhala family, which lives next to the compound, was inspecting the damage on Tuesday morning and recounting the utter fear and panic they all felt as the missiles hit.
"We have no shelters in Gaza," said the father, Osama Nakhala. "Where shall we go? I also have to worry about my mother, who is 80 years old and paralyzed."
His 13-year-old son, Yousef, was with him. When asked his view of the situation, Yousef took an unusual stand for someone in Gaza, where Israel is being cursed by most everyone. "I blame Hamas. It doesn't want to recognize Israel. If they did so there could be peace," he said. "Egypt made a peace treaty with Israel, and nothing is happening to them."
His brother Amjad, 16, disagreed and blamed the Palestinian president in the West Bank, Mahmoud Abbas, saying that he had sided with Israel.
In order for effective peace, there needs to be support from both the West Bank and Gaza. This includes those who currently support the Hamas regime. Hamas does not possess an unconditional entitlement to the welfare of the Palestinian people. The strategy of fighting behind civilian shields cannot carry indefinite approval from the Palestinian people whose property and lives are continually being ruined as a result. To justify their destructive position, Hamas must show its supporters a glimmer for future success. Palestinian support for Hamas' terrorist campaign cannot last unless its people sincerely believe the future will reward their sacrifice. In negotiating an effective ceasefire agreement, Sarkozy needs to acknowledge this fundamental fact. He must avoid jeopardizing the goal of long term peace for the temptation of temporary stability.