As a result of WWI, the British took control of Palestine from the Ottoman Empire as the spoils of war. Most of the citizens, however, were glad to see the back of the Ottomans.
A steady migration of Jews to Palestine was under way since the 1800s, but following WWII the flood gates opened – fairly understandably given the fact they had been persecuted and hounded out of most European countries at some stage during the previous millennium.
Wanting to set up a homeland in Palestine (to which they had ancestral connections and where a good number of Jews still lived), the Jews came up against the British, and a lot of trouble ensued. Eventually, in 1947, the UN recommended a pragmatic two state solution to what was an intractable problem – a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews agreed, but the Arabs (specifically the Arab League and the Arab Higher Committee) did not. The Arab Higher Committee proclaimed a three-day strike and Arab bands immediately began attacking Jewish targets.
The outcome was the declaration of a Jewish state (Israel). The Palestinian Arab economy collapsed and 250,000 Palestinian-Arabs fled or were expelled. However, a large number remained. The following day the armies of Transjordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq attacked the new state of Israel. As we all know, Israel won the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, despite things looking decidedly dodgy for the Israelis at the beginning. The War led to Israel taking the West Bank, Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula.
The Israelis eventually gave up Sinai as part of a peace agreement with Egypt, but Gaza and the West Bank, along with the Golan Heights, were retained for strategic reasons – you just have to look at a map to realise why the West Bank especially is important – anyone controlling it could cut Israel in half in the event of conflict, and you don’t want an enemy doing that.
In 2005, the Israelis pulled out of Gaza – even the Hamas co-founder, Mahmoud Zahar, has stated that Gaza is no longer occupied since the Israeli withdrawal of 2005. The myth, however, still persists, as it suits Hamas’ purpose.
Since 2001, there have been 4,800 rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza, 4,000 of them since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Most of these rockets attacks were by Hamas using rockets fired from civilian areas (albeit there are no non-civilian areas in Gaza). Israeli casualties have been avoided by Israel deploying the Iron Dome defence system in 2011. Iron Dome intercepts rockets having a trajectory that aims at population centres.
The Israelis and the Palestinian National Authority had been slowly coming closer together until Hamas fought a bloody civil war with the Palestinian Authority in 2007 for control of Gaza.
Gaza has a border with Egypt, but even Egypt has closed this border due to Hamas' continued smuggling of weapons and Hamas' close association with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Hamas has been designated a terrorist organisation by the USA, Canada, EU and a host of other countries. Gaza is therefore, by logical implication, a terrorist state, as it is controlled by Hamas.
Article 7 of the Hamas Charter categorically states that Hamas’ aim in the complete elimination of Israel – nothing less will suffice. Now given Israel and 8 million people (20% of which are Arabs with Israeli citizenship and having representative seats in the Knesset) are not going to suddenly disappear, that is an idealistic position to take. Peace is not an option for Hamas.
What is Israel to do? Yes, children are getting killed as collateral damage (as the term is today), but again, what option does Israel have when Hamas want nothing less than Israel’s elimination, the death of every Israeli and will do anything to achieve that objective. It takes two sides to make peace.
Also ask what started the latest round of hostilities – it was Hamas killing 3 Israeli teenagers. That cannot be denied.
We in the west see compromise as the only way forward - to Hamas a compromise is something your enemy does, shows his weakness and is something to take advantage of while not budging an inch yourself. There can be no real negotiations aimed at a permanent peace with extremists of this variety.
Israel has shown a willingness to negotiate with Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian National Authority, but cannot negotiate anything with Hamas, except the occasional truce, which Hamas uses simply to regroup and smuggle more armaments in through a network of cross border tunnels, which Israel keeps destroying.
What's your solution?