The paradox of force is simple: Israel will never use the amount of force truly necessary to solve “the Palestinian Problem,” yet the amount of force that Israel is willing to use will never be enough to solve it either. Let me elaborate, the amount of force that would be necessary to “end” the conflict is so devastating and cruel, that it would be morally repugnant to most Israelis, and therefore not a realistic option. On the other hand, the amount of force that Israelis are willing to live with, a force that is still tempered by moral standards and Western ethical constraints will never be enough to end the conflict.
However, because of the asymmetric nature of the conflict, it will spark international condemnation nonetheless. This fact was sadly witnessed with the recent Gaza operation, operation “Cast Lead.” In spite of overwhelming force and an almost flawless military strategy, the result was such that Israel was unable to eliminate the Hamas threat, but the civilian casualties were visible and significant enough that it sparked almost universal condemnation of Israel.
Many Israelis insist that the IDF should have “finished the job,” but very few bother to define in detail what that means. Eliminating all or most of the Hamas leadership? That would have required a prolonged occupation, house to house searches and fights that would have probably caused even more civilian deaths, certainly many more Israeli casualties, and overall more suffering, anger and resentment among the civilian population.
To “break the spirit” of the civilian population? Massive arrests, the creation of long-term prisoner camps, checkpoints and other traditional security measures would be immediately condemned by the world, inviting the inevitable comparison to the Holocaust, and just as ineffective in the long term.
The point is that it is time for Israel to realize that there is no military solution that would be acceptable to the Israelis and the world at large. At best, force is a temporary palliative to a slowly deteriorating situation that eventually will be uncontrollable. At worst, it will force the international community to impose a solution on Israel that would not be in the best interest of Israel.
You don’t have to be a supporter of peace, a humanist, or a leftist to see that there is no choice othen than a peace process. And not a process that gives lip service to peace, but a realistic, vigorous process in which both sides have clear goals, and that will entail painful concessions on both sides. There is no choice but peace because the alternative is a solution that eventually will be imposed by an international community that, let’s face it, is not terribly sympathetic to Israel. There is no choice but a peace process because the alternative is chaos.
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