The fighting in Gaza has largely been treated as a sideshow to the peace initiatives of John Kerry. The idea appears to be that once Israel withdraws its troops, the Secretary can resume his efforts to reach an agreement. If that truly is the thinking in the White House, the president will find himself frustrated and disappointed again. The rain of rockets from Gaza has only stiffened the resistance of the Israeli public and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to territorial compromise on the West Bank. And, one rocket, in particular, may have killed the two-state solution altogether.
From the beginning of his first term, and initial missteps in pushing for a quick end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, President Obama and his foreign policy team failed to understand the implications of Israel's 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip. When Israel evacuated every citizen and soldier, effectively ending the "occupation," the expectation and hope was that the Palestinians would use this opportunity to build the infrastructure of a state and demonstrate that they could live in peace with Israel.
This was a true test of the mantra "land for peace" and the Palestinians failed. Almost immediately, Hamas escalated its terror attacks on Israel and began to launch barrages of rockets and mortars at Israel's civilian population. By the start of the latest operation, Israel had absorbed more than 10,000 rockets, which had the range to put more than half of Israel's population (Jews and Arabs) in danger. Depending on the proximity to Gaza, Israelis had from 15 to 30 seconds to find shelter after hearing the siren indicating an incoming rocket.
While the media tried to keep "score" of casualties to show a "disproportionate" number of Palestinian casualties compared to Israelis, the simplistic recitation of these figures completely misrepresented the impact of the conflict. First, Israelis had no obligation to allow themselves to be killed just to make the score more even. Second, the casualty figures in Israel would have been horrifying if not for their technological genius in developing the Iron Dome system, which shot down most of the rockets that were directed at major population centers such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Furthermore, the media simply accepted whatever information the Palestinian Health Ministry gave them, ignoring the fact that the ministry was an arm of Hamas and that, according to their data, not a single Hamas terrorist was killed, only civilians. Inexplicably, the press ignored this fact and portrayed the war as though Israel was fighting ghosts that only they could see.
This latest bombardment, especially with the introduction of longer range weapons, has reinforced the view following the disengagement that giving up territory in the West Bank without ironclad security guarantees was a risk that exceeded any hoped for benefits of peace. This is the attitude even of the Israeli left whose homes and families were also in the line of fire.
As dangerous as the overall barrage has been, it was one rocket in particular that may have completely changed the prospects for a two-state solution. That rocket did not kill anyone and caused little direct damage; however, the fact that it was within a mile of Israel's international airport was enough to scare the United States and most other countries to cancel their flights in and out of Israel.
Fortunately, no rockets have come anywhere near a commercial airliner or hit the airport itself, but the mere possibility was sufficient to put Israel's economy in potential jeopardy. At the height of the tourist season, flights were cancelled and Israel's principal artery to the outside world was isolated. Imagine if a rocket did hit the airport or was in the vicinity of an airplane, never mind the catastrophic implications of actually downing a jet. If Israel gives up strategic territory in the West Bank, one Palestinian with an animus toward Israel could smuggle or construct a crude weapon that could reach the airport and, because Iron Dome cannot hit rockets fired short distances, there would be no defense.
Israelis legitimately fear that the West Bank, less than 30 miles from Tel Aviv, 6 miles from Ben-Gurion Airport and a few feet from Jerusalem, will turn into Hamastan where the entire heart of Israel would be within easy rocket range.
How many Israelis will be willing to take this risk now? Would you?
Dr. Mitchell Bard is the Executive Director of the nonprofit AICE and author/editor of 23 books including After "Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine" and "Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam's War Against the Jews."