THE LOGIC OF WAR. It's hard to know even what to say in response to this:
Israel turned up the pressure on Palestinian militants to release a captive soldier Wednesday, sending its warplanes to bomb a Hamas training camp after knocking out electricity and water supplies for most of the 1.3 million residents of the Gaza Strip.
What is the end goal here? All I can see is the logic of war. To make people suffer until they give up. Obviously, the stated motivation is the rescue of Cpl. Gilad Shalit and retaliation for his capture. But the bigger goal of what Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called "extreme action" is clearly to make the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip suffer mightily, breaking the back of their support for Hamas or terrorism by creating extreme desperation and fear of further attack. An editorial in The Jerusalem Post today makes that plain:
if necessary, Israel must be prepared singlehandedly to raise the price of attacking us to prohibitive levels....
Israeli military action will mean that Hamas has delivered the opposite of the improved situation for Palestinians that it promised in the elections that brought it to power.
The Palestinian territories were somewhat cushioned from past conflict-related economic downturns, according to a May World Bank report (PDF), because the lack of development and economic diversification during the occupation has meant that many people still maintained family farms, which provided them with a buffer of cheap or self-grown food even in the worst of times. That's pretty much been the savior of Palestinian society during the months since the international community cut all aid to the Hamas-led government in the wake of January's democratic elections. But now, in late June, without water, that, too, will be threatened.
Who will turn the power in Gaza back on (the electricity plant, which provided 42 percent of Gaza's power, may take a year to rebuild)? Who will rebuild the bombed bridges? Since Hamas was elected, the international community has shown no desire to maintain infrastructure-building projects in Gaza, let alone undertake new ones. Recall also that the idea of cutting power to all of Gaza preceded not only the kidnap of Shalit, but also the election of Hamas. Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch condemned the idea last December, when it was revealed that Israeli military personnel were considering it a retaliatory move for earlier rocket attacks launched from Gaza. "Cutting the electricity supply of an already impoverished population would have disastrous humanitarian consequences. A power cut would create severe hardships by interrupting government services, forcing businesses and factories to close, causing food and medicine to spoil, and disrupting the work of hospitals," she said. And that was before the economic blockade had weakened Gaza, and before the recent fighting between Hamas and Fatah gunmen brought Gaza to the brink of civil war.
Will the "extreme action" work? Judith Kipper, the director of the Middle East Forum at the Council on Foreign Relations, earlier in June said that she believed that the desperation in Gaza and the West Bank was already producing an effect opposite to what was intended: "there is more and more radicalization. Forget Hamas. All the Palestinian people in general are not blaming Hamas; they are blaming the United States and Israel. It has the unwanted result of radicalizing even those who were not radicalized before because that is what desperation creates." That would be consistent with the response to Israeli economic pressure in 2001-2002, according to the World Bank's report (PDF), which "was anger at Israel as the perceived agent of economic distress�not rejection of the violence that Israel was acting to prevent, or of its main proponents at that time."