Part of the credit for far lower Israeli casualties (in addition to fact that Hamas and other militant factions in Gaza are simply massively outgunned by Israel) has been given to the Iron Dome rocket defense system, the funding for which was provided by the United States under the Obama administration. Iron Dome has knocked down over 300 incoming rockets from Gaza since Israel launched its campaign — at a cost of around $60,000 a pop.
As I note today in a piece in Canada’s Globe and Mail, while it’s obviously a great thing to prevent rockets from raining down on Israeli towns and homes, technological marvels such as Iron Dome should not obscure the fact that real, long-term security for Israelis means obtaining real security for Palestinians, too, through a two-state accord in which both peoples’ national rights are recognized.
Moreover, the success of Iron Dome shouldn’t obscure the fact that, even if this latest war does manage to suppress rocket fire into Israel for a period of time, Israel does not seem to have any strategy beyond managing its conflict with the Palestinians through continued occupation, assassinations, and periodic offensives like the one taking place now.
Appearing yesterday on MSNBC, Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf made this point:
SHEIZAF: I think that Israeli leadership with the great talent of Netanyahu is recognizing the fact that the equilibrium point from Israeli perspective is the status quo. Now, obviously, Israelis are concerned about the rockets, and it’s right now things are unbearable there. But ultimately, the status quo is the solution from the perspective of this government. And for the Palestinian, it’s a perpetual war.
SHEIZAF: The Palestinian have their war every day of the week. So in the long term, this is a process that plays against Israeli interest. But there’s no incentive for the current political leadership to move from it, especially with the free hand it gets from the world and from the United States.
It’s axiomatic that sticking with the status quo is politically safer, especially when the stakes are so high. But as Sheizef says, no one is offering the Israeli people a better option, and this is where the United States and President Obama can play a constructive role by actively re-engaging in a peace process. No one’s suggesting this will be easy, and no, the current moment doesn’t seem to be particularly propitious for peace-making, but the alternative — simply continuing to try and manage a deteriorating status quo — will be disastrous for Israelis, Palestinians, and the United States.