A Ground War in Gaza & the Future of the Middle East

Friday, July 18, 2014

israel, palestine, gaza, tank An Israeli soldier flashes the V-sign for 'Victory' on a tank seen moving along the border with Gaza on July 17, 2014 on Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

After 10 days of air strikes, Israeli Defense Forces invaded Gaza late Thursday night, targeting a series of tunnels that reach from the Hamas-controlled territory into southern Israel.

The ground offensive began just a few days after Hamas rejected a peace deal proposed by Egypt. As Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told the Associated Press, "Hamas today is isolated. It rejected an Egyptian cease-fire proposal that was sponsored by the Arab League and the United Nations. That same proposal was endorsed by the Palestinian government of Mahmoud Abbas." 

Egypt has long played a leading role in the Middle East peace process, but in the wake of the Arab Spring and the counterrevolution last summer, Egyptian leaders seem somewhat distracted by their own, internal problems.

Daniel Kurtzer served as U.S. Ambassador to Egypt under President Clinton and Ambassador to Israel under President George W. Bush. He examines Israel's strategy in Gaza, and Egypt's diminished role in maintaining Middle East peace.

"Hamas has found itself in this conflict with very few friends—maybe Qatar and Turkey—and has also seen Egypt, which was traditionally a major supporter, move much closer to Israel," says Kurtzer. "In fact, [Egypt] coordinated the cease-fire proposal earlier this week with the Israelis more so than with Hamas. The Israelis are gaining something in terms of public affairs, the question is whether they've established conditions in which they can decided when to end this conflict."

Kurtzer says that one of the primary goals of the Israeli invasion is to destroy tunnels Hamas has dug out of the Gaza Strip into Israel.

"In fact, the discovery of 12 or 13 infiltrators yesterday morning was probably one of the key percipients of this ground invasion," he says. "But the second goal, which is harder to define, is to degrade Hamas's military capabilities and 'restore calm.'"

There is no metric for "restoring calm," Kurtzer adds, saying that the Israelis will be using their own discretion to make that determination. In the end, Kurtzer says, the situation in the Gaza Strip may ultimately empower Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

"It appears that both the Israelis and Egyptians are trying to do that by negotiating the cease-fire conditions through [Abbas]," says Kurtzer. "If in fact he can be seen as producing that cease-fire, his fortunes will rise as Hamas's fortunes deteriorate. After all, the real victims here are the people in Gaza who are seeing their lives destroyed and their infrastructure destroyed. The question is whether or not they will continue to provide support for Hamas, or return it to the Palestinian Authority."

Though some would like to forge a new way forward without Hamas or Abbas, Kurtzer says that is unlikely. 

"The reality is, Abbas is probably the best we have and that we're going to get for sometime to come," says Kurtzer. "He has been a constant opponent of violence to achieve Palestinian ends, and he's been a constant supporter of peace. There aren't many in the leadership ranks of Palestinian society who can claim both of those. I think holding out for someone else is a prescription for failure." 

Though Mahmoud Abbas could provide a way forward for the Palestinian people, Kurtzer says that he'll be unable to unless Israel agrees to certain concessions, like freezing settlement activity, releasing prisoners, or easing restrictions in the West Bank. 

"Abbas runs an Authority that is under occupation, and derives all of its ability to produce things for its population from its relationship with Israel," says Kurtzer. "The question after the fighting ends here, and hopefully Abbas is empowered a bit by negotiating a cease-fire, is whether or not Israel will allow a relaunched peace process in which Abbas can begin to deliver some positives to the population."

Guests:

Daniel Kurtzer

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger

Editors:

T.J. Raphael

Comments [7]

AC from Edgewater, NJ

Biased much? The first thing I heard this morning was the teaser that went something like, how to stop Israel in Palestine. Why does Israel need stopping? Every day for many years Israel has been shelled by rockets coming from Gaza. The vast majority of the time Israel does nothing. Now that it has decided to defend itself, the world is up in arms. In 1948 during the War of Independence, Israel did not expel Arabs. Arabs listened to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and others who told them to leave until they one the war and there were no Jews. Than they would reclaim their land and homes. Had they not left Israel would be a very different place. At the same time, Arab lands expelled their Jews who had no place else to go but Israel. Ironically, approximately the same number of Jews left Arab lands as the number of Arabs who voluntarily left Israel which at the time was a British mandate named Palestine. Not after the people who lived there as a prior poster noted. The name Palestinians was made up later. Back then, they were Arabs. If the Arab countries had stepped up then or now, to help their fellow Arabs, they would have been taken in, Gaza would be part of Egypt and the West Bank would be part of Jordan. Instead, they have left these people to rot in terrible conditions in order to further their hatred of Jews. Israel has bent over backwards to accommodate the Arabs and assist in building an infrastructure, has returned lands and accepted people needing medical care to their hospitals. In return, the Arabs have bombed buses, schools and restaurants. They have waged a war of terror necessitating the building of a security fence and closing off Gaza to easy access to Israel. Prior to this, Arabs were able to travel to Israel to work and shop. As for the number of casualties we hear about each day, it is heartbreaking. However, comparing the number of casualties on one side to that on the other is unfair. Israel has done everything in its power to keep it's citizens safe. It has built and "Iron Dome" to intercept missiles and everyone in Israel has access to a bomb shelter. Instead of protecting their people, Hamas tells them not to leave their homes which Israel has notified them will be bombed, uses people as human shields and has not provided a single bomb shelter. They are the ones with blood on their hands. Also, since we get a detailed update every day of "Palestinian" casualties, I would like the same detailed update of Iraqi casualties, Syrian casualties, Chechnian casualties, Nigerian casualties and those in every other hot spot in the world. Only then will I know that your program and the media in general are being "fair and balanced"

Jul. 18 2014 06:51 PM
AC from Edgewater, NJ

Biased much? The first thing I heard this morning was the teaser that went something like, how to stop Israel in Palestine. Why does Israel need stopping? Every day for many years Israel has been shelled by rockets coming from Gaza. The vast majority of the time Israel does nothing. Now that it has decided to defend itself, the world is up in arms. In 1948 during the War of Independence, Israel did not expel Arabs. Arabs listened to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and others who told them to leave until they one the war and there were no Jews. Than they would reclaim their land and homes. Had they not left Israel would be a very different place. At the same time, Arab lands expelled their Jews who had no place else to go but Israel. Ironically, approximately the same number of Jews left Arab lands as the number of Arabs who voluntarily left Israel which at the time was a British mandate named Palestine. Not after the people who lived there as a prior poster noted. The name Palestinians was made up later. Back then, they were Arabs. If the Arab countries had stepped up then or now, to help their fellow Arabs, they would have been taken in, Gaza would be part of Egypt and the West Bank would be part of Jordan. Instead, they have left these people to rot in terrible conditions in order to further their hatred of Jews. Israel has bent over backwards to accommodate the Arabs and assist in building an infrastructure, has returned lands and accepted people needing medical care to their hospitals. In return, the Arabs have bombed buses, schools and restaurants. They have waged a war of terror necessitating the building of a security fence and closing off Gaza to easy access to Israel. Prior to this, Arabs were able to travel to Israel to work and shop. As for the number of casualties we hear about each day, it is heartbreaking. However, comparing the number of casualties on one side to that on the other is unfair. Israel has done everything in its power to keep it's citizens safe. It has built and "Iron Dome" to intercept missiles and everyone in Israel has access to a bomb shelter. Instead of protecting their people, Hamas tells them not to leave their homes which Israel has notified them will be bombed, uses people as human shields and has not provided a single bomb shelter. They are the ones with blood on their hands. Also, since we get a detailed update every day of "Palestinian" casualties, I would like the same detailed update of Iraqi casualties, Syrian casualties, Chechnian casualties, Nigerian casualties and those in every other hot spot in the world. Only then will I know that your program and the media in general are being "fair and balanced"

Jul. 18 2014 06:48 PM
justin from Brooklyn

To the woman who commented that "it's Palestinian land and if anybody came to take MY land after 5 generations...!!!" Well, "Palestine" is the name that the Romans gave Israel after defeating it c. 70 AD. It was "Israel" before that, and Jews lived there. Why is the land "Palestinian"? Because they lived on it for 5 generations? The Jews lived on it before them for many many many generations, and control the land now!

Jul. 18 2014 03:56 PM
Taher from Croton on Hudson, NY

Your conversations with this American “expert’ is totally one side. He wholly agrees with the Israeli political establishment point of view. That is to keep the Palestinians in a place of occupation and slavery. This is Israel’s alternative to ethnic cleansing which many Israeli politicians would like any way. America and Israel will soon find themselves facing ISIS in Jordan. The Gaza slaughter by Israel has been a boon for recruiting fighters to ISIS. Yet American ‘experts” still talk about the “peace process” the Palestinian Authority and so on. These “experts” are historian out of touch with reality.

Jul. 18 2014 03:43 PM
Hazem from Orlando, FL

the cruel & unusual punishment of the Israeli occupation force killing defenseless population approved by the united states claiming that it's a right to defend itself is hypocrisy politely put. I have lost faith in any united states representative to come out & at least criticize Israel for its action. Even the news channel, NBC fired a reporter for showing the deliberate killing of 4 kids. One day the american viewers will see the ugly Nazi Israel what they do in Palestine.

Jul. 18 2014 12:30 PM
no-name

more spin commentary. you present your analyst, sanger, as if he is an objective observer. first he states that there is no connection between the US actions and the israeli murders in gaza. well, if the US told israel that there would be no more US aid unless israel withdrew from gaza and the westbank and destroyed the settlements, israel would do so in 6 months. or else enter into a financial depression. and then, he repeats the previous claims that israel is simply seeking security. of course, no attempt present an alternative point of view. because, after all, sanger is an "objective" observer.

Jul. 18 2014 12:04 PM
no-name

this show has topped itself. you use as a "commentator" a professional defender of the israeli-amerikan policies who, no surprise, claims that the problem is hamas, that israel is only defending itself, that the leader of the PLO, abbas, is doing a good job despite not only not achieving any thing, but actually has lost ground and that if only the palestinians would "negotiate" some more, perhaps thhis time the israelis might throw abbas a bone so that the palestinians wouldn't be so disgusted with his corrupt "quisling" forces. no mention of the possibility that israel is actually simply eliminating any opposition to settlements rather than its "security" nonsense argument that is being parroted by the media, that israel is attempting to show palestinians what happens if they don't accept an aparthid state, if they seek leadership that will actually resist the continued taking of palestinian homes and the blockade of palestinians inporting food, medicine and their right to travel.

Jul. 18 2014 11:34 AM

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