Israel Must Learn the Limits of Bombing and Violence in Palestine

Israel's massive retaliation will fail, writes Steven A. Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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A pattern clearly emerges when you take a broad historical view of the use of force in the Middle East. It did not work in Algeria for the French, who killed upwards of a million Algerians between 1958 and 1962 in an attempt to hold onto their prized colonial possession; it has not worked for the Turks against the Kurdistan Workers Party; and it is unlikely to force Hamas to give up its armed struggle against Israel. The problem in each of these cases is that force was (or is) being employed to suppress nationalism or a nationalist issue. Under these circumstances, the consequence is not the pacification of the target population but an intensification of violence.

The Israelis may achieve a measure of security for their southern communities in the short run (another cease-fire seems inevitable), but Hamas will live to fight another day. Without a clear military solution to the conflict, Israel will ultimately end up, one way or another, having to negotiate with one of its most bitter enemies. To do otherwise is to fate the almost 1 million Israelis who live within rocket range of Gaza and the 1.5 million Palestinians who live there to endless convulsions of violence.

Steven A. Cook is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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