Gaza under attack - Peace will be secured by talking

If there were any moderates left on the Gaza Strip at the start of the month there can hardly be any now, but as the conflict escalates the worry must be that things might get much worse.

If Israel persists with its air operations, and yesterday the indications were that they would, the civilian death toll will mount, diplomatic support for Israel will melt away making a diplomatic resolution even more remote.

Inevitably, a re-energised Hamas will continue to strike Israeli targets with their increasingly sophisticated rockets. This tit-for-tat aggression runs the risk of gathering the kind of momentum that can only end in catastrophe for Israel, those hemmed in on the Gaza Strip, their neighbours and, in a worst case scenario, the entire region.

Ironically the success of the Arab Spring may have made the situation even more volatile as regimes that once acted as conduits between Israel and the world powers have been replaced, especially in Egypt, by administrations far less sympathetic to Israel.

Though several countries are involved in frantic efforts to bring this latest round of bloody attack after attack to an end the omens are not good.

Israeli tanks, artillery and infantry have amassed along the sandy, fenced-off Gaza border and military convoys were moving towards Gaza yesterday. Israel has also authorised the call-up of 75,000 military reservists, so far mobilising around half that number.

Should those forces be unleashed diplomacy will struggle to stand between the besieged and their attackers. Any action will ensure too that Hamas gets a steady flow of recruits to continue the terror war on Israel. Rather than end the violence this intervention would ensure that the cycle of death continues and that a peaceful resolution becomes ever more difficult to achieve.

What is really disheartening about all of this is that Israel has for decades used its military superiority to try to eliminate its opposition but it has failed. It has also failed to neutralise opposition by persisting with its settlement policies — or land grabs if you are one of the displaced. Where these policies were enacted by other countries they were rightly called ethnic cleansing. Israel has also imposed severe, in some instances inhuman, restrictions on Palestinian communities.

Arab terrorists have more than played their part in the decades-long tragedy too. No country could be expected to endure the rocket attacks that Israel has been subject to over recent years.

Despite this unending tragedy neither side seems open to changing its ways to the degree that might bring peace. However, the visit to the region by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon may provide an opportunity to facilitate talks that might end the killing. His visit certainly provides an opportunity for the Israelis to draw back from the brink and perhaps put a ground operation on hold.

Equally, newly re-elected President Barack Obama is in his strongest position ever to try to forcefully convince the protagonists that they, or their children, will have to resolve their differences in a way that tries to build a permanent peace. As history shows that will be achieved by talks rather than rockets or ground invasions. This bitter conflict is no different.

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