Home Explainer: What’s going on in Israel, Gaza, and will the pain and suffering there ever end?
Politics, US & World

Explainer: What’s going on in Israel, Gaza, and will the pain and suffering there ever end?

Chris Graham
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The frustrating reality of what we’re seeing ongoing in Israel and Gaza is, all the brutal deaths on both sides of the border between the two in the past few days, and those to come, will almost certainly not stop the deaths and the dying going forward.

Hamas, self-styled Palestinian militants labeled as terrorists by the West, which has been in political power in Gaza – population: 2 million, in an area the size of Washington, D.C. – since 2006, doesn’t even play nice with other Palestinians, with years of internal struggle including a Hamas-backed assassination attempt against then-Palestinian Authority Prime Minster Rami Hamdallah, a leader of the rival Fatah political party, in 2018.

The political situation in Israel is only slightly better off. The far-right prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned to office in 2022, is facing public corruption charges – sound familiar? – and his response has been to push through changes to weaken the nation’s judiciary.

The judicial overhaul effort has weakened Israel internally, with the military and intelligence communities divided from the religious conservatives in the Netanyahu government, and the divisions also manifest in weekly protests drawing as many as 250,000 people, in a nation of 9.4 million.

For scale on this: the U.S. population is 330 million; imagine 9 million Americans out in the streets protesting for weeks, months on end.

As all this was going on, Netanyahu was moving military divisions from the border with Gaza to the West Bank to combat low-level Palestinian violence, a move, in retrospect, risked exposing communities at the Israel-Gaza border.

The political failure, the military strategy failure, the intelligence failure, created an environment in which Hamas was able to plan and execute the unprecedented assault on Israeli border communities that has killed more than 700 Israelis and injured thousands more, with unknown numbers taken hostage and treated as spoils of war by Hamas terrorists.

The self-defense response by Israel has, in turn, killed more than 500 Palestinians and injured thousands more, with more to come on both sides – and with increasing uncertainty over whether the tensions will widen.

Hezbollah terrorists operating out of Lebanon, at the northern border of Israel, have been launching sporadic attacks at Israeli targets, backed by Iran, which you would expect would want to seize the opportunity to put the brakes on the momentum toward a U.S.-brokered normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The response, meanwhile, in neighboring Arab capitals has been to rally around the Palestinian cause, putting at risk the ongoing efforts to build economic and social ties between Israel and the wider Arab world.

There is no obvious, easy answer to what to do next – next meaning, the moment after Israel exacts the biblical retribution promised by Netanyahu when he said that his nation was at war, and that “the enemy will pay an unprecedented price.”

Can there be any peace, or at a bare minimum, a basic détente, in the Middle East in the immediate aftermath of an attack on Israel that has been described by one Israeli official as “a 9/11 and a Pearl Harbor wrapped into one”?

Even getting to a state of détente is far away from being in a state of stability with no resolution in sight on the Israel-Palestinian question, the myriad internal divisions in the Arab world and how this all gets caught up in the political differences between the East (Russia, China) and West (the U.S. and NATO).

That’s the frustrating reality here: the thousands dead, the many more thousands wounded, the pain and suffering of the millions who survive and mourn, from the past few days, won’t move things an inch toward ending the pain and suffering, and mourning, moving forward.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].

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