The Press editorial says:
Hamas said several days ago that it would not extend a ceasefire that was due to expire about now and rocket attacks on more or less defenceless Israeli towns had been stepped up considerably in the last few days. But the fact that the escalation of violence in the region had an air of inevitability about it does not make it any the less depressing.
It’s not two steps forward and one step back but 1.01 steps forward and one step back, in terms of making progress in the Middle East.
With more than 1.5 million Palestinians crammed into an area the geographical size of a small city civilian casualties would be impossible to avoid no matter how carefully targeted the raids were. The Palestinian gunmen make those casualties all the greater by placing their military units and equipment in civilian areas.
Sad but true.
Even if the casualty numbers are exaggerated for propaganda purposes, as there is little doubt they are, the air raids undoubtedly kill and injure many innocent people.
Also sad and true.
The immediate aim is to stop the missile fire from Gaza. According to Israel, hundreds of rockets had been fired into the southern areas of the country near Gaza in the last few days, adding to the thousands that have rained on to the country in the last eight years. Only one death from the missile fire has been reported recently but the fear of the residents of the towns under attack, and of the Israeli Government, is that if left to carry on unhindered the militants will acquire longer-range, more accurate weapons along with greater expertise in their deployment, leaving ever-larger areas vulnerable to random bombardment.
I find it amusing that some argue Israel should not try and stop the missile attacks, because few of them actually hit their targets. I suggest they try living in a neighbourhood where rockets explode about them every day, and then re-evaluate their stance. Also worth remembering that they are firing these rockets into territory that is not disputed (such as the West Bank, Jerusalem).
This military action will no doubt end at some point, after much death and destruction, leaving a few Israeli towns perhaps a little more secure than before but with a longer-term peace for the region as far off as ever.
And this is why I regret Israel has responded this way, even though I understand why. It does make the longer-term peace harder.
But Hamas will continue to hold sway over a more or less lawless militia-run land and will refuse even to recognise Israel’s basic right to exist. The militiamen will continue to be armed and financed by Iran, which also refuses to recognise Israel’s legitimacy in the area indeed, both the present military engagements in Gaza, and the earlier one on the radical Hizbollah militia in southern Lebanon, may be seen as part of a wider proxy war between Israel and Iran.
While Israel’s actions in the region are hardly blameless, and are often unnecessarily brutal and provocative, so long as that situation continues to prevail it is hard to see any longer-term improvement at all.
What has been nice is to see a balanced response from the new Government, instead of just blaming Israel.
New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully describes the attacks as “a day of tragedy”.
Mr McCully says it is pointless to fingerpoint about who is responsible, or debate what is proportionate versus disproportionate response.
He has endorsed a call by the United Nations for an immediate ceasefire and says that could provide the breathing space that’s needed to broker a solution.
The ceasefire needs both sides to agree to it. That may be difficult.