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The context and meaning of
The war in
The political effect of the war has been to increase Hamas's ascendancy among Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank; the movement would almost certainly win a second successive Palestinian election if it were held now across both territories. Moreover, in the Arab world as a whole Hamas is seen as the vanguard of opposition to Israeli invaders and their
Beyond the middle east there are fears of a further radicalisation of Muslims, especially among the young. The concerns expressed by establishment sources in countries such as
The global strip
The Israeli government may be in a strong position to continue Operation Cast Lead, but this very fact intensifies the political dilemma surrounding the ultimate aims of the campaign that has been in evidence almost from the beginning of the air-assault on 27 December 2008. There is a reported split in the Israeli cabinet between those (including foreign minister Tzipi Livni and defence minister Ehud Barak) who want an early end to the fighting now that Hamas has been greatly weakened, and others (including prime minister Ehud Olmert) who advocate a full military operation to destroy the organisation (see Kim Sengupta & Donald Macintyre, "Israeli cabinet divided over fresh Gaza surge", Independent, 13 January 2009).
The faction that seeks an early declaration of victory argue that Hamas is as much a movement and an idea as an organisation; thus, destroying its infrastructure and even its senior personnel would not represent any sort of complete triumph. In this view, an intelligent calculation would be to use evidence of a marked decline in the number of rockets fired into
Against this, the group that seeks to press on towards a comprehensive result believes that Hamas has already been weakened to the point where a total destruction is possible (see Jeff Barak, "Livni squanders the IDF's achievement",
The George W Bush administration now in its final week of life offers neither caution nor wise advice to its Israeli ally (a point emphasised by the circumstances of its abstention from the United Nations Security Council resolution of 8 January, calling for an immediate ceasefire in
The implications of this view reach beyond
A political entrapment
This strategic and ideological context emphasises the enduring predicament of the Palestinians in Gaza - already deprived of so much in terms of material existence and life-chances, subjected to intense military assault, and now regarded as but one token in a larger geopolitical game (see "'The Street Smells of Death'", SpiegelOnline, 13 January 2009).
The conflict in
This prospect is anathema in particular to Hosni Mubarak's administration in
The great majority of Palestinians have long eschewed al-Qaida's support for their cause, not least because most are prepared even now to live with a two-state solution with
The al-Qaida leader's most potent verbal attack on this connection came in a filmed address released by al-Jazeera on 29 October 2004, timed to coincide with the approaching climax of the
In a significant political analogy, bin Laden drew a direct comparison between the repeated bombing of the high-rise towers of west
In this light, the great advantage of the
The death and destruction in Gaza has not yet reached the level of west Beirut in 1982, but in symbolic terms the latest conflict there has already become a far greater and more immediate focus for tens of millions of people in the middle east and beyond than Lebanon a generation ago. The implications of that are both complex and uncertain, but it is certain that the
Paul Rogers is professor of peace studies at
This article is published by Paul Rogers, and openDemocracy.net under a Creative Commons licence.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs