Late last night, news broke that Palestine has received a majority in the UN (138 for, 9 against, 41 abstained votes), implicitly recognizing it as a proper state and as member of the United Nations. While this is arguably great news for politicians in Palestine, what are the implications for the people living in Gaza? Is Israel going to back down, now that Palestine has received a mighty ally?
Perhaps. But not likely. Why? Let’s go back to the events leading up to this vote.
On the 14th of November, Israel assassinated Ahmed Jabbari. For those of you who (still) don’t know who that was, he was the head of Hamas’ militant division (source). For some, that might be enough reason to kill him. But Israel knows damn well what happens when they execute such plans. Their government relies heavily on Game Theory, which sees politics as a game of chess, calculating every possible move their opponent might make. This theory, of which Ayn Rand was a big proponent, also encompasses the ‘Prisoners Dilemma’.
a prisoner’s dilemma schematic
Imagine if you will: two people are being interrogated in separate rooms. They can either confess, or stay quiet. If they both confess, they each get 6 years. If they both stay quiet, they both get two years. Here’s the trick: if one confesses, the other goes free. The logical thing to do would be to stay quiet, but because they are separated, they begin to distrust each other. In this case, the two choices are “using violence” or “not using violence”.
Israel’s role in all this is very calculating. You can see this as an interrogation, where Israel is able to see and hear what Palestine does. They know fully well the what the consequences are for killing a Hamas leader, but they knowingly submit their own population to Hamas’ retaliation.
So then, what is Israel’s goal in causing this violence? I assume it is to gain total control of the territory, and ultimately colonizing it.
Israeli interior minister Eli Yishai was quoted as saying “The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages, only then will Israel be calm for the next 40 years” (source). If you think sending Gaza back to the Middle Ages sounds pretty rough, scroll down that source article. The son of Ariel Sharon, former Israeli president, who is a journalist for the Jerusalem Post stated “We need to flatten all of Gaza. The American’s didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough – so they hit Nagasaki too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire”. Wow.
Why now? Because of the UN vote. Recognition from the UN to a Palestinian state would put back Israeli efforts to destabilize the country. It would give them more protection against Israeli attacks. However, Israel still has the most powerful ally in the form of the United States of America. The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, even stated that a Palestinian state forms an obstacle for peace. (source)
Why is this an obstacle for peace? Probably because Israel isn’t going to stop until it get’s what it wants. The level of entitlement is astonishing. They think the only way peace can be obtained, is by having total control of the territory, that is, no Palestinians in the area, and a large Israeli state.
What is the UN recognition going to achieve for the Palestinians? Probably not very much. The United States often feels it stands above UN-law, and will continue giving Israel their full support in the matter. Palestine might have won this, but it is a mere moral victory. As long as they don’t have the support of the USA, their efforts are futile. If they truly want a state, they need to stop sending their homemade fireworks over the border. It isn’t going to change anything, it only works against them.
It is hard, in an uneven prisoners dilemma, to be the non-violent faction. But they need to do it. As Gandhi prescribed, if the hand strikes, turn the other cheek. Only then will the larger public realize the disproportionality of Israel’s actions.