The fourth Gaza War: 5 predictions
Now that the international donor conference on behalf of Gaza has wrapped up in Cairo, it is time to make predictions about the next Gaza War.
1. First, let’s try to guess when it will begin. The first Gaza War ran from December 2008 to January 2009, lasting three weeks. The second Gaza War began Nov. 11, 2012 and continued until a Nov. 21 ceasefire 10 days later. The third Gaza War started July 8 of this year and concluded on Aug. 26. Each war seems to arrive about a year sooner than the one that preceded it. If what’s past is prologue, mark your calendar for June 2015.
2. How many will die? In the first Gaza War, Israel lost 10 soldiers (including four to friendly fire) and three civilians. Palestinian casualties came to 1,166, according to the Israel human rights group B’Tselem, 759 of which were civilians. In Gaza 2, Palestinian deaths numbered 149, of which 87 were civilians. Israelis lost two soldiers. The third Gaza War exacted a much higher price: 66 soldiers and six civilians on the Israeli side; 2,127 Palestinians killed, with 45 to 70 percent of them civilians. By the next war, Hamas weaponry and defenses will improve, as will the quality of its rockets. In 2008, Hamas fired homemade Qassam rockets, whose 18-pound warhead had a range of two miles. By 2014, Hamas targeted Tel Aviv with Syrian-made 302mm Khaibar (M-302), which have a 130-mile range and a 300-pound warhead. One can assume Israel’s Iron Dome technology also will improve — but just one Hamas rocket hitting its target would wreak serious damage. Consequently, Israel’s desire to root out Hamas militants and weapons once and for all — again — will only increase. My prediction? Double the casualties on both sides.
3. How much of Gaza will be destroyed, and at what cost? The 2008 war displaced 50,000 Gazans, destroyed 4,000 homes and caused $2 billion in damage. The second Gaza War destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings. The 2014 conflict created 273,000 internal refugees in Gaza and caused $5 billion in damage. On Oct. 12 in Cairo, donors pledged about half of that amount for reconstruction. Gaza War 4 will, of course, cost more, if you include the billions spent in vain to rebuild after the last three wars.
4. What will they name the fourth Gaza War? The Israelis called the first war, in English, Operation Cast Lead. Palestinians called it the Gaza Massacre. The Israelis dubbed Gaza War 2 Operation Pillar of Defense. Its Hebrew name was the far more biblical Pillar of Cloud. Hamas named it Operation Stones of Baked Clay. Israel called Gaza 3 Operation Strong Cliff, or Operation Protective Edge. Among Palestinians, it went nameless. For Gaza War 4 I suggest a name everyone can agree on: Operation You Can’t Be Serious.
5. What will the next war’s impact be? Much, much worse. The calls for sanctions and boycotts against Israel will be louder, especially on college campuses. The protests against Israel in European and American cities will be more violent and spill over into brazen anti-Semitism. Pro- and anti-Israel demonstrators will clash. A sophisticated media war will anticipate and blunt Israel’s every justification. The symbolic vote in this week in the British parliament to recognize a Palestinian state will appear, in retrospect, like the beginning of the end of Israel’s ability to seize the diplomatic initiative.
Hamas, highly aware of its previous success in interrupting international flights in and out of Ben Gurion Airport, will make sure it does so again, for even longer. Palestinians in the West Bank, now even more closely aligned with Gaza politically will find it difficult not to join in the war.
After recovering from the loss of tourism, trade and manufacturing following Gaza War 3, Israelis will again face massive economic disruption and relocation.
As predictions go, these are safe ones. Each Gaza war gets more bloody, more vicious and exacts a higher and higher price from the combatants and their supporters abroad — followed by international efforts to rebuild Gaza and seek a political solution. Yet the wars persist.
Isn’t it time we look for ways to put a stop to the world’s deadliest remake of “Groundhog Day”?
The Palestinians have taken an initial positive step of bringing the Palestinian Authority into Gaza. Israel, for its part, must do everything it can to give Gazans hope. Of the 1.8 million residents in Gaza, 50 percent are under age 15 — if they don’t see a chance for a better, more peaceful future, they will throw their youthful rage and energy behind the hardliners.
That may be why before the last war, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) urged the cabinet to help “dramatically improve the condition of the civilians of the Strip,” according to veteran Yediot Aharonot defense correspondent Ron Ben-Yishai. Perhaps now the government will heed the IDF suggestion.
Like they say, certain things in life are inevitable, like death, taxes and another Gaza War — if the Palestinians, Israel and the world don’t get to work right now to avoid it.