This weekend Israel begun waging war against Hamas-governed Gaza, in retaliation against 10 days of Hamas rocket fire into Israeli territory. Hamas´rocket fire has killed 2 Israeli civilians and wounded 7. Palestinian medical officials are reporting at least 313 dead and 700 wounded. The United Nations Relied and Works Agency has conservatively estimated that 57 of the Palestinian dead are civilians. The New York Times has reported of Israeli bombs striking public areas, including an area where schoolchildren were walking through, killing at least two children.

As happened during Israel´s similarly disproportionate war in Lebanon, where innocent civilians also suffered horrific casualties, President Bush offered his support for Israel´s actions, blaming Hamas for the conflict. While Hamas has acted aggressively through its rocket attacks, the Israeli response could not reasonably be called proportionate. Further, considering the US is supposed to be the mediator attempting to facilitate a two-state solution to the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is difficult to see how the President Bush´s remarks will help matters. The US´image as an ´honest broker´in this conflict is questionable indeed.

The Palestinians are isolated economically, in a fraction of the land they once occupied, which the Israeli´s took by force to create the state of Israel in 1948. Some live in the crowded and isolated Gaza strip, others in the West Bank, an area which Israel has continued to build Israeli settlements in violation of international law. This settlement activity has repeatedly and consistently undermined and complicated the peace process. How can you say you are committed to a Palestinian state in Gaza, as Israel and the US do, while allowing Israeli communities to spring up across the West Bank? This is not even to mentioned the ´security wall´Israel has begun building in recent years, furthering undermining Palestinian territorial integrity, cutting Palestinians off from each other and from economic opportunity, and undermining and complicating the peace process.

Israel´s activities which, whatever their intention, have the effect of oppressing Palestinians socially and economically, and undermining their hopes for a state. This further radicalizes a people oppressed in their own land. Israel and the US insist that Hamas renounces violence and accepts Israel´s right to exist as a precondition for talks. As an outsider, Overstand feels Hamas should concede these points, as the alternative has proven counterproductive. However, as a neutral outsider one must agree that whatever the public positions of Israel and the US in relation to a Palestinian state, Israel through its actions has done almost everything possible to frustrate the birth, and undermine the practical reality of a Palestinian state. As such, Overstand thinks it is unreasonable to demand concessions from Hamas as a pre-condition for the peace process, while Israel is allowed to disingenuously and flagrantly frustrate Palestinian hopes in practice, on a daily basis.

Everyone knows what the final agreement looks like: a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital, demilitarized (possibly with an International peacekeeping presence to assure this) living alongside Israel. Palestine and Israel would have to reach a compromise on the right of Palestinian refugees to return. Not everyone would be allowed to return to the homes they lost in Israel, and Israel would have to help remedy this with some sort of financial compensation.

The problem is how to get there. With Israel using abusing its position of power, and the US as its enabler, peace is unlikely to be reached. With no agreement, Palestinians will continue to suffer, and Israel will continue to flout international law. Though, as many as Israelis acknowledge, because of the sizable, fast-growing Palestinian/Arab population inside Israel- currently a minority- Israel will soon have to choose between being a democracy and being a Jewish state in the Middle-East.