Thursday, January 1, 2009


As of this writing there are more than 400 reported deaths and 1,900 wounded on the Gaza side, and four deaths and 56 wounded on the Israeli side, as the Israel-Gaza conflict enters its seventh day of bloody rocket pounding. According to Palestinian medical sources, of the more than 400 Palestinians killed 42 are children. Three of the four Islraeli casualties are civilians. These ghastly statistics are guaranteed to increase unless this latest round of violence in the most volatile Mideast conflict is immediately halted.

Like in most military conflicts the civilian population, especially children, is the most vulnerable. Without arms and armors to protect them, let alone the training and possibly the incentive to fight, civilians on both sides are always caught in the crossfire. Unless they themselves have been casualties, political leaders and military commanders deal only with cold statistics from the rising death toll and injuries while the victims feel the searing pain and suffering from the loss of their love ones.

As the casualties rise on both sides, victims seethe with rage which will only add more recruits to the fighting and violence. Every orphaned child becomes a likely foot soldier in this seemingly unending Arab-Israeli conflict. Equally worrisome is the spilling of the conflict beyond the borders of Israel and Palestinian settlements. Already, there have been calls from sympathetic Arab neighbors, such as Iran, to mount suicide bombings in Israel.

There is an urgent need for the international community to come together and immediately step in and aggressively pursue peace negotiations between Israel and Hamas, as well as with Abbas's Fatah party, to not only quell the ongoing violence but to shape a lasting peace between both sides.

Now is not the time to play the blame game like what Washington seems to be doing right now by pointing the accusing finger against Hamas. While Hamas may have incited the Israelis into retaliating as a result of the former's barrage of rocket fire into southern Israel after the expiration of a six-month ceasefire, the more important consideration right now is to limit, if not stop, the bloodletting by persuading the parties to come back to the negotiating table.

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama should work closely with the outgoing administration of Bush in helping broker a truce. Although it may be true that there could only be one U.S. president at a time there is a pressing need to address this problem immediately and not let more innocent blood to flow on the streets of Israel and Gaza.
Although a known ally of Israel and despite its recent missteps in the international scene, the U.S. still wields considerable influence and unchallenged power in the shaping of international affairs, especially on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The de facto leadership status of the U.S. in global politics and the deferment of other leading countries to this stature can be seen from the recent pronouncement of the European Union's leadership to step into the problem to fill the vacuum created by Washington's inaction, brought about by the ongoing leadership transition at the White House. Bush is adamant to take any decisive action in apparent recognition of his lameduck status, while Obama refuses to rush into his presidency before January 20th.

The civilian casualties of war can no longer wait for political expedience. As time moves on the death and casualty rates also move up higher and higher. International pressure should be made to bear on Israel and Hamas to immediately put a stop to this madness.

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