July 29th, 2014
12:39 PM ET

What You Need to Know About the Israel-Hamas Blame Game

The many layers and narratives of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can easily complicate one's understanding of Israel and Hamas' current war in Gaza.

The war, now in its third week, is being waged between the Israeli army and Hamas, a U.S. and Israel-designated terrorist group that politically and militarily controls Gaza.

After a series of ill-fated, temporary cease-fires, the war has no demonstrable sign of ending, with casualties on both sides mounting.

Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's Fareed Zakaria G.P.S., joined Chris Cuomo on "New Day" Tuesday to break down the factors and causes of the current war, identifying the players, their respective demands, and who should bear responsibility.

THE PLAYERS: 

split leaders

(L-R: Netanyahu, Kerry, Meshaal) 

Benjamin Netanyahu is the Israeli prime minister. Bibi, as he is known among Israelis, is a long-time hawk and tough hard-liner on Israeli security issues, Zakaria explained.

John Kerry is the U.S. Secretary of State who, according to Zakaria, "never stops trying." His latest attempt at brokering an Israel-Hamas cease-fire stoked controversy domestically and internationally.

Khaled Meshaal is the leader of Hamas, and rules remotely; he is based, among other Hamas officials, in Qatar. "I think he would not stay alive in Gaza," Zakaria said.

WHO'S TO BLAME?

Zakaria believes that, from a short-term perspective, "Hamas originated this conflict."

Rockets fired into sovereign Israeli territory were bound to incite a reaction.

But he also averred that, from a long-term standpoint, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has done essentially no negotiating with Palestinians (namely the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank) to create a long-term peace.

"What is his strategy?" Zakaria asked.

Kerry, Zakaria said, should not be blamed for the collapse of the cease-fire deals. He tried to create "some kind of process" between the two parties.

THE DEMANDS: 

What does Israel want?

Israel entered the Gaza operation with a multi-faceted endgame: end rocket fire into Israeli territory, demilitarize Gaza, and dismantle Hamas tunnels.

Constant rocket fire from Gaza paralyzes Israeli society, Zakaria said, and puts Israeli citizens in bomb shelters or under siege.

The range of Hamas rockets has improved over time, and could extend deeper into Israel.

Yet the cessation of rocket fire goes hand-in-hand with Israel's second initiative, Zakaria said - the demilitarization of Gaza.

"In today's world, it is so easy to get small arms, light ammunition, and Hamas has been doing it for decades now," he said.

Perhaps most significantly, the Israeli military is intent on dismantling a complicated network of tunnels built by Hamas.

The tunnels, Zakaria said, are sophisticated and fortified with concrete.

It is not immediately clear, to Zakaria and other international observers, whether the concrete used for the tunnels was intended for other infrastructural purposes in Gaza.

Nonetheless, the Israeli embargo upon Gaza controls the flow of building materials in and out of the small coastal strip, Zakaria noted.

Concrete has universal purposes (i.e. building schools or shelters), and blocking its entry could create a Catch-22 for Israelis.

What does Hamas want?

Hamas' goals are rooted in existentialism, or lack thereof.

Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist, placing an obvious snag in the two parties' ability to negotiate with one another.

However, Hamas, as the ruling entity of Gaza, is responsible for providing Gazan citizens with a tenable physical existence.

That existence is challenged by an Israeli siege - "from land, sea, and air," Zakaria said.

The siege makes entry and exit from Gaza immensely difficult, Zakaria explained, and makes necessary goods, like food and medical supplies, more difficult to obtain.

Additionally, calls to end Israel's siege upon Gaza are interwoven with Hamas' demands to end the Israeli occupation of Gaza.

Although Israeli troops withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Zakaria cited international law in defining occupation.

"If you control all access points to an area, you are effectively the occupier, whether or not you actually have physical troops on the ground," he said of Israel.

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RELATED: Hamas rejects Palestinian call for Gaza cease-fire

RELATED: Anatomy of failure: How Gaza cease-fire never happened

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RELATED: What is Hamas' endgame in Gaza?

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soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Brett Laven

    “If you control all access points to an area, you are effectively the occupier, whether or not you actually have physical troops on the ground,” he said of Israel.

    Israel does not control all access points to Gaza. What about Egypt? Is Egypt an occupier??

    Besides, one must act why Israel is trying to control those access points?? It is hard when an area is controlled by a recognized terrorist organization with a charter sworn to remove all Jews from the land. If all these checkpoints had been open, there would be many more casualties on both sides by now

    I very much agree that Bibi has not done anything to negotiate with the more moderate factions, and should to help force Hamas's hand. Build a better society in West Bank and show Palestinians in Gaza what can be obtained by peaceful means

    Let's pray for an end to the innocent deaths on both sides.

    August 3, 2014 at 5:01 am | Reply
  2. Ilias Sourdis

    The hard questions that must be asked are blocked by this CNN network of corporate media. Do we need to write that the Netanyahu killing regime is "Mother Teresa" to pass the censorship screening of the propaganda protectors of CNN ?

    August 3, 2014 at 2:56 am | Reply
  3. Meda Turetsky

    It should be noted that Egypt controls some of the access into Gaza. It should also be noted that there are many times when access to Gaza is open on the Israeli side, but closed by Hamas from Gaza. It should also be noted the even during this armed war, Israel has been sending in humanitarian aid to Gaza and treating Gazan civilians if Hamas will permit. The IDF opened a field hospital for Gazans but Hamas has told people not to go there.

    August 2, 2014 at 6:56 pm | Reply
  4. barry

    Why does no one mention that they also have a border with a Muslim country, Egypt?

    August 2, 2014 at 1:49 am | Reply
  5. Alon

    Well, Gaza has a border with Egypt, meaning access points not controlled by Israel, therefor Gaza is not occupied by Israel.

    Please, do not try to balance between a democratic state and a terror organization.

    August 1, 2014 at 8:32 pm | Reply
  6. shimon

    Fareed Zakaria says that Israel is an occupying power in Gaza under Int'l law because it controls all access points to the Gaza strip. But Egypt controls a significant access point – so Israel is not an occupying power

    August 1, 2014 at 6:06 pm | Reply
  7. Mark Calder

    It is unfortunate and sad that civilians in Gaza are being killed due to this conflict. My heart goes out to the families who have lost loved ones. However, my heart also goes out to the Israeli citizens who have to live in terror of rocket attacks, see their economy suffer by the necessity of such huge defence expenditures, and send their children into battle over and over again.

    The Israelis under their most decorated war hero as prime minister previously recognized the legitimate right of a Palestinian state to exist. They took a courageous step to peace.
    But still they suffer attacks.from an area that was supposed to be demilitarized.
    How do you bargain for peace with an opposing government that does not recognize you right to exists?
    How do you conduct military exercises by the rules of war while your opponent places rockets in UN school buildings and launch rockets into your civilian neighbourhoods?
    Israel, as with any legitimate state, has the right to defend itself and sadly must continue to, regrettably, excercise that right.

    August 1, 2014 at 11:51 am | Reply
  8. Mark

    l wish reporters would ask this question: Why doesn't Hamas attack Egypt with rockets or militia, only Israel? After all, Egypt has closed its border with Gaza. Egypt has destroyed the tunnels on their joint border and is participating in the blockade restricting goods into Gaza as well.. Supposedly, this is their grievance against Israel and Egypt. Why not attack Egypt as well? Could it be that Hamas only wants Israel to retaliate and incur a negative "public perception?" It was the "obliteration" of Israel that Hamas was founded on, not Egypt.

    August 1, 2014 at 11:34 am | Reply
  9. Howard Brown

    I think that in the main, CNN is attempting to present a balanced report BUT when Fareed Zakaria explains the Hamas position he talks of the occupation. I think that to be completely fair he should add the caveat that Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, they do not now, and have not occupied the Gaza Strip for almost 9 years. Further, that the blockade that Israel imposes on the Gaza Strip is not that different from the blockade that Egypt imposes on the Gaza Strip, but Hamas is not lobbing rockets at Cairo or Alexandria and lastly with all this talk of blockade, instead of smuggling in trade goods etc, it has smuggled in 1,000s of rockets and other munitions and used concrete and cement etc to build a military fortress instead odf schools, factories and hospitals

    August 1, 2014 at 11:17 am | Reply
  10. Jon Fredericks

    Mr Zakaria may have accurately quoted the law defining occupation, but that does not define the situation between Israel and Gaza. Gaza has a border with Egypt, which is not controlled by Israel. If the Egyptians were to open that border, Gazans could come and go. Therefore, Israel is not an occupier under the condition Mr. Zakaria quoted.

    August 1, 2014 at 6:30 am | Reply
  11. alex manstradt

    What you need to know about the conflict is that you won't get un-biased information here. Gaza is not under siege by Israel alone. How come nobody (not here, not at the UN) has anything to say about Gaza's border with Egypt being closed as well? Hamas ultimate goal is the eradication of Israel. To expect open borders with the country they hate to death is asinine. But why is Egypt doing the same?

    All in all, it's a totally crazy situation. Palestinians have done nothing but launched missiles loaded with flowers to Israel and the israelis respond with such unwarranted violence! The sole notion that hamas-fired missiles are for killing civilians is absurd. Don't you think, dear journalists of CNN?

    July 31, 2014 at 3:26 pm | Reply

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