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How to End the Gaza War

The only real way to end the Gaza War is not an unpoliced cease-fire.

Or a cease-fire policed by Egypt and other Arab countries as proposed by Martin Indyk, who clings to his old ideas as a little girl clings to her favorite doll.

Or a version of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, which has been interim and useless for more than three decades.

The bitter fact is that, while the Jews prepared for a homeland state from the early 1920s until 1948, when Israel was proclaimed in accordance with the 1947 Partition Plan of the General Assembly, the Palestinians did almost nothing except resent and resist the future. The British Mandatory Force ran Palestine for more than a quarter of a century, and during that time the Zionists prepared their state institutions. And let's face the facts: The Palestinians still don't have state institutions, certainly not in Gaza and virtually not in the West Bank either, though there one can detect certain primitive beginnings. As it happens, for example, the Palestinian Authority has perhaps 1,000 military men under training by Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, the security coordinator for the region, and other American officers. This thousand is actually performing responsibly, and that gives reason for measured hope even among Israeli defense brass.

There is no such optimism from Gaza except that Israel is gradually crippling Hamas by killing its armed men, trisecting the Strip's territory, demolishing its arms caches and tunnels, and neutralizing its capacity to communicate from top to bottom and bottom to top. Still, the job is not yet done and the I.D.F. can ill afford to stop the fighting when a reprieve would permit Hamas to start with its missilery again. One salient fact about the tunnels: Those--roughly 50--that can be destroyed from the air are already nothing. But there are others--some say several hundred--more deeply laid in the earth that would need bunker-busters, which are not cost-effective, or on the site smash-up, which seems to be the army's present preference. Do not look for too quick an acceptance by Jerusalem of a pre-mature lull. Viz., Tsippi Livni's curt no thank-you to tovarish Medvedev's kind offer to broker a truce with Hamas.

Since, at least as of now, Ehud Barak has not made a single mistake in the fighting, he is not likely to allow the sworn-to-the-death enemy of Israel the maneuverability it possessed ten days ago. During the battle with Hezbollah in August 2006, Israel was in demoralizing disarray. It now has the momentum of armed triumph behind it, and it is scarcely motivated to soothe the habitual hand-wringing anguish of, say, UNRWA and the Archbishop of Canterbury, for the Gaza Palestinians who, in any case, routinely shift in their own heads from armed killers to innocent victims.

As it happens, world opinion is also not as it was in 2006. Yes, respectably numbered Muslim crowds have gathered in the world of Islam to vent their rage. Elsewhere, elements in the immigrant population of the West also released their spleen. And, of course, the Republic of South Africa denounced Israel. I myself would have thought that it had matters more urgent about which to chafe: For example, the increasing tribal violence in its own country and brutalities against refugees. And what about Mugabe in Zimbabwe, the tyrant whom the republic has propped up for a decade? (Now, cholera, like AIDS, may engulf both nations.) Pretoria is morally not entitled to say a word about Israel, given its dazzling cool about Darfur and the Congo.

Europe has made its peace with Israel's war against Hamas. Nearly everybody of any real significance on the continent understands--more than understands--Israel predicament, including President Sarkozy, Prime Minister Merkel, President Berluschoni, even Prime Minister Brown. Indeed, the Czech Republic now holds the chair of the European Union and its foreign minister is virtually a Zionist. Had not European history turned awry in the 19th century, Prince Karl von Scwarzenburg would now be the King of Bohemia. Exiled by the Soviets to Vienna (where he lived in a small apartment in his hotel, the Palais Schwarzenburg), he spent much of the time in Austria presiding over Helsinki Watch. He is a truly noble person. Schwarzenburg is right now in Israel, and he is not hectoring or harassing its government.

Many of the Arabs states have also turned their backs on Hamas: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, especially. Not for Israel, particularly--but inferentially for sure. The reason is mostly that Iran is the grand patron of the Gaza terrorists, and any group bankrolled and arms-supplied by Tehran is anathema to the mainstream Arab governments. Hezbollah has demonstrated against its neighbor to the south. But, for all its rancid rhetoric and documented capacity, it has not fired a single missile against the Jewish state. Viewing the wreckage that Israel has wrought on Hezbollah's Gaza ally, it may surmise that the air force now has intelligence on its missiles just as it had on those of Hamas. And, then, yesterday, it was as if Umm Kulthum, the voice of Egypt, had exonerated Israel of guilt for the Gaza war. Alas, Umm Kulthum is dead already many years. But Adel Imam, a national institution of Egypt, its legendary comic star, laid the blame for Hamas' disaster directly on Hamas itself. This is actually big news, and he is a brave man.

I go back to my earlier point that the Palestinians are unprepared for statehood, as many of the countries in Africa have been unprepared for statehood. It is true that most Palestinians aspire to statehood, and Israel as a whole longs for the Palestinians statehood, too. But the fact is that, fragmented as the Palestinian will is, prone to violence as its political culture is, peace will not be an axiomatic consequence of independence. Maybe it can be devolved on the West Bank in short order rather than long, given especially an exchange of territory between Israel and the new Palestine, and arrangements for security in the Jordan valley. Some Israeli land with Palestinian inhabitants might be transferred to the freshly independent entity, with the accumulated social benefits of the population transferred with them, as well. The basic requirement here is that Israel will be assured that no weapons will land on its turf from the West Bank ever. Q.E.D.

But how does one get that more hazardous assurance in Gaza? The Arab states are, frankly, models for nothing. None of them covets a caretaker role in Gaza anyway. Not to guarantee Israel's safety and not to assure a reasonably civilized government there either. However broken by the I.D.F., Hamas will still be around. Who will cage it if it cannot be tamed? Certainly not the U.N. We have already had noble experiments with soldiers of Fiji and of Ghana wearing their nifty blue helmets.

It is Europe, hitherto feckless Europe, that needs to guarantee the peace between the Israelis and the Gaza Palestinians. Europe has been Palestine's rhetorical patron. Now let it be Palestine's actual guarantor. That means ensuring that the governors of Gaza not rule by the armed doctrine of fanatic and bloodthirsty Islam. This is not only for Israel's sake, but also for the sake of the indigenous population. It requires a resolute confidence in the face of an unruly, almost insuppressible politics. With the Palestinian Authority or not, and preferably with it, Europe (by which I mean Great Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Poland, Canada, Australia, and a few others) holds the fate of Palestine in its hands.

Martin Peretz is the editor-in-chief of The New Republic.

By Martin Peretz