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Jenny Cohen
Manager, SPEA Media Relations

Last modified: Friday, June 30, 2006


Latest Mideast violence was predictable, IU professor says

June 30, 2006

EDITOR'S NOTE: In response to the recent kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and the violence that followed, we offer comments from Rafael Reuveny, an associate professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. His research includes various political-economic aspects of international conflict with a focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Islamic and Jewish fundamentalism, and the relationship between international trade and political conflict. Reuveny has recently returned to IU after a 10-day trip to Israel.

"The writing was on the wall. The coming of Hamas to power is the decisive force for what we're observing now. When they came to power in January, they were admittedly ignored by Israel and the United States. It was an American idea to have elections in the occupied territories. It backfired. It caught people by surprise," Reuveny said.

"Before the elections, Hamas declared and agreed to a long-term cease fire. Some people said it was promising. There were some attacks, but they were by renegade and smaller organizations. But in recent months, people became more and more desperate economically, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The Gaza Strip is completely surrounded, and it's hard to get from Gaza to Israel. So the renegade organizations developed a rocket that is pretty inaccurate, homemade equipment, and they started to fire that," Reuveny said.

Rafael Reuveny

Print-Quality Photo

"Israel reacted with, in retrospect, too strong of an arm. They responded with a focused killing where they would send a helicopter with missiles or unmanned craft that would fly low over Gaza. There were mistakes with these operations. Within a period of a few weeks, many Palestinian civilians died. The tension went up and up, and those renegade organizations were able to attract more and more people.

"Two months ago, the Palestinians decided that they had to react in some manner," Reuveny said. "They returned to a method of digging tunnels. The tunnel would go under an Israeli army post, and then members of the renegade organizations would come from underneath. It would take them several weeks -- this most recent tunnel was very long. In one attack, they put explosives under the Israeli army base. In this case, they came out at night and kidnapped the soldier.

"There is one very important idea in all this. It's not just that it looks like Israel controls the situation and can decide on the moves," Reuveny said. "Israel is really not a fully independent country. It receives more than $3 billion every year from the United States, and all of its weaponry is supplied by the United States.

"When he came to power in 2001, President Bush didn't want to be involved in the conflict in the same way that Clinton was. But events escalated so quickly that Bush began to get more and more involved. In 2003, Bush said he agreed there should be a Palestinian state, which led to the road map for peace. It was a very structured plan that said there will be a Palestinian state, and Israel, for the first time, agreed to the provisions.

"But the plan set conditions, and one of the conditions was that the violence must stop. However, the violence is not controlled by the politicians, and the road map never took off. It just stayed on the ground. And here we are now. The Iraq war, Iran and North Korea and other issues are more important to the president, and he is completely disengaged. It's really not on the priority list," Reuveny said.

"The peace process is like riding a bike. It needs to keep moving, or it's going to fall. With this particular bike, the pedals aren't good, so the U.S. has to push from the back. Once the U.S. stops, the bike stops, and that's it. The U.S. is so important for Israel. The U.S., in principle, could use its power to force a political solution in the region."

Reuveny can be reached at 812-855-6112 (work), 812-824-3882 (home) or

Reuveny is an associate professor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs. SPEA is located on eight IU campuses and is committed to teaching, research and service in areas such as public and nonprofit management, public policy, environmental science, criminal justice, arts administration and health administration. The school maintains continuing relationships with a large number of public agencies at all levels of government; public and private hospitals and health organizations; and nonprofit organizations and corporations in the private sector. SPEA has earned national distinction for innovative educational programs that combine administrative, social, economic, financial and environmental disciplines.