Guest Post: An outsider’s view of the results of Protective Edge

This is another guest post by frequent commenter and contributor Brian Goldfarb.

Hamas version of victory (by A.F. Branco at Legal Insurrection)

I thought that now we have an at least temporary period of calm in Israel/Palestine, perhaps it was time to get back to normal (whatever that is in this tiny part of the world). Why temporary? Because Hamas and Islamic Jihad, even if not re-armed with fresh supplies of rockets, will not be able to resist the temptation to succumb to their foam-flecked ideology of “death to the Jews, and let’s start with those close at hand”. Of course, they’ll get a bloody nose, yet again, and if the Israelis and the rest of world are really lucky, lose even more leaders. Sadly, yet more genuinely innocent Gazan civilians will be killed and maimed, except that only the Israelis will really care about that (because if those who proclaim their kinship with the “poor Palestinians” actually meant it, they’d be pushing for a workable 2-State solution), and the world will demonize Israel yet again, despite the “collateral damage” ratio being the lowest in any such conflict. (Lord, how I hate that innocuous-sounding phrase “collateral damage”: these are real people!)

So, what do I mean by “normal”? Well, how about an assessment of the overall outcome, in realpolitik terms, by a physically (but not emotionally) distant outsider (I’m still that “sane left” Zionist I always was). I asked Anne what she thought of this Times of Israel article: “Hamas is the loser” , published on 30 August (when the cease-fire had held for a few days) and written by Meir Javedanfar.  Her view was that she broadly agreed with the author’s assessment, but. like many Israelis, was disappointed that Netanyahu et al hadn’t gone on and somehow finished the job.

Anyway, Javedanfer’s first two sentences are:

“Hamas lost. The reason: Hamas just accepted the same Egyptian peace proposal which it rejected on July 15th.”

It might be difficult to get our heads round this. After all, there was rejoicing on the streets of Gaza after Hamas accepted this particular Egyptian-sponsored cease-fire which, in reality, was no different from the one offered back on 15 July, a full 6 weeks ago.  Although Hamas would wish us to believe otherwise, perhaps it wasn’t because of the “victory” Hamas (hadn’t) gained, but because the Israeli bombing and shelling had stopped.

If that’s the case, what has Israel gained by stopping now (rather than in another 2 weeks, say)? Militarily, the argument is fairly plain: Hamas has used up (by most observers’ calculations, including those of Minister of Defence Yaalon) 80% of its rocket stocks and some unknown proportion of its mortars; 31 or 32 “terror tunnels” have been destroyed (and let’s hope the IDF didn’t miss any that already penetrate beyond the border); at least 3 or 4 senior military commanders have been killed – no-one has seen Mohammed Deif for weeks now, despite claims that he escaped the destruction of the house his wife and children were in – at least; as well as 1000 or so combatants (although “grunts” – as the Americans call foot soldiers – are easily replaced); and it can talk about opening the border crossings, extending the fishing limits and allowing a sea-port and airport in Gaza at some time in the future, with no guarantees that anything concrete (pun absolutely intended) will result. After all, Israel may well retain its (UN-agreed) legal sea blockade of the Gazan coast.

If Javedanfar is right, what has, by the same token, Hamas lost, or not gained? All of the above, of course: 80% of its rockets, etc. Further, whatever opinion polls may claim, some parts of Gaza have been flattened: schools are destroyed, as are mosques; many are homeless, because their homes have been made uninhabitable, and so forth, and this can hardly resound to Hamas’s credit. Beyond that, they have lost 1000 combatants: their replacements have to be recruited (which might not be too difficult), and they will have to be trained, which takes time. Then, on top of that, they essentially failed to inflict any damage worth talking about on Israel.

This is not meant to be cynical: the deaths of 75 Israelis (plus one migrant worker) is hard to bear, harder still for the families and friends, to say nothing of the 1000 Gazan civilians used as human shields. But, in realpolitik terms, the loss of 1000 combatants for 72 soldiers of the “enemy” is a price far too high for terrorist/guerrilla organisations to bear and survive in the long run.

All this is confirmed by The Elder of Ziyon on his blog in the Algemeiner. The Elder’s 3rd, very long, paragraph gives (what he believes is) a good indication of the text the Egyptians released re this cease fire. To say the least (as he does), it’s very vague. That is, in political terms, all it says is “stop fighting and there will be negotiations in a month or so on some unspecified issues that may or may not come to fruition”. Israel can live with that. Can Hamas? Did they come to the the cease fire because they had lost too much? Will they have to show some greater gain than vague promises of what might be? Cynically, I wonder if it wouldn’t be worth it, in political terms, encouraging Hamas to use up the 20% they have left before they can be resupplied.

It’s also worth noting that Khaled Abu Toameh, my favourite Arab/Palestinian journalist, pretty well agrees with Javedanfar in a posting on the Gatestone Institute site on 28 August. In brutal summary, Abu Toameh says, among much else,

“The Egypt-brokered cease-fire may achieve some calm for Israelis and Palestinians in the foreseeable future, particularly in the aftermath of the severe blow Hamas and Islamic Jihad suffered as a result of Israel’s massive military operation.

Indeed, Hamas and its allies will now be busy rebuilding the damage in the Gaza Strip.”

We can but hope that Abu Toameh is correct in this.

However, he goes on to say that

“But they will also continue to raise new generations of Palestinians on glorification of terrorism and jihad, with the hope of achieving the destruction of Israel, which they view as an alien body planted by colonialist powers in the Middle East.”

Well, we know that, but it doesn’t mean that Hamas and Islamic Jihad can’t be defeated, just that their ideologies commit them to action that is blind to the point of leading them to self-destruction and disappearance. There are a lot more failed revolutions than successful ones. It’s just that the successful ones write the new history books!

Abu Toameh also notes, in another Gatestone Institute article: Will Hamas be held accountable for war crimes?, that Hamas has committed serial war crimes and wonders whether they will brought to book over them. Unlikely, of course, but there is nothing to stop Israel counter-charging if either Abbas or Hamas decide to try and take Israel to the International Court at The Hague. Israel probably has better evidence to convince genuinely impartial judges. That’s probably all that’s holding Abbas back from starting the process. [See my footnote 1 –  1 at the end of the article. Click the figure 1 – Anne].

And, surprisingly and happily, Israel has friends in some unexpected places. Elizabeth Warren, US Senator, Democrat, Mass. (probably the most liberal state in the Union), and arguably a potential Presidential candidate in 2016, is reported as saying good things about Israel (and she’s not been noted, earlier, for her comments on foreign policy), when she defended the funding for Iron Dome. It’s very difficult to argue with much of the following (not that we would want to, of course):

“Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren’t many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law,” she said. “And we very much need an ally in that part of the world.”

She and the US military are certainly in agreement on that!

I must also remind you of the following four articles by Burak Bekdil (a Turkish writer for the Hurriyet Daily News) on the Gatestone Institute site (where do they find these marvellous Arab/Palestinian writers? and why isn’t the Israeli Ministry of Information employing them?) here, all with the generic title of “Golda Meir was right”:

Golda Meir was right part I
Golda Meir was right part II
Golda Meir was right part III and
Golda Meir was right part IV 

You don’t need me to tell you about what: Anne very recently revived Golda Meir’s probably most famous quote:

“We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

Finally, a red-faced confession: I appear to have deleted an article I should have kept and even printed off. Perhaps you out there can help me. An article appeared on one of the on-line papers I constantly refer to which argued that Hamas (implicitly, like other terrorist organisations and even terrorist states) consistently misjudges Israel [see my footnote 2 2 below – Anne] (and, by implication, other democracies).  [See my footnote 3 3 below – Anne].  Hamas, Hezbollah, etc, see Israel’s habit of convening an Committee of Inquiry after every episode of war with her neighbours as an act of weakness. Indeed, the author noted that a friend called and said that he (the caller) knew who had won the Second Lebanese War, because Israel had convened a Committee of Inquiry while Hezbollah was handing out victory T-Shirts!

Of course, as a result of that Committee, Israel learned valuable lessons: a veritable SWOT analysis (for those not conversant with management-speak: Successes; Weaknesses; Opportunities; Threats). As a result, Israel was very  well prepared for Operations Cast Lead, Pillar of Cloud and Protective Edge. In turn, each of these will have had (will have) its own Committee, to be better prepared next time. What the terrorists see as a weakness is in reality a strength: open discussion, extremely close examination of every aspect of the operation: most importantly, the most junior is at liberty to criticise the most senior.

It’s almost a cliché: rouse the democracies (where openness is welcomed) at your peril. In the end, they will win. Ask Kaiser Wilhelm II; ask Hitler; ask Saddam Hussein.

Anne adds: Brian, thank you very much for your “outsider’s inside look” at this last war. Sometimes it takes a certain distance – not emotional as you say, but physical – to see the bigger picture. It certainly gives us some comfort to know it’s not as bleak as we thought at first, despite our continued nagging misgivings.

I also want to add a caveat to Meir Javedanfar’s article which Brian linked to. At the end of his article he mentions my unfavourite old bugbear, the “peace” process:

And if Netanyahu does not pursue serious peace negotiations with Abbas after the recent conflict, then he will have betrayed Israel and her citizens.

In my opinion Javednafar ruined what was otherwise a very good article.

I can’t get over why people think Abbas is a moderate or a peace partner. He’s a Hamasnik in a suit. He still hasn’t undone the unity government with Hamas, so having Abbas take over Gaza is a terrible idea.  It means in effect that Hamas is taking over, since they are partners with the PA.  Not only that, but last time it didn’t work out so well, with Hamas throwing PA officials off the roofs and summarily executing them. And Hamas were planning a coup in the West Bank only a couple of weeks ago. So why does anyone, especially Netanyahu, want Abbas to take over? I’m at a loss. Unless it’s because Abbas is the least of all evils, as opposed to Hamas themselves, or the UN (who would no doubt cooperate with Hamas as they did with Hezbollah).  The Egyptians, who would be the best idea, refuse to take over – and I can’t blame them! No one ever wants or wanted Gaza.

Abbas is also not exactly searching for peace himself and I don’t know why leftists can’t see that. He’s going to the UN to either demand a timetable for an immediate Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank or is threatening to sue Israelis, soldiers and politicians, in the ICC. Is that the behaviour of a peace partner? How about he himself suggests peace talks and some kind of proposal to Israel – not to the UN or the “world” in general.

I’ve never seen a hint of a peace camp in the Palestinians. I’ve never seen any kind of move towards compromise from the Palestinians. They have never been asked to give up one thing in the peace talks, certainly nothing tangible like land – which as you can see from the Gaza and Lebanon precedents is a Very Bad Idea.

In general I’m against any “peace talks” with any Palestinians as a matter of principle. I’m an extreme right-winger in that regard. Let them have their autonomy in their towns, and if peace and quiet reigns after a while, say a year or two, we can remove checkpoints. Until then the checkpoints need to stay because every time we remove them we are rewarded with a terror attack.

Peaceniks like Javendafar in the end do Israel more damage with their “peace-making” than those they call “extreme rightists” like Liberman or Bennett.

  1.   Re your suggestion that Israel sue Hamas at the ICC, it has already being done. the NGO Shurat Hadin is submitting an indictment against Hamas for war crimes to the ICC. 
  2. Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic wrote about this exact subject in a short post “Hamas misjudged Israel’s seriousness. He writes:“It is also clear that Hamas was surprised by the magnitude of the response, as it did not take the Israeli threats seriously. Despite its decision to resume rocket attacks, it did not take any extraordinary  precautions, such as evacuating its security headquarters and equipping hospitals and the civil defense forces. This explains the large number of casualties and the lack of appropriate treatment.” 
  3. This might be the article you were looking for: Why Arabs lose wars, from Middle East Quarterly. It deals more with the Arabs. vs. America than against Israel, but the principles remain the same. There is a huge gulf in the mindsets of the different societies, and Arab cultural mindsets hinder rather than help their progress and military success. 
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10 Responses to Guest Post: An outsider’s view of the results of Protective Edge

  1. Reality says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed article. It certainly helped after feeling that we should have continued the war until Gaza was flattened(or flattened enough so that it’ll take 10 years or more until we have to deal with them again). Anne I totally agree with you about Abbass. If nothing else , this war proved that its not about “peace” or land swaps or leaving Judea & Samaria ( West Bank). It’s all about pushing the Jews into the sea.

  2. Brian Goldfarb says:

    I found that article I referred to: It’s by Daniel Polisar. Some of his more pertinent comments on the element I mentioned are:

    “Why, then, does Hamas consistently underestimate the resilience of Israelis? First, Gaza is a dictatorship and Israel a democracy, and dictators historically have viewed democracies as weak, seeing their liberties as leading to licentiousness and their economic freedom and prosperity as making their citizens too complacent to risk war. What they miss is that citizens of a democracy, when their way of life is threatened, often marshal great courage and the vast resources their freedoms have helped create in order to defend it. Napoleon dismissively called the British “a nation of shopkeepers,” only to be defeated by them in the Battle of Waterloo. Hitler thought the U.S. a trifling adversary, asking rhetorically in 1940, “What is America but beauty queens, millionaires, stupid records, and Hollywood?” A couple of years later, too late to save Nazi Germany, he discovered the answer.”

    When we add the following, what I tried to convey by that glib phrase “you rouse the democracies at your peril” starts to becme clear:

    “Hamas’s leaders have correctly identified Israelis’ love of life and their own followers’ love of death, and seen this as the Achilles’ heel of the Jewish state. At a March 2014 rally in Gaza on the theme of “Strike Tel Aviv,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh declared, “We are a people that yearn for death just as our enemies yearn for life.”

    During the ground war in Gaza, Muhammed Deif, the leader of Hamas’s terror wing, declared defiantly on its al-Aqsa television, “Today you [Israelis] are fighting the soldiers of God who yearn to die for the sake of Allah just as you yearn for life.””

    But, of course, this means that the democrat will strive with every bone in their body to protect this way of life – by trying to stay alive to keep it that way. As Patton put it in WW2: No poor bastard ever one a war by dying for his country. He wins the war by making the other poor bastard die for his country.” And the better the technology and the better the grasp of that technology, the greater the realisation of what went wrong last time, the more chance of making this happen.

    Long may Hamas, Hezbollah, et al, continue to worship death. When you are dead, you can no longer protect anyone.

    It is only slightly fictionalised in “Hollywood” representations of WW2 when we see soldiers, on the charge stoop to pick up wounded comrades and carry them on in their charge.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thanks for that article and for your summary Brian. The quote from Patton sums up the situation perfectly. It’s a mystery to me that the Arabs haven’t figured it out by now that, as you say, the democrats, i.e. the Israelis, will do everything in their power to stay alive, including by killing their enemies if necessary.

  3. Philip says:

    When you talk about ‘pushing for a workable 2-State solution,’ can you lay out a little more what you mean by this?

    • Brian Goldfarb says:

      The whole phrase from which you pick out just 7 words is as follows: “Sadly, yet more genuinely innocent Gazan civilians will be killed and maimed, except that only the Israelis will really care about that (because if those who proclaim their kinship with the “poor Palestinians” actually meant it, they’d be pushing for a workable 2-State solution), and the world will demonize Israel yet again, despite the “collateral damage” ratio being the lowest in any such conflict. (Lord, how I hate that innocuous-sounding phrase “collateral damage”: these are real people!)”

      The critical words here are “(because if those who proclaim their kinship with the “poor Palestinians” actually meant it, they’d be pushing for a workable 2-State solution)”. As, from your earlier comments here and elsewhere, you would appear to believe that the Palestinians are poor and suffering, perhaps you might care to give your interpretation of these words. Or offer an alternative to them.

      I was being both rhetorical and critical of those who are always prepared to condemn Israel, Israelis and, especially the IDF, if so much as a hair on the head of one Palestinian gets harmed, even if that Palestinian happened to be holding a Kalashnikov pointing at a soldier or had just fired a rocket at them or Israeli civilians.

      I have stated what I believe it means and/or agreed with others both here and over on engageonline: you only have to consult their website to find this. You commented there often enough to find your way around that site.

      • Philip says:

        Gosh, tetchy!

        Anyway, I suppose I can’t really claim any kinship with Palestinians, as I have no Arabs in my family as far back as I’m aware of. But I suppose I do indeed care about questions of justice,political economy, less in a normative way than in a positive theory way, I should confess.

        I suppose this is why I asked the question. Because one of the implications of what you wrote (I limit myself here to the section that you helpfully requoted for the benefit of humanity) is that you can essentially define those who care about Palestinians by using the yardstick of whether they advocate for a 2-state solution. There are two problems with this. First, it’s a logical informal fallacy. Second, you don’t define what ‘pushing for a workable 2-state solution) involved. And as far as I’m aware, this is a subject of some controversy. Or at least heated disagreement. And of course, many of your co-travelers over here don’t share your unswerving passion for two states.

        Still, I was also actually just interested to know what your dynamic move towards two states would look like. I personally struggle to see how more militarism leads to peace. But perhaps my recollection of your views is hazy; it’s been so long since those riotous days! I thought maybe you could have a look in your famous ‘files’ and send us a quick briefing note on your two-state solution.

        In general, and for what it’s worth, I think the Arab Peace Plan forms a good basis on which to build a reasonable peace deal. There, said it!

        • Brian Goldfarb says:

          “(I limit myself here to the section that you helpfully requoted for the benefit of humanity)” I may be tetchy (although there are extremely good reasons for that, alluded to further down my response to you), but you are sarcastic way beyond the boundaries of politeness, to say nothing of good manners (which I’ve rarely received from you, here or on engage), which is the main reason for being “tetchy”. How does it feel to be replied to in the manner in which you approach others?

          “…one of the implications of what you wrote…is that you can essentially define those who care about Palestinians by using the yardstick of whether they advocate for a 2-state solution.” Actually, this is yet another example of your twisting what others say to what you want them to have said. Read properly (which is, deliberately, the last thing you will ever, voluntarily, do), even with a minimum of care, these words are directed towards the members of Nick Cohen’s “progressives”, as described and damned in “What’s Left?” (which, if you haven’t read it, you should, and if you have, how can you write as you do?). These are the members of such as the Palestine Solidarity Committee(s) (PSC); Independent Jewish Voices; JBIG: JfJfP (Jews for Justice for Palestinians), et al, ad nauseam.

          In other words, people who don’t really want a viable two-state solution but, with Hamas, Hezbollah and elements of Fatah, want Israel gone.

          Or don’t you ever read what they actually say?

          Given that (which, of course, you knew all along), the rest of your comment is redundant, merely one of your usual attempts to twist my words to something I didn’t say, wouldn’t say and wouldn’t believe if I did say.

          Anyone with a functioning brain reading my comment would know that I made no case or demand (even request) for a two-state solution. That’s all in your fevered anti-Zionist imagination, Philip.

          Then you go on to say that “But perhaps my recollection of your views is hazy; it’s been so long since those riotous days! I thought maybe you could have a look in your famous ‘files’ and send us a quick briefing note on your two-state solution.” No your recollection isn’t hazy, Philip, you just like to pretend that everyone but you is politically dodgy as well as intellectually suspect. At least unlike your last comment on the previous comments thread here, you now acknowledge you know very well who I am, instead of that ludicrous and faux innocent “I don’t know who you are or why you’re talking to me like this” stupidity. You know how to access those old comments as well as I do. You do your own homework, I’m not doing it for you.

          As for “In general, and for what it’s worth, I think the Arab Peace Plan forms a good basis on which to build a reasonable peace deal”, all that is really required for a genuine peace in the region is the recognition of Israel as a sovereign state. Shouldn’t be too difficult for Hamas, Hezbollah or Fatah to do, should it, Philip? After all, Egypt and Jordan have done it. Or do you think otherwise? If so, why not enlighten us poor benighted, living in the outer darkness individuals, Philip? Or are you afraid of committing yourself?

          Let’s have your YOUR opinion on that, shall we, instead of constantly demanding that others dance to your tune by responding to what you want others to believe they said. That does rather assume that the others are incapable of thinking for themselves. You’d like that, wouldn’t you. Philip? Get your way without ever trying.

          Just imagine I’ve repeated my last comment to you on the last comments thread on this website. It’s still germane.

          • Philip says:

            I can live with a little rough and tumble, even if you can’t bring yourself to curse again. I appreciate the forbearance. Sarcasm is no less than your faux-academic pompousness deserves.

            Suffice to say, if you are referencing a book, it pays to actually name check it. But nevertheless, by comment stands, your obfuscation notwithstanding. You clearly believe that certain folks are not being genuine, and feel the need to call them out. But if you lay down criteria for genuineness, then it’s better to state how they could meet. Your conditions. Of course you’re not interested in that. Rather I discover, with something of a bang, that you have never advocates for two states. I suppose this might be bashfulness, but I suppose that I had thought you and your fellow travellers over at Engage were all militaristic two-state types. But it seems that you are more at home here and perhaps on some of the more, shall we say, strident forums. What a discovery!

            This too was what I referred to when saying I don’t know who you are. I have an idea of a Barry Goldfarb in my head, but it turns out to be wrong. And not just on two states. I actually tried searching for you on Google Scholar, but alas your great tomes appeared not to be available. The only reference to you I can find is on lefty Engage. How inappropriate it turns out!

            As for the Arab peace plan, this of course does include the offer to recognise Israel. By all Arab League states. Not a bad offer? Certainly not dissimilar from your own suggestion.

            I look forward to learning more from your ‘files’ once the dust has been swept off and settled!

  4. Brian Goldfarb says:

    You are so far beneath contempt as to be invisible. Not content with misrepresenting me, you now continue to pretend not to “know” me in some so subtle way as to define anyone’s understanding. Plus you traduce me, you deliberately reword what I say. You even cut very close to libel.

    In short, bugger off you anti-Zionist and anti-intellectual troll. You even bring your own non-subject, so-called development studies (and by inference development activity) into disrepute. What do you do when you “work”? Encourage the development of terrorism and racism?

    Seems so.

    Does anyone but your very few close friends take you seriously?

  5. Pingback: Guest Post: Protective Edge: Did Israel win? | Anne's Opinions

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