This is another guest post by frequent commenter and contributor Brian Goldfarb.
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”:
“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.
- 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. ↩
- 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.” ↩
- 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. ↩