by Raphael Israeli
When a country decides to go to battle , it is usually in order to resolve, once and for all, issues that she was unable to settle by diplomacy, reflecting on the old adage that war is the continuation of diplomacy. So, after years of regular shelling of Israeli villages from
The operation, in addition to the immense human sacrifice its occasioned, mainly caused by the Hamas strategy of using its own population as human shields, without any regard for schools, hospitals and mosques, and assured that Israel either would not dare to assault those places, or they would bear the blame for attacking civilians and humanitarian and holy places, showed the ultimate primacy of “strategic “ considerations, over the human cost they entail. Backed by HIzbollah in
The Gaza battle, far from deciding the war and the further management of the Islamo-Jewish, the Arab-Israeli and the Palestinian-Israeli rift, has on the contrary complicated it by altering fundamentally those basic equations which have hitherto been taken as permanent truisms: The 57- member Muslim world, which had always regarded the existence of Israel as an affront to it, has split into two rival parties in Gaza – the supposedly “moderate” who opposed the Hamas, due to the dangers it poses to their own regimes, and the vitriolically “extremist”, who would battle to the finish against Israel and much of the world; the Arab world, as it is encompassed by the Arab League, has never been so divided and so chaotic, as reflected in the two parallel, and rivaling Arab Summits that took place in Kuwait and Doha; the Palestinian front, has in fact two separate territories (the West Bank and Gaza), and two separate governments (PLO and Hamas), rendering any negotiation with the Palestinians to seek any settlement, unfeasible.
Leading up to the
The battle of
The failure of the Oslo Accords (1993) has not only demonstrated that the Palestinians were as yet unprepared for agreement with Israel, as evidenced by the Camp David Conference of 2000 in which they refused to sign the finality of the conflict even when Israel offered to withdraw for 97% of the territory; but that they are also unprepared for self-rule. They declared free elections in 2005, but when the Hamas was elected, they never accepted it in reality. When Hamas took over by force Gaza, it actually established its own hegemony there, against the wish of the President, Abu Mazen, whose rule, just like the rule of all other Arab dictators, lacks legitimacy, especially after his term of office expired officially (January 2009) and no new elections were set or agreed upon. In the meantime, his rule in the
After the failure of the 2000- Camp David Conference, but still entrenched in the illusions of Oslo, that by making further concessions to the Arabs, they might mellow and come to settlements with Israel, Israel adopted a series of unilateral withdrawals, first from Lebanon (2000), which allowed the HIzbullah to build up in preparation for 2006, and then from Gaza (2005), which allowed the Hamas takeover and the creation or a forward Iranian base, sponsored by the victorious HIzbullah and under its guidance and tutorship.
The Israeli elections of February 10, 2009 broke that deadlock, as the attraction of the right kept mounting among the electorate, and as the Egyptians, the Saudis and the Jordanians, who had much to fear for their flimsy governments which lack legitimacy, were pushed into a coalition of convenience with the Israelis, in the face of the immense, and growing, popularity of Ahmadinajad and Nasrallah in the Arab street in general. But once the date was set for those elections, the main parties in power, who fear the loss of the reins thereof, suddenly “remembered” that Hamas, which had been smuggling through tunnels and accumulating illegal weapons, prohibited under the Oslo Accords, in whose name they were operating, and shelling Israel without reprieve in the past few years, was threatening the Israeli public who could no more accept the repeated, but vain, promises of the Israeli government that it would move “soon”, and that the move had become “inevitable”. Never had the terms of “soon” and “inevitable” been so hollow. Until election was announced.
Hamas, learning from the HIzbullah experience, turned Gaza into a civilian trap; its children, journalists, foreign workers and innocent citizens into its shield; the foreign institutions, mosques, schools and hospitals into arms depots; Gaza’s underground into a complex web of tunnels which began or ended inside houses; and innocent looking apartment buildings into deadly booby-traps. The tragic death of so many non-involved civilians and the destruction of so many non-military targets, did not emanate from the will of the Israeli army to devastate them, but from the necessity to put an end to that rain of missiles which were launched from those houses.
Many media reports tried to evaluate the relative guilt on both sides of the divide by measuring the tragic amount of devastation, coming to the conclusion that since many more Palestinian casualties lost their lives and much more Palestinian real estate was demolished, that meant that Israel was more guilty, acted “out of proportion”, and was even accused of genocide. It was as if after the German blitz on London and Coventry, the British would be blamed for flattening the city of Dresden on Vallentine Day, 1945, killing more “innocent” citizens” and destroying more real estate than did the Germans to Britain. To kill more does not make one a culprit, and to be killed more does not make one innocent. The judgment has to be made by the volume of fire and by the intention of its shooters. When the Hamas pointed those 7000 missiles to
On the inter Arab front, all Arab countries duly fulfilled their duty of siding with Gaza and harshly criticizing Israel, though many of them in fact supported the defeat of the Hamas. Even Egypt, who did the most to show understanding to the Israeli operation, because if successful, the Hamas would threaten the regime of Cairo by linking directly, or by example, with the Muslim Brothers of which it is one wing, in public reproached to Israel its “arrogance” and “aggression” against the Palestinians. European media, as usual, were impressed by the body count and the intensity of the devastation, and made no attempt to reason about the meaning of “disproportion”. Should have
On the Islamic front, which also , predictably, blamed
On the international front, and in spite of the last minute “defection” of Condoleeza Rice at the Security Council, and the intense hypocrisy evinced by Bernard Kouchner and his colleagues at the UN and in Europe, Israel did get a backing by the US and Europe to stand fast and to deny Hamas both a recognition and a possibility to rebuild its power, by imposing an embargo on weapons to Gaza. But at the same time, since they put an emphasis on “Humanitarian aid” to the Palestinians, they understand that concrete and iron which are sent to Gaza for restoration, can and will be channeled by Hamas to building fortifications; food sent to civil population, will be confiscated by the gunmen there for their own use, as they have already done; fuel will be deviated for making weapons and other military uses. And therefore, under pressure to respond to “humanitarian needs” of the Palestinians,
There is much hypocrisy around regarding this Hamas “crisis”. When Israeli cities and towns were shelled for years, no one bothered to protest or to call for a security council discussion. Far more serious than the
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