Monday, January 25, 2010

Cast Lead Conclusions.


by Jeremy Sharon


One of the most significant consequences of Operation Cast Lead, Israel's three-week military offensive in Gaza which concluded January 18 of last year, is the huge campaign waged by Israel's enemies to isolate and demonize the country. In the wake of her efforts to defend its citizens, Israel has been attacked on multiple fronts by determined foes intent on hobbling the country's military while at the same time backing her into a diplomatic corner.

Following the end of the operation in Gaza, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), human rights groups, and international NGOs, along with U.N. organs subordinated by the former, stepped up an already intensive campaign whose broad purpose is to force Israel into accepting the maximalist positions demanded by the Palestinians for their future state.


The strategy has two central tactics, both of which have utilized Israel's operation in Gaza last year as a springboard to achieving a broader aim. The first tactic is to handicap the Israeli military from effectively dealing with the guerrilla and terrorist threats it faces on both its northern border with Lebanon and its southern border with Gaza. The main weapon in this particular battle is the tendentious investigations carried out by human rights groups (Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in particular), as well as the deeply flawed Goldstone report, which was actually instigated by the OIC.


This campaign has enjoyed some success. Israeli officials are now being harassed abroad by the threat of lawsuits for war crimes, while the IDF Chief of Staff recently issued an order requiring senior officers to consult with legal advisers not only in the planning stage of operations, but also while they are underway. This policy was adopted despite the opposition of a number of commanders, including those in the general staff.


The second tactic is to isolate Israel diplomatically in order to frighten her into a level of suitable malleability. Heavy lobbying by Palestinian sympathizers, NGOs, and human rights groups has scored some considerable successes. The U.K. revoked a number of export licenses for Israeli warships because the Israeli navy had the temerity to use its gunboats during Cast Lead. And trade union boycott campaigns have gathered strength in certain countries, as have academic ones.


This unrelenting pressure has certainly borne fruit. The Obama administration, along with the EU, seems increasingly willing to adopt Palestinian positions on the most crucial issues relating to the conflict. The opposition of the U.S. and the EU to Israeli construction in eastern Jerusalem is a particularly egregious example of how the Palestinian narrative has been completely accepted by major international players without any consideration for the Israeli perspective -- or indeed, historical facts.


But on another level, these tactics have worked against those who strive so hard to advance the Palestinian cause. In trying to hamper Israel's efforts to defend its citizenry and working so tirelessly to isolate the Jewish state, the advocates for a Palestinian state have harmed their own cause by forcing Israelis to the right.


It has largely been forgotten in the stormy few years which have since passed, but in 2006, the Kadima party won a general election on the back of a campaign in which they promised to conduct a unilateral operation from the West Bank. The Israeli left was riding high on a wave of confidence in the simple purity of its new unilateralist strategy, which had been so successful in Gaza, and was seeking to repeat that success and wrap up the whole bloody sixty-year saga.


But that election was fought before the abduction of Shalit and the militarization of the Gaza Strip following the 2005 disengagement. The 2006 election took place before Hezbollah initiated the Second Lebanon War and bombarded northern Israel with four thousand rockets. And Kadima won that election before Hamas shelled southern Israel with seven thousand rockets and mortars. These events ensured that the prospect of further unilateral Israeli withdrawals became untenable, even for the Kadima-led government.


Because of the failure of unilateralism, Ehud Olmert was forced to return to traditional diplomacy. He tried to reinvigorate the peace through the Annapolis track, and ultimately an offer to Mahmoud Abbas consisting of concessions never before proffered by an Israeli prime minister. But throughout the tenure of probably the most dovish Israeli government ever, Israel's international antagonists merely piled on the pressure; the investigations, condemnations, and UNHRC resolutions were ceaseless. Instead of applying pressure on the Palestinians, and particularly Hamas in Gaza, to make the 2005 disengagement work, these hostile entities subjected Israel to interminable diplomatic assault while she faced constant bombardment in the south.


Given the level of violence directed towards Israel in the three years of Olmert's time in office combined with the failure of the international community to stand up for Israel's right to self-defense, the shift of the Israeli electorate to the right was inevitable. During the period of the Kadima-led government, the international community needed to vigorously denounce Hamas's militarization of Gaza and its persistent shelling of Israeli civilians. The U.S., EU, and U.N. should have acted strenuously to halt the smuggling of huge quantities of arms into Gaza, just as they should have acted with more resolve to prevent the massive rearmament of Hezbollah following the Second Lebanon War. In short, the international community needed to inspire some level of confidence that should further Israeli territorial concessions result in new waves of artillery bombardment, Israel would be supported in its efforts to defend its citizens.


Had any of this been done, then Israelis may have felt slightly less inclined to boot out the most conciliatory government in its history. Unfortunately for the Palestinians, the sentiment that brought Ehud Olmert to power and allowed him to make the concessions he did no longer exists. The Israeli public, cognizant of growing security dangers and extremely hostile sentiment abroad, moved to the right, as it always does when it the possibility of violence against it increases.


If advocates of a Palestinian state sincerely wish to advance their goals, isolating Israel is possibly the worst strategy to adopt. Nothing will ever change if Israelis feel that by making more concessions, they will endanger the security of their state.


During Operation Cast Lead, antiwar demonstrators in London cried, "We are all Hamas now!" If those who so strongly support the Palestinians' cause continue to identify with the nihilists of Gaza who, as was reiterated last month by Ismail Haniyeh, do not seek accommodation with the Jewish state, but rather its destruction, then Israel will never feel secure enough to give up more territory. If, on the other hand, the fervent champions of a Palestinian state realize that they too must insist on and fight for Israeli security and its right to defend its citizens, then diplomatic progress might be much quicker than it has been of late. 


Jeremy Sharon

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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