Sunday, August 31, 2014

The War with Gaza: Let the Recriminations Begin

by Jerrold L. Sobel

In a wretched neighborhood called the Middle East where perception usually trumps reality, Israel has lost on both accounts. As Likud Central Committee chairman Danny Danon announced on Wednesday: "The Protective Edge war that began with huge support ended with Israel shamed and confused." Despite the spin of some pundits and people in and out of government, the facts support MK Danon’s assertion.

In addition to Danon, the deal, unilaterally agreed to by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu without consent from his cabinet rattled coalition partners and political rivals such as Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman. Itamar Shimoni, The mayor of Ashkelon, a beachside city adjacent to Gaza hit incessantly by rocket fire since 2005 had this to say: “Any concession to Hamas is a surrender to terrorism.”

Steven Emerson, writing for the “Investigative Project on Terrorism” seemed to concur with senior Israeli security officials which stated that Hamas has taken a severe military and morale blow, but its military arm is preparing for another round of fighting, believing the price its people are paying is tolerable as long as its goals are achieved. By Netanyahu acquiescing to this latest truce, their assessment seems have been proven correct.

Emerson closes out his article describing the bitterness and hatred felt by some Gazans in the street toward Hamas for firing and placing munitions in hospitals, Mosques, and private residences while senior leadership hid in tunnels leaving residents to fend for themselves. He quotes a Hamas fighter claiming to have received his anti-tank training in a hall under the Alshafi Mosque in Khan Yunis where the Izzadin Al-Kassam Brigades train. All this is probably true. Yet the streets were filled Gazans celebrating what they deemed a great victory over the “Zionist occupation.”

That Gaza has been dealt a heavy blow there can be no question. According to a CBS report; (biased no doubt and dependent upon overinflated U.N. and Hamas estimates) The Gaza war has killed at least 2,133 Palestinians and wounded more than 11,000, according to Palestinian health officials. The U.N. estimates more than 17,000 homes have been destroyed, leaving 100,000 people homeless. Inflated or not, the damage to Gaza is indeed considerable.

But so what? To a rogue “government” of terrorists that ruthlessly uses its people as human shields, death and destruction are water off a duck’s back. It’s actually welcomed for its propaganda value. Throughout the war, biased media constantly harped on the absurd issue of “proportionality.” As if war was a game and Israel was guilty of not suffering sufficient fatalities.

Emerson may be correct: “Many within Gaza are disillusioned with Hamas.” No doubt during the waning days of the World War II many Germans were likewise disillusioned with the Nazis as their cities too laid in ruin and they lacked control of events. Yet the war dragged on until unconditional surrender was effectuated and Germany no longer had the wherewithal to conduct aggression. This is not the case with Hamas, which still retains the capacity after 50 days of fighting to disrupt the lives of not only Israelis living adjacent to Gaza but throughout all of Israel.

To these Israelis, recriminations against Prime Minister Netanyahu have already begun. They correctly view that the failure to unconditionally win this war lies upon his shoulders.

Trying to paint a brighter picture, at a Jerusalem press conference Wednesday alongside Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, Netanyahu declared, “Hamas was hit hard, and did not get any of the things it demanded for a cease-fire.” With obfuscation worthy of President Obama, he listed his take on Israel’s achieved goals in the war:

Destruction of Hamas’s attack tunnels; killing some 1,000 terrorists, including top commanders; destroying thousands of rockets, rocket launchers, arms depots, and weapon manufacturing facilities; knocking out “hundreds” of command centers; and preventing Hamas attacks on Israel from the land, sea and air; Hamas’s conditions of a sea and airport were denied; as were their demands to release prisoners placed back under arrest following the murder of the three Israeli boys.

Glaringly, he failed to come to grips with the least common denominator of this war. Issues which politicians and people from all points on Israel’s political spectrum are already taking him to task for, his irresolute military leadership and Hamas’s ability to renew hostilities at any time of its choosing. Many are also accusing him of being more concerned with world opinion than the welfare of the people he was elected to defend.

According to polls conducted by Israel’s Channels 2 and 10: 54% of Israelis oppose the ceasefire, 37% support it. In accordance, 59% are dissatisfied with Netanyahu’s performance. Most notably, the poll also found satisfaction with the prime minister fell to just 32%, down from 38% on Monday, 55% last Thursday, and from 82% since July 23 when ground forces first entered Gaza.

In fairness, when asked who won the war another poll from Channel 10 indicated: 32% said Israel, 25% said Hamas, and 26% called it a tie; 19% did not know. Not exactly a mandate for Netanyahu’s conduct of a war in which he seemed to lack a cogent plan, one that some are accusing him of lacking the moxie to finish. The question is not so much as who won the war as the absurdity to the way it was fought.

From dropping of leaflets warning Hamas of imminent attack to allowing them a respite by tolerating eleven ceasefire violations, from failure to consider sensitive targets due to collateral damage to continued electrical service into Gaza, Netanyahu may go down in Israeli history not as a leader but as its most congenial warrior. Particularly in the Middle East, moral codes of ethics are viewed as cowardice, not strength. Like bad neighborhoods throughout the world, perception of weakness is immediately recognized by bullies and bad guys.

On Wednesday the Iranian Foreign Ministry wasted no time congratulating Hamas: “The heroic Palestinian people have forged a new era with the victory of the resistance which has brought the Zionist regime to its knees.” Hamas senior spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri proclaimed: “The value of this campaign is not in the opening of this crossing or that crossing, but in paving the way for the next stage, liberating Jerusalem.” It’s this long-term messianic viewpoint spelled out explicitly in its charter of 1988 that makes Hamas so dangerous to Israel. Unwilling to accept the sacrifices necessary to totally eviscerate this sworn enemy, Netanyahu has allowed them the perception of victory, a pause to rearm, and preparation for the next round which is surely to come.

Jerrold L. Sobel


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

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