ISRAEL'S GAZA WAR: AN UPDATE
"War is nothing but a continuation of politics with the admixture of other means."
Karl von Clausewitz, Vom Kreig (1832-1834).
"By sending ground troops into the Gaza Strip, Israel has crossed a line that brings it perilously close to strategic failure. Just as with the Lebanon war of 2006, an air bombardment has failed to stop rocket fire into Israel – and has been followed by a ground invasion. The Israeli government says it has learnt the lessons of its stalemated war with Hizbollah, the Lebanese militia. Gaza is more hospitable terrain than southern Lebanon; Hamas is militarily weaker than Hizbollah; Israel is better prepared and is using new tactics.
The Israeli government may feel that the loss of life, on both sides, is justified if it can stop the rockets and restore the deterrent power that was damaged in Lebanon. But this is a gamble that could easily backfire. As Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, put it a couple of days ago: “Let’s say we unilaterally stopped and four days from now a barrage fell on Ashkelon . . . Do you understand the consequences for Israeli deterrence?” But that means that a battered Hamas just has to find a way to keep firing rockets into Israel to claim some sort of victory. And even if Israel succeeds in stopping the rockets for now, any future regional enemy now knows how best to taunt Israel and delight its enemies: rockets....
International sympathy is predictably crumbling away as the death toll mounts. Arguments about what is a “proportional” response to Hamas’s rockets seem legalistic, next to the simple fact that more than 500 Palestinians have died so far, compared with five Israelis. The European Union is now demanding a ceasefire. Arab governments are responding to outrage at home.
Israel has so far been able to rely on the usual rock-solid support from the US government. But even that could eventually change. A recent opinion poll showed that Democratic party voters were opposed to the Israeli attack on Gaza by a margin of 22 per cent. It is not inevitable that Barack Obama, president-elect, will reflect the views of the rank and file of his party. But neither is it inevitable that he will ignore them....
The Israelis sometimes suggest that their ultimate goal is in fact to displace Hamas, which still refuses to recognise Israel, rather than simply to stop the rockets. But any new Palestinian government that rode to power on the back of Israeli tanks would be maimed from the start....
In fact, there was an alternative that was never tried: relax the blockade of Gaza in return for a renewal of the ceasefire that ran out in December. Israel appears to have done the opposite. In November the blockade became harsher, putting serious pressure on the supply of food and fuel into Gaza.
Ending the blockade of Gaza in return for a ceasefire remains the best option – for both humanitarian and strategic reasons".
Gideon Rachman, "Israel's self-defeating Gaza Offensive," 5 January 2009, in www.ft.com
To my surprise, Israel's 'Operation Cast Lead', has so far not been the debacle that I have feared. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz (by far the best journalistic source of information in the Anglophone world), Tel Aviv appears to be reasonably satisfied with the both operations on the ground and in the air. And, are willing to even hazard the possibility of a temporary re-occupation of the entire Gaza Strip, in order to decapitate and destroy Hama's military and political structure (see: Aluf Benn,"Analysis: Israel on the way to reoccupying all of Gaza", in www.haaretz.com). Whether the latter does either necessary or possible, is at this time, besides the point. The fact of the matter, unlike say this stage of the Lebanon War of 2006, the IDF, does not appear to be completely at sea, in terms of its overall operations. There are of course good sound reasons for this: Hamas in Gaza, was never able to build-up its forces to the level that Hezbollah was able to in the Lebanon. Hence, taking on the former, has proven to be, so far a relatively easy operation. Does that mean that I am in favor of Israel's Gaza operation? The answer is non. But, that is besides the point. My opposition to the operation was based upon the fact that I was not of the belief that re-occupying Gaza would be a useful step for Israel militarily or politically speaking. It now appears that there is the possibility that my surmise is mistaken. Hence, unlike bien pensant, Anglo-American commentators like Gideon Rachman, I reserve the possibility of changing my mind. The larger point that people like Rachman miss is a rather simple one: for Israel to draw the conclusion that it must come to some sort of modus vivendi, with Hamas (or for that matter with Hezbollah, Damascus, Teheran and Ramallah) requires that Israel collectively agree to such a step. I for one, would wish that they would do so. Both for regional security as well as the overall strategic position of the west in the Near East(sans an 'understanding' with the mad mullahs of Persia). However it is kinderspiele, to expect that Israel, which is still, notwithstanding the debacle of 2006, by far the greatest indigenous military power in the Near East, to come to this realization at this point. Perhaps in five, ten, fifteen years time. That might be possible. But, not at this point I would suggest. With the only possible variable being that there is a major change in the degree of American support for its Israeli ally. And, notwithstanding the hopes of people like Rachman, that the new Administration of the junior Senator from Illinois with the absurd name, might change things, that seems hardly possible. A 'neutral' stand on the Israeli-Palestinian / Arab-Israeli conflict, is still something of an extreme Gauchiste position politically in the USA. Unfortunately. And, there is absolutely no sign that the new regime in Washington will change that dynamic anytime soon. Consequently do not expect or hope for any change in Israeli behavior in the near future. No matter how often, Monsieur le President Nicolas Sarkozy, and his European Union colleagues pay visits to the conflicting parties (for this see in particular: Le Monde, "Sarkozy `a Ramallah: Les violence doivent cesser," in www.lemonde.fr/proche-orient). `A la Clausewitz, it is only when, not if, but, when Tel Aviv, decides to take the political decision to swallow the gnat of a truly independent and sovereign Palestinian State in both Gaza and the West Bank, that whether or not Hama rules in Gaza, will no longer matter. No more than who rules in Beirut really concerns Tel Aviv (unlike say the USA).