Fighting a losing battle:
If on reading the above heading you’re thinking that I’m referring to the futility of Israeli military action then you are going to be disappointed. Likewise if you are thinking about the inequality of casualties or the fact that most of the casualties in Gaza are civilians. At this point, I’ll just remind you that the rockets from Gaza, in so far as they are aimed at all, are unashamedly aimed at civilians–Israeli civilians. That there have been relatively few Israeli casualties is down to a robust civil defense program in Israel. Of course, some commentators will blame the Israelis for having such a program at all.
Many commentators have taken the view that there is no Israeli plan and that as the matter will inevitably end in a ceasefire, why bother to respond. My response to that is two-fold. Firstly that no democracy could allow itself to be attacked in the way that Israel has been attacked and secondly, I think there is a game plan here. But first things first, I’ll allow some prominent (and perhaps not so prominent) international figures to make my argument for me.
Telling it like it is:
Step forward Hillary Clinton. During a very recent interview on the Daily Show, hosted by Jon Stewart, Stewart inadvertently asked her a serious question and got a very thoughtful answer. For those of you who follow the link, the whole interview is of interest but parts three and four are about the current situation in Gaza and about the peace-process in general. I’ll summarise Ma Clinton’s views on Gaza, and these are her views, not mine–if you do not believe me, follow the link. Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005 and left behind an intact horticultural industry. Israel was prepared to fund the industry–Hamas chose to destroy the entire infrastructure. Israel accepted the Egyptian proposed cease-fire, Hamas rejected it. Israel has consistently said it wants peace with the Palestinians. Fatah has accepted the two-state solution, rejected violence and has accepted the right of Israel to physically exist. Hamas rejects the two-state solution, does not accept that Israel has a right to exist and endorses an armed struggle–the sole aim being to destroy Israel. Clinton fairly and squarely places the blame for the current hostilities at Hamas’s door. Israel, she says, has a right to defend itself and is doing so. She also noted that Arafat had a chance to establish a Palestinian state but was afraid to accept the deal, as was Abbas a few years later. I think you had better follow that link because in the interests of presenting a balanced view I’m certain it will be taken down soon.
The BBC, not usually noted for presenting a balanced view about Middle East affairs, has rather surprised me. True, they continue to trot-out the usual ‘Israel is wrong no matter what’ views but have also allowed those with an opinion closer to Hillary Clinton have their say as well. The response by the anti-Israel speakers, when confronted by undeniable historical facts, is to shout ‘LIAR’ very loudly. For once, BBC presenters haven’t always let them get away with it.
The Daily Politics Show on the 22nd July actually allowed a balanced view to be aired. To be fair to Labour MP Rushanara Ali, she tried to have a civilised discussion most of the time but still had some difficulty separating historical fact from historical fiction and has a somewhat hazy notion about how many elections constitute a democracy.
Sian Williams hosting Sunday Morning Live didn’t do so well. I’m afraid I couldn’t provide a link direct to the relevant section of the show so you will have to sit through some ten minutes of not-relevant-to-this-article discussion. You need a very firm moderator if you want to keep a discussion on Gaza on anything resembling topic and Williams was clearly both out of her depth and rather fearful of where the discussion was going. The ‘Israel has a point’ lobby were doing quite well–the opposition clearly had no answer to some accurately-stated facts and resorted to shouting, at which point Williams basically lost control and only regained it by moving on to another subject. A subtle point, possibly missed by many–the BBC had footage of a bereaved Palestinian father. They translated his words into English. Footage of an Israeli funeral also showed distraught relatives. They spoke in Hebrew and their words were not translated. If we’re going for pathos then let it at least be balanced pathos.
So then, is there a game plan?
I personally think there is. Without doubt, Israel would rather not be starting from here, but given that we are where we are…
Where are we, exactly?
Exactly? To be honest I can’t say exactly but what I can say is this–For the past year Hamas has been encountering muted but still-present opposition to their policies. It would probably be incorrect to describe it as a ground-swell of opinion but nevertheless it was there. At the same time, more extremist organisations–difficult to believe perhaps–felt that Hamas were ‘going soft’. Hamas were increasingly finding themselves between a rock and a hard place and something had to happen. It had been recognised in Israel that in all probability Hamas were going to do what Arab leaders always do when encountering problems at home–they stir up trouble with Israel. The kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers might have come as something of a surprise but the increased rocket attacks didn’t.
The response to the increased attacks was aerial bombardment. At that point, Israel probably reckoned that Hamas would accept a cease-fire and indeed, Prime Minister Netanyahu was very cautious–in public– about the possibility of a ground offensive. Privately, and of course I have no way of knowing for sure, I think that it was decided that if Hamas didn’t accept a ceasefire then a ground offensive would be launched. The aim would be to destroy as many tunnels as possible, both those that led into Israel and those that contained military equipment. Hamas then made a tactical error. Hamas fighters surfaced and opposed the IDF. This is going to lead to very heavy losses on their side and further weaken their position in Gaza. Israel is probably reckoning– eventually– on an uprising against Hamas. Given the almost total lack of support for Hamas from the rest of the Arab world in the current situation, that day may not be far off.