My last post about the recent mini-war with Hamas and friends in Gaza argued that the outcome was not positive for Israel.
Since then, several respected commentators (here and especially here) have argued that the results of the war for Israel were actually quite good, given what’s possible in the Middle East. The joyous celebrations in Gaza, they say, were of a piece with the 1967 Egyptian broadcasts reporting that their tanks were entering Tel Aviv.
Well, yes and no.
It’s true that Israel destroyed a huge amount of missiles, ammunition, smuggling tunnels, workshops and other assets of Hamas. Some important Hamas leaders were killed. The Iron Dome system was remarkably effective, keeping Israeli homefront casualties to a minimum. It will take Hamas several years to rebuild and rearm for the next round.
It’s also true that the options for a complete victory — or rather, what would follow such a victory — were limited. If Hamas were wiped out, who would administer Gaza? Israelis do not want to see their sons and daughters doing occupation duty in Gaza.
But from a psychological point of view, the imposed cease-fire — and it was imposed, by Barack Obama and his ally Mohammed Morsi — is not a victory.
Consider: the cease-fire negotiations — indirect as they may be — treat the fundamentally racist and terrorist Hamas as a legitimate regime, rather than a gang of murderous outlaws. There is already talk of some concessions that Israel will make to Hamas in return for quiet! Hamas exemplifies the atavistic attitudes and behavior that have been rejected by enlightened society for hundreds of years (this should be particularly clear to the highly ‘cultured’ Europeans, but of course it isn’t). Hamas, not Israel, should take responsibility for the violence.
And this: the number of civilian casualties that Israel is permitted to inflict in the process of defending itself is close to zero. This is supposedly based on ‘humanitarian’ considerations, but of course these only apply to Israel, not to the US in Iraq or Afghanistan, not to NATO in its various campaigns, and of course not to places like Syria where rivers of Arab blood can flow before anyone will intervene. The message is that they can try to kill us, but we have to try not to kill them.
This is reinforced by the way Iron Dome and other defensive weapons are presented as ‘solutions’ to the threats of terrorist entities like Hamas and Hizballah. The Iron Dome systems are a wonderful technical achievement which doubtless saved hundreds of lives, and Israel should build more of them — a small country surrounded by enemies must be able to protect its population.
But there is an unfortunate side to its success. During the years of rocket bombardment that led up to the war, international institutions and leaders were for the most part silent, because it has become expected and unexceptional that racist terrorists to do their best to murder innocent people. If Israel’s response is primarily defensive, then this becomes normal.
Attempted murder is not normal, it is criminal and criminals ought to be punished. Hamas officials responsible for the ongoing rocket attacks should be arrested and tried for war crimes. If found guilty, they should be hanged like Eichmann.
Apparently this is the way most nations see it, if they are the ones under attack:
Back in mid-June, during the great Paris weapons show, the Rafael pavilion was absolutely the busiest around, and everybody wanted to look at the new, exciting, Iron Dome system, the greatest achievement in rocket defense ever. But by the end of the show, Rafael hadn’t made a single sale. The Arrow sold well, other systems did great – Iron Dome wasn’t moving. So they contacted their big clients, the serious ones, and asked what gives. And those clients told them no one except Israel has any use for these things. Because in any normal, sane country, if some hooligans were to start targeting civilians with rockets – the army would go and kill them. — Yori Yanover, The Morally Reprehensible Iron Dome
Finally, as always the great powers will intervene if it looks like Israel is about to win a victory that makes a real change on the ground (much US and European policy since 1967 has been a somewhat belated intervention to reverse the results of that war).
It is enormously frustrating and corrosive to morale to have to fight over and over again without hope of settling anything. It reminds me of a children’s book in which an athletic character brags about having been “in the finals five years running.” Another replies “well, they couldn’t have been that final if you had to keep on doing them.” None of Israel’s wars can be final, and they have to keep on doing them.
Perhaps these are some of the reasons Hamas is celebrating while Israelis are glum.