The US position on the Gaza situation has been surprisingly refreshing. Both the State Department and the president have clearly said that Israel has a right to defend itself and that stopping the rocket bombardment of Israel is a prerequisite to a cease-fire.
Perhaps I’m cynical, but what’s going on here? The last time Israel fought with Hamas, the incoming Obama Administration pressured Israel to get out of Gaza before the inauguration. After the Mavi Marmara affair, the US forced Israel to end its economic warfare against Hamas. Does the US, at long last, really want to see Israel defeat Hamas?
I think that it does, but the reason is perhaps not the one we would wish for. This is a longish story, so bear with me.
Here’s a clue: with typical Arab solipsism, the Syrian opposition SNC claims that Israel has deliberately provoked a war with Hamas in order to distract attention from the Syrian civil war, and to help Bashar al-Assad stay in power.
Of course this is insane. It is doubtful that Israel wants to keep Assad, since it is by no means clear that the replacement regime would be worse for Israel. And even if it did, the ongoing war is all about Hamas rockets, not Syria.
But let’s turn it around: Maybe Hamas chose this time to escalate its rocket attacks and provoke a reaction, in part because of events in Syria. Although Hamas is the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood and therefore aligns politically with the Brotherhood in Egypt, its main patron and weapons-supplier has been Iran. And Iran has a great deal of interest in helping its puppet Assad, whose regime anchors Iranian interests in the western part of the Mideast.
And that’s not all (or even most) of it: Iran wants to keep the IDF busy with Hamas so that it will not go after its nuclear program.
I suggest that the real provocateur of this war is Iran.
Iran is pouring weapons into Gaza, some of which were recently interdicted — by Egypt! This isn’t surprising, considering that Egypt and the other Sunni regimes in the region are very worried about Iran, almost as much as Israel is. They want Assad out and Fordow cratered.
In other words, the Palestinians are yet again a pawn in the greater struggle of the Mideast, the Sunni-Shiite conflict, with Iran and the Assad regime on one side and Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey on the other.
The US, then, in opposing Hamas, is actually supporting its Sunni allies in the region. It is just a happy coincidence that this enables them to support Israel as well.
I’m hearing noises that the US would like to see the Hamas regime replaced by our pet Arabs, the Palestinian Authority. If this happens, the pressure on Israel to leave the territories, even to create a corridor between Judea/Samaria and Gaza across Israel, will come back on with a vengeance.
As I write, there is yet another announcement that a ceasefire agreement has been reached. We’ll see.