Saturday, December 27, 2008

“To War! To War! Fredonia’s Going to War!”

Plus ça change, plus ç'est la même chose. After the expiration of the cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, the Kassams started up, the war drums were pounded – even the oxymoronic "Zionist left" Meretz party participated -- and now Israel has launched a major offensive, first with air strikes, and then, probably, with a ground operation into Gaza. Like the Second Iraqi war, the Afghanistan war, and the Second Lebanon war, the stronger side goes to war because it has to "do something", and loses before it fires the first shot.

If you are looking for predictions, I would say that this will be less of a disaster for Israel than the Second Lebanon war, but will be a disaster none the less. The major goal of the war is to stop the rocket fire from Gaza. That won't happen without another cease-fire agreement. For there to be a cease-fire agreement, there has to be a motivation for Hamas to sign a cease-fire agreement. Israel is not providing it with the motivation now. Israel will neither destroy nor significantly weaken Hamas; it may set it back in terms of armaments, but Israel has little room to maneuver. The siege on Gaza has strenghthened Hamas, and if they hold out against Israel – and they will – they will be strengthened even more.

There is, however, another war goal that Israel can meet in the short run. That is to wreak havoc in Gaza, to kill a lot of Arabs, to show them who's boss, to avenge national honor, to "do something" when our settlements are under attack. That will make the Israelis feel better, and that is nothing to sneeze at. The difficulty is that if the rockets keep on coming – as they did in the case of the Second Lebanese War – then Israelis will feel increasingly frustrated. And they will take it out on Kadima in the next elections and hand the government to Netanyahu and the Likud party, which has been sinking in the polls. So this is the Kadima's government second attempt to commit political suicide; the first attempt was the Second Lebanese War. I am betting that this time they will be successful.

The Israel media is talking about the surprise factor of the timing – we faked them out, didn't we? I am not sure what they mean, since the Friday papers reported that the cabinet had voted to go to war. The title of this post, as well as its contents, was composed in my head during Shabbat, when I was oblivious to the fact that the offensive had started. I certainly wasn't surprised.

So, here's the forecast:

The offensive will go on for some time. Resistance, if there is any, will melt. We will not reoccupy all of Gaza, just enough to fulfill the "do something" criterion of success. At some point we will declare that we have accomplished the major goals of the offensive, and we will negotiate, through some third party, another cease fire. Mission accomplished, with lots of casualties to their side, and the rockets continuing to fall on our side.

That's the best case scenario.

The worst case scenario for Israel is that Hamas fights better than anticipated. That will mean that Israel will get bogged down the way that powerful countries get bogged down in urban guerilla warfare. If the objectives are limited, and if the fighting is limited to parts of Gaza, then Israel's loss will be relatively minor. If things spread – and they will if civilian casualties are heavy – then we are back to the Lebanon fiasco. Hamas may be counting on it; as it is, the war serves the short-term interests of Hamas and the Israeli government.

Why can't this campaign be as successful as the Homat Magen offensive? Different enemies; different geography. Gaza's border with Egypt is very porous. Even if the IDF destroys tunnels, the only way it can put an end to them is by reoccupying Gaza with a massive troop presence. Few in Israel want this.

In fact, just like few cared about the North during the Second Lebanon War – I was in Jerusalem, where life went on as normal for most of the summer, until all the men in my family were called up – few in Israel care about the Kassam rockets in the South. And nobody will want their children endangered because of it

It is unlikely that Israel's latest gamble will work out any better than its previous ones. Its losing streak will continue. I guess that is called "defeatism." But it is hard not to be defeatist when you are continually being kicked in the butt. Remember, Israel hasn't won a war since 1967 – and that war was the biggest disaster in its history.

But it's Hannukah, and so I should end with a little light – the small light provided by the thousands of Israelis, Jews and Arabs, who have protested against the war in Tel Aviv and in other places.

Plus ça change, plus ç'est la même chose.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

What was up with allowing trucks to go into Gaza the day before they started bombing? I haven't read much about this yet--I'm going to guess that Israel said "Hamas didn't immediately stop the rocket fire even after we let the trucks in, so it was time to go." Which is crazy if one values innocent human life on the other side, but of course both sides are loony by that standard.

But setting aside morality, what were the Israelis thinking? Is it something along the lines of "We'll give them this truck delivery and we know the rockets won't stop immediately and then we get to pose as the good guys who had to defend our people?" That argument might work in America, of course, and maybe that's the only audience they care about.

Y. Ben-David said...

Some questions:
(1) What do you make of "progressive" MERETZ's demand for military action? Don't they realize what you are saying?

(2) Wasn't, according to your MagnesZionist view of things, the 1948 war the biggest disaster and not the 1967? Magnes opposed declaring a state, didn't he? You yourself have stated the problem ISN'T 1967, and not 1947, but rather 1917 and 1897.

(3) Olmert himself declared during the Lebanon II war that he was carrying it out in order to get enough political popularity in order to carry out his plan for a large-scale unilateral withdrawal from Judea/Samaria. In other words, he needed a "tough guy" image, which he failed to achieve previously by beating up a bunch of religious school kids at Amona. Wouldn't "progressives" maybe think that this operation would be worthwhile if it achieves this goal? After all, this war was started by the Left, not the Right.

(4) I am unclear about what point you are trying to make about your indifference to suffering of the population in other parts of the country. Are you saying it is a "healthy" response or are you saying you fell guilty about it?

Jerry Haber said...

Anonymous, according to the pundits, that was part of the smoke-screen that led to the surprise killing of a lot of Hamas traffic cops, etc. on Saturday. You know, hey, we're not doing anything now, then "shock and awe".

Heck, it sure worked in Iraq, didn't it?

Jerry Haber said...

1) Oh, I wasn't surprised by Meretz. They supported both Lebanese wars, when it was politically convenient, and then opposed them, when it became politically incovenient. They are about as "progressive" as Hillary Clinton and the other Democrats who supported the Iraq war.

2) I meant the biggest diaster for the State of Israel. That excludes the War of Independence.

3) I don't recall the withdrawal ("convergence") from the West Bank as a goal of the Lebanese war. Olmert may have had that in the back of his head, but it certainly wasn't a primary goal. Apparently, that is where he kept convergence.

4) I tried not to adopt a moral tone in the post. Sure, I feel a bit guilty that I can have a hannukah party while people are miserable in Israel and in Gaza. I was just making the point that until war affects you personally, you are less likely to think hard about it, much less oppose it. If there is a general mobilization, people will take the war more seriously.

Diana said...

Sorry I'm a bit slow....how was 1967 the biggest disaster in the state's history? Because it got the territories and went crazy? I think that's what you mean but I want to be sure.

Jerry Haber said...

You got it, Diana

Abe Bird said...

It is a fact that Hamas leadership commanders were totally surprised. They were and are scared, hiding in wholes, sending their suicide Qassam launchers to scratch the Israelis. Friday's headlines and radio announcements told that the Israeli Cabinet is about to meet in Sunday and decide on Gaza issue and how to react to the Hamas continuous aggression. So be more precise.

Hamas is not fighting better and all they know is launching rockets and suicide bombing. The Iranians and Hizbullah volunteers came to Gaza in the last 3 years trying to teach them fighting. The only advantage the Hamas terrorists have is the very crowded environment they live in and their tendency to use the population and armistice shelter.

The Israelis care about Qassam rockets no matter where they live. It seems that you are disconnected to the situation and you never heard about the large efforts and actions that the government and the public promoted to host kids in safe and luxury environment, in Kibbuzim, hotels, private houses, just out of the rockets range.
But at the same time the Israelis, even those who suffer the rockets, continued their regular life because it is just natural. You can't and you shouldn't let your evil-doing enemy to dictate you his conditions.
The Israelis reaction was mature, responsible and firm. They are quite strong, more than you wish.

Regarding your joy of wars, let me tell you that Israel never lost a war, even not in Lebanon. And if 1967 victory is not a victory, what victory means?
In Yom Kipur war Israel won one of the great wins in military record. Israel was totally surprised, chaos in the first 3 days and then made great achievements in destructing two great armies, while at the end conquering a great portion of their enemy land. Israel could reach Damascus (Just 15 km ahead) and reached 101 km from Cairo. Both enemy armies were almost destroyed. No surprise that till this day the Egyptians and the Syrians "celebrate" only the first day of the war and neglecting the other 23 days.
They are Real Hashmonites !!!!!

Jerry Haber said...

Abe said:

"Friday's headlines and radio announcements told that the Israeli Cabinet is about to meet in Sunday and decide on Gaza issue and how to react to the Hamas continuous aggression. So be more precise"

Here is the headline I saw on Friday:

"70 rocket strikes in southern Israel; Cabinet approves military response"
By Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1049793.html

Precise enough for you, Abe?

Jerry Haber said...

Diana,

I wrote:

"The worst case scenario for Israel is that Hamas fights better than anticipated. That will mean that Israel will get bogged down the way that powerful countries get bogged down in urban guerilla warfare. If the objectives are limited, and if the fighting is limited to parts of Gaza, then Israel's loss will be relatively minor. If things spread – and they will if civilian casualties are heavy – then we are back to the Lebanon fiasco. Hamas may be counting on it; as it is, the war serves the short-term interests of Hamas and the Israeli government."

I assume that Hamas is banking on what I called the worst case (for Israel) scenario. Time will tell whether they are right or not.

You ask why would they endanger their own citizens? Why don't you ask that of Israel? Do you think Israelis are safer now than they were a week ago? Do you think Jews around the world are?

Both sides are taking risks because they want to improve the conditions of the cease-fire.

But maybe you are asking, why should peoples take risk at all? Why not just bow down to terrorism or tyranny? Or leave?

Let us say that Hamas "behaves" itself, as it did for six months. What did it get out of the Tahadiyah? Siege and closure, and an opportunity to build up its fighting power. Apparently, it decided that that wasn't enough, just as Israel decided that negotiating a truce where Hamas smuggled in weapons into Gaza wasn't a good idea.

Israel has no greater nor less a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness than the Palestinians. Every argument advanced by supporters of Israel's position in this war can -- and is -- made by the other side.

No side has greater rights than the other.

Anonymous said...

The Magnes Zionist:Like...the Afghanistan war, the stronger side goes to war because it has to "do something", and loses before it fires the first shot.

-and-

commenter: Wasn't, according to your MagnesZionist view of things, the 1948 war the biggest disaster and not the 1967?

The Magnes Zionist: ...the biggest diaster (sic) for the State of Israel. That excludes the War of Independence.

So, in the long historical view of The Magnes Zionist, it was folly in October 2001 for the United States to go to war with Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and it was folly in June 1967 for Israel to go to war with Egypt, Syria, and Jordan? TMG would have had both the US and Israel do nothing at those critical junctures, or something other than go to war against their unmistakable enemies then? And if anyone were willing to listen, he would add his "moral" observation that neither the US, nor Israel should be seen as entirely innocent vis-a-vis their enemies?

(Speaking of "moral," in the opinion of TMG, were the Allies and the ways they went about waging war 100% "good" or praiseworthy, while their Axis enemies, including Nazi Germany, and the ways they went about waging war were entirely "evil" or damnable? Didn't the civilian populations of the Axis countries suffer greatly while the Allies pursued victory over their countries? What in the view of TMG makes the civilian population of Gaza, which chose Hamas knowing full well its intentions, more deserving of our sympathies than the civilian populations the Axis countries?)

[COMMENT by DC-DOC]

Custom Term papers said...

Awesome post. Keep more information like this coming!