For those who hadn’t heard, there is, for all intents and purposes, a war going on in Southern Israel/Gaza. A war that, incredibly, was declared on Twitter:
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) November 14, 2012
Now, for some thoughts:
1. What are the IDF’s objectives here? In 2008/09, Operation Cast Lead was ostensibly launched to destroy Hamas’s infrastructure and ability to launch rockets. In that they clearly completely failed. Not only is Hamas’s rule over Gaza as strong as ever, they never lost the ability to launch rockets. What they had done in the meantime, however, was choose not to do just that. They’d entered a couple of ceasefires and were actively considering another. But instead of exploiting that and getting some kind of longer-term arrangement, the Israelis chose otherwise.
What are the goals of the Israeli counter-attack on Hamas? Right now, we’re seeing, once again, a tactical response, provoked by a vile Hamas policy of acquiescing to, or even helping to launch, rocket attacks on Israeli civilian targets. But what is the strategy? The fact remains that there is no long-term military solution to the challenge posed by Gaza, but the Israeli government doesn’t want to acknowledge this.
2. The assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the guy was clearly a terrorist, and had masterminded the much of Hamas’s terror agenda. On the other, he was a pragmatist. Gershon Baskin, who was an intermediary between Hamas and Israel during the Gilad Shalit release negotiations (how do you get a job like that?), wrote this on his Facebook page:
The Israeli decision to kill Ahmed Jaabri was total insanity. Jaabri was behind enforcing all of the recent ceasefire agreements. He sent his troops out to stop the rockets and was prepared to reach a long term ceasefire. Jaabri was also the main interlocutor of the Egyptian intelligence service in reaching ceasefire understandings. Now who are they supposed to talk to? Who can expect the Egyptians to continue to mitigate our relationship with Gaza? Now the government and people of Israel will face a massive barrage of rockets and they bought the entrance card to Cast Lead II.
The guy was probably Israel’s biggest ally in negotiations with Hamas — ceasefires, returns of soldiers, etc. (Oh, wait, I thought Israel refused to negotiate with Hamas?) Yeah, he was a horrible terrorist, but so were plenty of other people that Israel talked to, and indeed became prominent Israelis themselves. I’m all for getting the bad guys — but choosing them should be done more carefully, and strategically.
3. Larry Derfner wrote this, which is similarly insightful and worthy of consideration:
Here is my suggestion for how Israel can bring peace and quiet to the people living within rocket range of Gaza: lift the blockade of the Strip entirely (they get all the weaponry and fighters they want through the tunnels anyway); announce that in one year Israel will have no military or governmental presence whatsoever beyond the security barrier (“the wall”) in the West Bank (the settlers will then leave of their own accord, except for a few crazies whom no one will care about); accept the 2002 Arab peace initiative and enter negotiations with the Palestinian Authority to end the conflict; release thousands of Palestinian prisoners with the promise to free them all upon the signing of a peace treaty; and finally, after doing all that, make it clear publicly and privately that any acts of violence against Israelis will be met with harsh reprisals but will not reverse Israel’s course. [...]There is a proven road to security for the people of the Negev – a total end to Israeli rule over the people who are shooting at them. But nobody of influence in this country will suggest taking that road for fear of being derided as a pacifist, if not an anti-Semite, by the public, politicians and media. Most Israelis, especially in the government and army, are talking very hawkishly. They seem to think they’re keeping faith with the residents of the south who are under fire. In fact, by closing ranks on this continual march of folly, they are dooming the residents of the south, and not just them.
4. This a terrifying video:
5. This has turned the IDF’s hasbara unit into overdrive. The war was announced in English, the war is being liveblogged (!) by the IDF, and no doubt Jewish communities around the world — it’s certainly happening in Australia, at least — are being mobilised and briefed by the IDF and their emissaries. This war is being fought for the Israeli people, but Israel’s learnt its lessons from Cast Lead and the flotilla saga. It wants its message out there. It wants to create content that the Western press will simply have to use. This is a damn well organised machine.
5. Who’s the winner out of this? Quite a consensus being formed:
— Roger Cohen (@NYTimesCohen) November 14, 2012
Similar from Dimi Reider at 972.
5. Big fan of what Emily Hauser wrote, too:
I have one question: If a Palestinian whose family has been killed in an Israeli airstrike bombs the Kirya [the Israeli defence establishment building in Tel Aviv] — we’ll be cool with that, right? [...]
What if the shoe were on the other foot? If Palestinians had somehow managed to get past one of the world’s mightiest military institutions and set off this kind of mayhem in Israel, killing (among, it should be noted, other children) an 11 month old — the world would be up in arms. Israel and America’s Jews would be rending their clothes. Fury and heartbreak and statements of support would be flooding the airwaves – and rightfully so.
Hard to argue with that. As a country that has been the victim of so much violence I don’t understand how it can think the answer is more violence.
6. What’s the lesson here? Violence begets violence. You cannot solve a violent problem with a military solution. This doesn’t end well for anyone. This is a pattern that just can’t continue; it will only bring about more hatred, more death, and no solution. Israel — and its supporters around the world — have talked themselves into this, so they kind of had to go about it. The assassination of Jabari was a mistake. Now the rockets back and forth will continue until… well… who knows. Too many people will die in the next month.