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Bibi Netanyahu won't beat Hamas

02/18/2009

Benjamin Netanyahu is almost certainly the next Prime Minister of Israel. In common with both other leaders to emerge from the last election, Avigdor Lieberman and Tzipi Livni, he has vowed to eliminate the Hamas regime in Gaza. But it is unlikely that he, or any other Israeli leader can do so. Here's why.

Operation Cast Lead demonstrated two points. The first is that at present, at least, Hamas is far weaker than was previously thought, and that from the classical military point of view, there is no obstacle to destroying Hamas and retaking Gaza if that is what Israel decides to do. Three Israeli divisions with air support could achieve strategic control in a day or two and full deployment in a week. The cost however would probably be well over 100 Israeli dead and perhaps 5,000 - 10,000 Palestinian dead. From the international reaction to Operation Cast Lead we know that this huge casualty rate among Palestinians would be totally unacceptable to the international community. As in Operation Cast Lead, the entire world will be convinced that every one of the Palestinian victims was a small child deliberately executed by Israeli soldiers, precisely as related in absurd atrocity propaganda disseminated in major media outlets such as Time magazine and the New York Times. The world is fully prepared to believe, it seems, that the rockets coming out of Gaza operate themselves, and that Gaza contains only civilians. This presents an insurmountable obstacle to elimination of Hamas by military means.

A government headed by the late Yitzhak Rabin or by Shimon Peres might conceivably have been able to carry out the reconquest of Gaza. These leaders, and the tradition they represented, had sufficient credit in the west as men of peace and moderation. Benjamin Netanyahu however, is ineradicably identified with the occupation and with Israeli inflexibility in peace negotiations. Even Tzipi Livni is tarred at least lightly with the lack of progress in the Annapolis negotiations, the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead. Avigdor Lieberman doesn't need others to vilify him. He deliberately pains himself as a monster and racist, making outrageous statements in order to attract attention and win support among his right wing followers. He might really believe only half the things he says, though even that would be bad enough. He is a ready-made Zionist bogie man. Like Ariel Sharon before them, they would inevitably appear in European cartoons cast as baby-eating Jews. The United Nations would force a quick Israeli withdrawal. Iran would quickly make good the losses of the Hamas, and Israel would have sacrificed a large number of soldiers for absolutely no reason.

Until recently, it was far more probable that an Israeli incursion into Gaza would result in a scenario similar to the above, but with replacement of the Hamas by the Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. That would have paved the way to a return of the peace process. But that option is receding. The Bush administration is gone, and in its waning days it was doing even less than it had done previously in the Middle East. The Obama administration, for all its fanfare about foreign policy changes, has yet to show much movement in any direction regarding the Israeli-Palestinian issue. By design or through neglect, and partly through its own actions, the regime of Mahmoud Abbas has become very nearly irrelevant.

That brings us to the other reason why Benjamin Netanyahu is not going to out the Hamas. The only way to get international support for ousting Hamas by either diplomatic or military means, is to agree that the goal of the ouster is to restore the Hamas by the Fatah rule in Gaza. With the Hamas out of the way, Netanyahu would be faced with enormous international pressure to conclude a peace agreement with the Fatah and allow creation of a Palestinian state. Israel would have to agree to the peace solution that all the conventional wisdom holds is so obvious - something along the lines of the Geneva Accord or the Clinton Bridging Proposals or Israel's own Taba proposals. This would mean that Israel would have to declare readiness to withdraw from most of the West Bank and to compromise on Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Authority would not agree to these proposals, because Mahmoud Abbas continues to insist on Right of Return for Palestinian refugees in every statement made on the issue, and continues to deny that Israel has any national rights in the old city of Jerusalem. However, that does not matter. Netanyahu cannot propose Israeli withdrawal from Hebron or, for example, giving up the Har Homa settlement that his previous government initiated. Recall that the Shas party vetoed any mention at all of Jerusalem in the Annapolis negotiations with the Palestinians. If Netanyahu made any such concessions, even in principle, not only would his coalition fall apart, but the Likud party itself, would split. Netanyahu would find himself, like his predecessor Sharon, in a new party - the "in between Likud and Kadima party." Unlike Sharon, Bibi would not be able to must a majority to support his new position. The continuation of the Hamas government and its legitimation, the goal for which so many "progressive" groups in the United States are working as well, is the best guarantee for Netanyahu that the peace process will remain dead and that he will never have to face the problem of "painful concessions."

Hamas is consequently protected from extinction not by Israeli weakness, but by the nature of the right wing coalition that is going to govern Israel for at least the near future.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000749.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 4 comments

Ami, I'm disappointed. Your tone indicates you are not a person who ligitimately pursues peace, justice, and truth. These things seem to have been sacrificed along the way for pragmatic support of Israel's larger agenda, which apparently does not include a two state solution to the peace process. As a journalist, I find this both sad and embarassing. I thought you were a voice of hope and reason. Instead your writing seems cynical and corrupted.

Posted by Kiev500 @ 03/07/2009 10:11 AM CST

"Three Israeli divisions with air support could achieve strategic control in a day or two and full deployment in a week. The cost however would probably be well over 100 Israeli dead and perhaps 5,000 - 10,000 Palestinian dead. From the international reaction to Operation Cast Lead we know that this huge casualty rate among Palestinians would be totally unacceptable to the international community. As in Operation Cast Lead, the entire world will be convinced that every one of the Palestinian victims was a small child deliberately executed by Israeli soldiers, precisely as related in absurd atrocity propaganda disseminated in major media outlets such as Time magazine and the New York Times."

Wow, is this supposed to be a site based on bridging people and finding peace? Your words (as Kiev5000 rightly suggested)are full of the heartless cynicism exercised by both sides at the moment. With the above statement are you suggesting that NO Palestinian children were killed? What is an 'acceptable' amount of civilian casualties? Now, as then your are cast in the same mould of those who feel Palestinian life is worth less than a Jewish life, if that's your starting point then I don't see much hope in your efforts. This part of the world needs genuine discussion free of bias, if you cannot find this in your heart then I suggest asking other journalists to contribute.

Posted by nazidk @ 03/14/2009 12:01 AM CST

I don't think this analysis is disappointing at all: it might be unpleasant to consider possibilities, but as long as they are there, and as long as parties to a conflict have them as options, they must be considered. To observe that the majority of individuals who die in a conflict are not small children, and to point out that the opposite is subtextually communicated in mainstream media, is not the same as saying that even the death of a single child is morally acceptable.
I think that there is a general point here. Analyzing and understanding a situation, and then judging it morally, either parsed or in ensemble, are two very different things.
This article appears to be one of analysis, that is, of the understand-the-situation prerogative; as such is wiser to evaluate it not by tone but by content, i.e. facts presented, conclusions drawn. Pursuing peace and justice are essential goals, but before we can reach them, we must first pursue truth.

Posted by AdamA @ 03/19/2009 01:04 AM CST

AdamA, your comments only substantiate my above points, what this 'journalist' is suggesting is totally victory at any price. Don't you or any blind Israeli supporters understand? You can keep killing these people, in the thousands - they won't give up. This article was not analaysis, but an oped based on flawed data.
Yes many have died needlessly in the 'pursuit of truth' some wishy-washy Enlightenment excuse for the rapacious greed and 'discovery' no matter the cost. Such attitudes do not only leave many people dead, but contribute to a dead planet..yes another modernist obsession..the cult of death.
Oh another thing, most reputable media reports and figures from Red Cross or Human rights watch have never suggested that the 'majority' of civilian casualties were children - you and the journalist have misrepresented these facts, trying to suggest that such organisations are milking some emotive response - they are not, hundreds of Palestian children DID indeed die, the IDF DID deliberately bomb a school and a UN building -its on the public record.
How can you 'pursue truth' when you only consider a narrow slither of it?
Here's a sobering article too: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7952603.stm

Posted by nazidk @ 03/20/2009 01:01 AM CST


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