Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Israeli Historian Benny Morris: The Attack Will Not Solve The Gaza Problem

One section of Israeli historian Benny Morris's essay, "Why Israel Feels Threatened," stood out for me: his realistic assessment of Israel's dilemma in Gaza:

...the attack will not solve the basic problem posed by a Gaza Strip populated by 1.5 million impoverished, desperate Palestinians who are ruled by a fanatic regime and are tightly hemmed in by fences and by border crossings controlled by Israel and Egypt.

An enormous Israeli ground operation aimed at conquering the Gaza Strip and destroying Hamas would probably bog down in the alleyways of refugee camps before achieving its goal. (And even if these goals were somehow achieved, renewed and indefinite Israeli rule over Gaza would prove unpalatable to all concerned.)

More likely are small, limited armored incursions, intended to curtail missile launches and kill Hamas fighters. But these are also unlikely to bring the organization to heel — though they may exercise sufficient pressure eventually to achieve, with the mediation of Turkey or Egypt, a renewed temporary truce. That seems to be the most that can be hoped for, though a renewal of rocket attacks on southern Israel, once Hamas recovers, is as certain as day follows night.

The longer this military campaign goes on, the less clear its strategic purpose is. Recently I read that Israel does not intend to reoccupy Gaza or overthrow Hamas. A reoccupation of the hostile, packed area is clearly undesirable, and the overthrow of Hamas could bring even more instability. For one thing, who is to replace Hamas?

On the other hand, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel is engaged in an "all-out war with Hamas." This is a strange all-out war, then, since it apparently doesn't seek the complete destruction of the enemy. Yet if it doesn't, what is the purpose of the constant bombing?

Of course, Israel learned in Lebanon that bombing alone isn't sufficient for obliterating the enemy and destroying its weapon supplies. For that, combat troops are necessary, at a great cost in blood to both troops and civilians–and the latter are already suffering tremendously. It's unclear whether Israel wants to pay that price and to what end.

Even though Israel planned the Gaza invasion for months, its aims are hard to discern. If, as Morris states, the realistic, albeit unfortunate, option is limited incursions, a cease fire, more rockets and another incursion, what is all this pounding for?

Like Hezbollah in Lebanon, all Hamas has to do to emerge politically stronger is to withstand the Israeli assault. A strengthened Hamas is not a positive prospect. Hamas is a rejectionist, terrorist, religious fundamentalist group. Yet like with Hezbollah, Israel will bear a good deal of responsibility if the one clear result of this massive death and destruction is to present Hamas with a public relations bonanza.


quakerdave said...

Every missile strike in Gaza creates a new batch of terrorists.

Every missile fired out of Gaza creates more hatred by the Israelis, and more determination to take a hard line.

I don't pretend to understand this situation, but that just makes sense to me.

Oh, and happy new year.

Jeff Tone said...

QD: What you have described is the cycle of violence. I hope that in this new year, this cycle can begin to be broken. Recent events don't bode well, but let's have some hope for peace and reason in 2009.