So, what has Israel accomplished in Gaza with Operation Cast Lead?
Things seem to have calmed down in Israel’s latest attempt to accomplish whatever it was trying to accomplish by attacking Gaza. Hamas is still around, they are more popular than ever, and they’re still shooting rockets. So, um, what was all this destruction about? Is Israel safer now? More respected? More feared? What a mess, my heart goes out to all those whose lives were ruined by this. Since the pro-Israel commenters (here and in the media) seemed to concentrate entirely on justifications for Israel’s actions, while ignoring almost anything resembling an actual analysis of what Israel was trying to accomplish, let look at the possibilities:
Was Israel trying to conquer Gaza? Well, no. You can’t conquer what’s already yours. Gaza has been Israeli occupied territory since 1967, legally and factually. Granted Israel disputes the World Court ruling that the Israeli occupied territories are Israeli occupied territories, but since Israel routinely ignores any UN decisions or any other international decisions it doesn’t like, it’s safe to say the facts match the ruling.
Was Israel trying to kill Arabs? Well, yes and no. They weren’t trying to slaughter Arabs en masse since they could have killed tens of thousands if they wanted to. So comparisons to the Nazis and the holocaust are over the top at this point. Still, they did kill over a thousand, wounded thousands, and traumatized everyone in Gaza. Maybe mass death wasn’t Israel’s goal, but this was hardly a humanitarian intervention.
Stopping the rockets? This was Israel’s stated goal. Um, it wasn’t accomplished. Hamas and Fatah kept on firing rockets to the bitter end, and still have rockets they can fire. In fact it’s a little unclear how Israel planned to accomplish this goal. Aside from killing or driving all the Palestinians out of Gaza, the only way to accomplish this would be a massive military presence permanently occupying Gaza. It wouldn’t completely stop the rockets, it would be very expensive, and would result in their troops being attacked on a regular basis.
Preventing Hamas from re-arming? There’s even less of a chance of that being accomplished by military means. Rounding up the people in Gaza and putting them in concentration camps might do the trick, hell, that would stop the rocket fire even. They don’t seem to be bent on doing that though, it would be very expensive for one, and it would make comparisons to the Nazis perfectly reasonable.
Destroying Hamas? No chance for the reasons listed above, this is simply something that cannot be accomplished without killing almost everyone in Gaza.
So what the hell was Israel’s Operation Cast Lead all about? Since none of the stated goals was achievable by military force, something else is going on here. And the obvious first possibility is that the people who planned this war are more or less clueless. Israel’s strategy of military action has often led to some pretty dismal results, like the creation of Hezbollah for example. In fact countries that get as militarized as Israel often lose their way when it comes to strategic thinking, everyone in Israel is ex-military and they have the most militarized society on Earth…so military solutions are applied to problems whether or not they are appropriate. It’s certainly a possibility, even granting that the attack was “justified” somehow, it still appears stupid and counterproductive to me.
Lastly we come to darker possibilities. Was the attack on Gaza part of a long term agenda to cow the Palestinians into passively accepting their situation, renouncing violence, and giving up their claims? Or even part of a strategy of forcing the Palestinians to abandon their homes and flee the occupied territories? There’s certainly voices in Israel calling for the later, so it can’t be ruled out as part of the equation. As for the former, history is replete with people convinced that they can force another people to accept what they would never accept for their own if the situation was reversed. Maybe evil motives weren’t consciously part of most Israelis thinking, but I don’t recall many Israelis claiming they were fighting for a peaceful two-state resolution to the problem with the Palestinians.
Which is the crux of the whole problem, is Palestine going to be one state or two? Annexing the occupied territories and giving the Palestinians Israel citizenship doesn’t seem very likely. It would destroy Israel’s identity as a “Jewish” state. Hell, some Israelis are trying to disenfranchise the tiny Arab minority that still lives in Israel, it’s not like they will welcome millions more. And if it’s to be a two state solution, Israel could have created that any time they wanted in the past 50 years, so it doesn’t seem like it’s very likely any time soon.
So here we are, another failed war by Israel as far as I can tell. Hamas is more popular than ever, and their limited military capability seems basically unchanged. Heck, they are holding victory rallies. Palestinian factions are more united, Fatah and Hamas seem to have patched up their differences. Israel is more condemned than ever in the world court of opinion. If anything Israel is less feared, they couldn’t crush Hebollah and now they have failed to crush Hamas. Other than making life more miserable for millions of Palestinians while simultaneously strengthening their will to resist, nothing has changed. This isn’t an Israeli victory, unless a world where Israel hides behind its wall while nothing but ruins, poverty, hopelessness and devastation lie outside the wall is the goal. And if that’s the goal, not only is it evil, it’s remarkably stupid and shortsighted.
Israel needs its neighbours, its neighbours don’t need Israel, at least not an Israel determined to wreak destruction on its neighbours and occupied territories at the drop of a hat. Ultimately Israel is on a road to it’s own destruction, a road it is apparently still choosing…eyes wide shut.
(The above image of a Hamas victory rally amid the ruins is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, it’s central to illustrating the post, and it’s use here in no way hinders the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Credit: AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus. Those do not appear to be white flags they are waving. For a long term analysis of Israel and its wars, I reiterate and recommend this link: The myth of Israel’s strategic genius.)