INTO THE FRAY: Gaza – Déjà vu…again?

For your perusal, my latest INTO THE FRAY column:

INTO THE FRAY: Gaza – Déjà vu…again?

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From recent reports on planned Israeli responses to events in Gaza, one might be excused for thinking that the late Shimon Peres had returned from the hereafter, reincarnated in the form of the allegedly hawkish Avigdor Liberman

It appears this week on the following sites (in alphabetical order):


Several short excerpts:

An overwhelming majority [of the Palestinian public] demands the immediate halt to all measures taken by Abbas against the Gaza Strip and opposes the crackdown on demonstrations demanding an ending to these measures. Moreover, a two-third majority opposes Abbas’s demand for disarming armed factional battalions in the Gaza Strip. A majority is also opposed to Abbas’ demand that Hamas hand over the entire responsibility over the Gaza Strip to the reconciliation government, including ministries, the security sector, and the “arms.” – A sobering survey of current Palestinian public opinion, Palestinian Center for Policy & Survey Research, July 4, 2018.

Gaza has the potential to become the Singapore of the Middle East. This would be good for the residents of Gaza, it would be good for Israel, and it would be good for the entire region—Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, August 15, 2018.

On reading recent press reports on the planned Israeli response to the events in Gaza, one might well be excused for thinking, for a moment, that the late Shimon Peres had returned from the hereafter, reincarnated in the form of the allegedly hawkish Avigdor Liberman—who apparently has now embraced Peres’s widely discredited vision of a “New Middle East”.

Regurgitating deceptive, disproven clichés

 Avigdor Peres and Shimon Liberman?
Avigdor Peres and Shimon Liberman?

Indeed, it would appear that the Israeli security establishment, headed by Liberman, presumably backed by the IDF high command, has become hostage to all the deceptive and disproven clichés that have dominated the discourse on Gaza and have led to the current dismal situation.

Calling for a coup

Thus on Wednesday, Liberman announced, probably much to Hamas’s relief: “We do not want to return to the Strip…We do not want to conquer it”…However, he then went on to explain: “We want to get rid of the Hamas government [but] only by means of the Gaza residents themselves”…This, of course, raises the trenchant question: Even if the Gazans could depose Hamas, with whom would they replace it?

Wildly inappropriate analogies

Rioting during Arab Spring
Rioting during Arab Spring

After calling on the residents of Gaza—who show little sign of compliance—to help pull the IDF chestnuts out of the fire, Liberman then invokes some wildly inappropriate historical analogies to underpin the case for military reticence: The fall of the Soviet Union and the Arab Spring!

No guarantee of a more compliant successor

…even if Israel could engineer the fall of Hamas, it could not really be sure who its successors would be, or how they would behave once in power—under pressures they are likely to encounter, given the clear preferences of the population, as reflected in the cited survey—or if they could even sustain their hold on power against domestic radicals or ascendant Jihadi elements, prowling the adjacent Sinai peninsula…

The unpersuasive “two front” fable

Some have tried to explain away the IDF’s clear aversion to military action in Gaza, by invoking the two-front argument, according to which Israel should avoid a major engagement with Gaza, because it considers the Northern front, with Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, the greater threat and therefore, should focus its effort there rather than in the South…this contention is, to be charitable, unpersuasive. After all, if the IDF is genuinely concerned over the danger in the North and wishes to avoid having to fight on two fronts—what could be more counterproductive than leaving Hamas’s military capabilities intact, to be employed at any time of its choosing?…what could be a more opportune time to do so than during an engagement in the North?

Delaying conflict will exacerbate, not avert, it

Otto von Bismarck (1815–1890): ”No government…would be so foolish as to wait for the moment which is most convenient for the enemy”
Otto von Bismarck (1815–1890): ”No government…would be so foolish as to wait for the moment which is most convenient for the enemy”

Indeed, Israel’s reluctance for an assertive response to ongoing aggression is even more puzzling—and perturbing—in light of Liberman’s own recent assessment that a future clash is inevitable…barely three days ago, he declared that the next round of fighting in the Gaza Strip was a “matter of when, not if”…Accordingly, perhaps the heads of the Israel defense establishment would do well to revisit the advice of Otto von Bismarck (1815–1890) who counselled:” No government, if it regards war as inevitable, even if it does not want it, would be so foolish as to wait for the moment which is most convenient for the enemy”.

Gaza:Déjà vu…again?

It is perhaps a little early to pass final judgment on Israel’s policy towards Gaza, but the emerging indications give little cause for optimism.

For what appears in the offing seems much of the same, repeating what has been tried before—in effect rewarding Hamas for weeks of violence, instead of penalizing it—based on the recurring defective logic of “managing the conflict”—which in fact is little more than “maintaining the conflict”. After all, if continued violence brings continued returns, why should anyone expect it to be discontinued?

As usual your talkbacks/comments/critiques welcome,
Best wishes,

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