Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Friday, November 16.
1) The Washington Post on Gaza
While the Washington Post editorial Heading off full-blown war in the Gaza strip starts off fine:
THE IMMEDIATE cause of the exploding conflict between Israel and
Hamas in the Gaza Strip was a series of attacks by Palestinian
militants, including a missile fired at a jeep carrying Israeli soldiers
inside Israel, and a rain of rockets against Israeli towns — more than
180 in the course of a few days. Israel could not but respond, and when
it did, it chose to deliver a strategic blow: the assassination of
Hamas’s military commander, Ahmed Jabari, and airstrikes against scores
of sites where the Palestinians had stored a large arsenal of rockets
and missiles, including Iranian-built models capable of hitting central
it loses its way in the third paragraph:
As Israel might have learned from its 2008-09 invasion of Gaza, war
with Hamas imposes heavy diplomatic costs, because of the inevitable
civilian casualties, and does not solve the underlying political or
security problems. Toppling the Hamas regime in Gaza would mean chaos,
in which more militant groups would gain influence, including the
Iranian-sponsored militias who launched most of the missile attacks
before this week. Already, the conflict is risking Israel’s crucial
relationship with Egypt, now ruled by an Islamist party closely allied
with Hamas. It is benefiting two bigger Israeli enemies, Syria and Iran,
by distracting and potentially dividing opponents of those regimes.
This is all speculative and not necessarily logical. Additionally,
Israel's relationship with Egypt was already at risk because of the
ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood, even if it did nothing. The Muslim
Brotherhood was talking about changing the terms of the Camp David
accords even before Israel finally struck back.
Unfortunately, leaders on both sides have short-term political
reasons for fighting. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and
Defense Minister Ehud Barak face an election in January; it’s perhaps
not a coincidence that this Gaza conflict, like the last one, comes
between an American and an Israeli election. Hamas, for its part, may
hope to upstage a planned diplomatic initiative at the United Nations
this month by the rival Palestinian Authority and to prompt concessions
from Egypt, such as an opening of its border with Gaza.
This is cynical. Israel didn't strike now because of electoral
concerns. Hamas was probably less concerned with the PA's statehood
gambit than with its own confidence due to international support.
Egypt and the United States, however, have much to lose from further
escalation. Neither wants or can afford a rupture in the Israeli-Egypt
peace treaty or the disruption of efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear program
and remove Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Egyptian President Mohamed
Morsi announced he was sending a delegation, led by his prime minister,
to Gaza on Friday, while President Obama has been on the phone with Mr.
Morsi and Mr. Netanyahu. A quick cease-fire would benefit all sides; the
alternative is awful to contemplate.
A ceasefire is in order, once Israel has achieved its short term goals in terms of stemming the tide of Hamas's advances.
Nearly seven years ago the editors of the Washington Post argued in Preelection turmoil:
The Bush administration prepared a "quartet" statement with the
European Union, United Nations and Russia last week that strongly
supported the elections and urged Israel to allow voting in Jerusalem.
At the same time, the statement reiterated a previous statement calling
on Hamas to disarm and recognize Israel's existence, and it added that
the future Palestinian cabinet "should include no member who has not
committed" to accept those principles. That was the right place to draw
the line. Hamas should be given the chance to become a democratic
movement, but Palestinians should understand that any retreat from
recognition of Israel will mean the loss of vital international support.
As it has been since Hamas took over Gaza, Israel's southern territory
is unsafe. The Washington Post advocated for giving Hamas power. Given
how badly this has turned out, the editors of the Washington Post really
ought to be a bit more circumspect about giving advice to Israel how to
handle the situation they supported. On the positive side, though, the
editorial wasn't as bad as yesterday's in the New York Times.
2) A more sober approach
Jonathan Schanzer explains why Israel attacked Gaza. After explainig why Jabari was targeted, Schanzer concludes:
The most compelling factor, however, may have been escalating Israeli
concerns over the ordnance Hamas was stockpiling. Israel reportedly hit
several key weapons caches in Gaza yesterday, including some that
included the deadly Iranian-made Fajr-5 rockets, which have powerful
payloads and ranges long enough to strike Israeli population centers.
3) Egypt's limitations
Interestingly, last month the Israelis are believed to have carried out a
raid on an Iranian weapons factory deep inside Sudan. Sensitive
security sources indicated that “game-changing” rockets — the kind that
could cause untold harm to Israel’s civilian population — were what
prompted that daring attack into enemy territory.
The Gaza operation appears to be part two of that raid: A concerted
effort to take out as many long-range rockets as possible, with the
added benefit of eliminating those who procured them.
In the Weekly Standard, Lee Smith explains why Egypt's President Morsi may not be to change the terms of the Camp David Accords so easily:
On Tuesday, the legal committee of Egypt’s ruling Freedom and Justice
party (the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party) announced that it was
working on a new draft law to amend parts of the 1979 peace treaty. The
major issue regards the re-militarization of the Sinai, which would
thereby allow the Egyptian army to deploy forces throughout the
peninsula. The problem for Morsi is not just that the Israelis do not
want the Egyptian army in the Sinai, but that the Egyptian army doesn’t
want to be there either.
Eric Trager emphasizes that the West, especially the United States, can play a role in preventing Morsi from confronting Israel more directly:
The Sinai is home to around half a million Bedouins, a population that
includes Salafist jihadists that may have ties to al Qaeda. The
peninsula is a dangerous place, especially it seems for Egyptian
security forces. The most recent incident, two weeks ago, saw three
Egyptian security officers killed, but the largest operation was the
August attack that cost the lives of sixteen Egyptian border policemen.
The army does not want its soldiers shot and loathed—Bedouins hate the
security forces—and therefore it does not seek a permanent presence
there that would antagonize the Bedouins and perhaps give rise to a war
of tribal vendettas.
This is where Washington comes in. While the Obama administration
cannot change the long-held aims of an insular, extreme movement like
the Muslim Brotherhood, it must work to prevent the Brotherhood from
pursuing those aims anytime soon. The administration can begin by
telling Morsi very clearly that while he is free to disagree with the
United States on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he cannot disagree on
the importance of maintaining Egypt-Israeli relations, which have
served to prevent war between two of the region's strongest militaries
for the past three-plus decades.
This is a far cry from insisting on a ceasefire to prevent damaging
Israel's relations with Egypt. This is acknowledging that Hamas's
escalation was, in part, due to Egypt's increasing hostility towards
Moreover, the administration should use economic aid, as well as
American support for the $4.8 billion IMF loan that Egypt is pursuing,
as leverage for ensuring that Morsi stays within well-defined red lines.
After all, this aid is not charity - it is an investment in a
relationship with an Egypt that is at peace with its neighbors. And an
Egypt that uses another round of Israeli-Palestinian fighting as an
excuse for breaking its international commitments, as the Brotherhood
would like Morsi to do, is a very bad investment.
Labels: Egypt, Hamas, Knesset elections 2013, Middle East Media Sampler, Operation Pillar of Defense, Soccer Dad