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Friday, January 16, 2009

Gaza war ending?

At Commentary, Noah Pollak fears that Operation Cast Lead is coming to an end.
The Israeli media is reporting that the war in Gaza will come to an end during the next 72 hours to allow Egypt to finish brokering an arrangement between Israel, Hamas, and Fatah.


In the coming months, images of the destruction the IDF has inflicted on Hamas over the past two weeks will fade out while the strategic fallout from the war comes into stark relief: Hamas will be able to say, with perfect credibility, that it continued firing rockets at Israel — many of them long-range Grads — throughout the war. Almost the entirety of Hamas’ top leadership survived, although the use of the word “survived” is inappropriate because Israel apparently made no attempt to eliminate them: they enjoyed the war from the comfort of bunkers under Shifa hospital in Gaza City, their location known the entire time to the IDF. Most damningly, Hamas’ central goals in the war — holding onto Gilad Shalit, lifting the Israeli blockade, and coercing Israeli and Egyptian acceptance of Hamas’ rule in Gaza — will have been accomplished.

I cannot recall any military power in human history prepared to make so many concessions to an enemy it has routed on the battlefield, or that suspends a military campaign in the midst of its success, rescuing a mortal and implacable enemy from defeat and humiliation. It is hard to envision how Israel will survive as a nation when its political leaders are more afraid of victory than of defeat.
Noah's right, of course. Although the IDF has made Operation Cast Lead remarkably successful, this is a war that none of the major party politicians wanted and that they undertook when they had no choice because their people were being bombarded with rockets. On Thursday morning, I pointed out that Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak were already looking to end the war, while only Ehud Olmert wished to continue.

But it was also a war that none of our politicians really wanted to win, as Daniel Doron pointed out in Thursday's Jerusalem Post:
Only after three days of bombing did the IAF finally bomb Hamas headquarters, and it took 16 days before it bombed the residence of Hamas's top commander. This country did not exploit the surprise it achieved to kill as many top Hamas commanders as possible (just as in the past it has neglected to do so) - even though this would have most likely led to the collapse of its war machine and shortened the war.

Exploiting the surprise of the attack to the fullest would have also made unnecessary the land incursion and the many casualties it involves. Hamas could be destroyed as an effective war machine by simply killing or chasing away, in short order, many of those who operate its war machine. When we forgo such effective action, we are forced to take other, less effective actions, such as massive closures and bombardments and prolonged land incursions. These cause much greater humanitarian damage without securing victory.
While Doron's statement about not needing a ground attack may be an exaggeration, his point about not attacking the Hamas leadership the first night is well taken. Why didn't the government take full advantage of the surprise it achieved? Doron tries to explain: Some claim that politicians become more risk averse on the eve of elections. Others blame sharp internal divisions, confusion and lack of determination that inflict the unholy trinity governing the country. Still others claim that leaders who believe that "peace must be made with enemies" make sure they survive so as to have "partners" for a deal after "teaching them a lesson." Finally there are those who claim that a crushing victory will be a great embarrassment to our leaders. "If victory was possible," the public will say, "why did you wait almost eight years before liberating us from Hamas's terror?"

There is a kernel of truth in these explanations. But every terrible mess in Israel originates in "a conception." Against all historical evidence, and against common sense, most leaders, egged on by the media, have sold themselves on the conception that "there are no wars in existence anymore that can be won like the wars of yore" (as stated by a headline to a special Ma'ariv supplement "Not By Force" preaching against seeking victory); in other words that "terror cannot be vanquished by force."

This is nonsense, of course. Almost every terrorist movement was vanquished by force, from the 11th century Assassins to the 1936 Arab Revolt, from the post World War II communist insurrections in Greece or Malaya to terrors groups in Italy, Germany, Japan, etc.

It is also absurd to claim that the IDF, which is supposed to fight several Arab armies simultaneously, cannot vanquish a ragtag guerrilla force of 20,000 fighters lacking armor or airpower. The IDF cannot win only if - like in Lebanon - it fights without a clear plan for victory and under a leadership that does not enable it to win.
The widespread misconception that wars cannot be won by force is not just an Israeli issue. It pervades Western thought today. For example, in Thursday's al-Guardian, British foreign secretary David Miliband writes:
We must respond to terrorism by championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, for it is the cornerstone of the democratic society. We must uphold our commitments to human rights and civil liberties at home and abroad. That is surely the lesson of Guantánamo and it is why we welcome President-elect Obama's commitment to close it.

The call for a "war on terror" was a call to arms, an attempt to build solidarity for a fight against a single shared enemy. But the foundation for solidarity between peoples and nations should be based not on who we are against, but on the idea of who we are and the values we share. Terrorists succeed when they render countries fearful and vindictive; when they sow division and animosity; when they force countries to respond with violence and repression. The best response is to refuse to be cowed.
As if terror can be beaten by arresting the terrorists and not by military force. That's how we got to 9/11 in the first place.

The good news for Israelis is that we have elections three weeks from Tuesday, and the polls show we might actually be starting to get it:
A Ma'agar Mohot poll broadcast on Channel 2 on Wednesday night found that 62 percent of Israelis were in favor of continuing the war, while 26% want a cease-fire.

The poll also found that 49% of Israelis said their opinion of Olmert had improved during the war, 43% said the same of Barak. Regarding Livni, 22% said their opinion of her improved while 20% said it had gotten worse.

A Dialog poll published in Haaretz Thursday found that 78% of Israelis considered the war a success while fewer than 10% considered it a failure. Likud and Kadima have both lost support since the last poll taken by the company two weeks ago, while Labor's popularity had remained the same. If the election was held now, Likud would win 29 seats, Kadima 25 and Labor 16.

A Shvakim Panorama poll broadcast Thursday on Israel Radio predicted that the race was not as close. Likud would win 28 seats, Kadima 21, Labor 15, Israel Beiteinu 15, Shas 10, United Torah Judaism 7, Meretz 5, Habayit Hayehudi 3, the National Union 3, the Greens 3, United Arab List 4, Hadash 3 and Balad 3.
Yisrael Beiteinu is Avigdor Lieberman's party. I don't particularly care for them (his big thing is trading land within the green line on which Arabs live for land over the green line where Jews live as part of creating a 'Palestinian' state reichlet; I'd rather just take the land where the Jews live, pay the Arabs to leave if they cannot live in peace and skip the reichlet), but they are definitely to the right of Bibi Netanyahu's Likud. When Israel Radio reported its poll results today, they said that Netanyahu wants a coalition with Labor and Kadima so that he is seen as being in the center. His worst nightmare is a coalition with Lieberman and other right wing parties in which Bibi is seen as the leftist. In the last poll cited above, Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas, UTJ, HaBayit HaYehudi and National Union - the right wing parties - have 38 seats. With Likud, they would have 66 - more than enough for a coalition. And people like Benny Begin and Boogie Yaalon - both in Likud's top 10 - will try to push Bibi in that direction.

May Bibi's worst nightmare come true. It's the only way Hamas will get a real kick in the teeth the next time.


At 3:22 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

I hope so, Carl. Never have we seen a country afraid to win. Its not Israel's people or its courageous soldiers that are at fault - both the home front and the IDF have performed with valor. Israel just happens to have leaders with no guts, no glory and no vision.

At 5:13 AM, Blogger Fabian Pascal said...

To me it was obvious from the start that the failers in the troika will waste the 2nd war just like they did the previous. they are incapable of anything else.

don't put any hopes in bibi. he is a failure as well, he's all talk and no deeds and there is nothing that he did differently than the left, including oslo and the vote on leaving ghaza.

i can see nothing good in israel's, indeed, in the west's future. they are already starting to disappear under dhimmitude and sharia.

At 8:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What FP said.

Imagine, Israelis have had 2-3 years to realize what Kadima is and still 1 out of 5 Israelis would vote for them. Combining Kadima and Labor votes, 1 out of 3 Israelis would still choose these disasterous pols to run our country.

A nation of fools. Stupid Jews.

At 8:32 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

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At 8:33 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

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At 8:35 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

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At 8:38 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

It might actually be underestimated brilliance. There's all this talk of a ceasefire and Israel has taken NO decision to accept one. We're witnessing the Jewish version of taqiyyah being played out. The IDF continues to deliver punishing blows from the air and the ground. And Israel's diplomats are finding time to string along things through the weekend. Does Hamas have a weekend of life left? Who knows.

Heh. Those seemingly stupid Jews may actually turn out to be quite cunning.

At 10:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman, I live in planet Israel. I don't know what you're talking about.

At 10:22 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Shy Guy,

I agree. NormanF gives too much credit to the cretins who run this country.

At 6:37 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Shy Guy and Carl - there's a good thread about over on Israpundit. Every one is talking about the ceasefire and no one is talking about the IDF is doing in Gaza. Khaled Meshaal just said he rejected a ceasefire with Israeli conditions. I don't think he has any idea what its like on the ground, does he? Neither do we. Israel is keeping every one talking and we're going right along with it. Is the war really ending? Perhaps we'll get a clearer picture after Shabbat - or perhaps not.

Stay tuned.


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