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Friday, November 16, 2012

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 Israel.
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.
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.
3) Egypt's limitations

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.
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.
Eric Trager emphasizes that the West, especially the United States, can play a role in preventing Morsi from confronting Israel more directly: 
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.
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.
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 Israel.

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