Violence again in Gaza and Israel

Once again we have a flare up of violence in Israel and Gaza. And once again we will have the predictable reactions, with each side accusing the other of starting it first, a pointless argument that can never be settled in a conflict that goes back decades.

Glenn Greenwald links to several articles that give timelines of the current escalation. He says it does not help that the US and other western media will slip into its reflexively pro-Israel mode and that the Obama administration’s own drone policy will prevent it from putting pressure on Israel to stop its policy of targeting killings.

As long as the brutal treatment of Palestinians by Israel continues, there will be no end to this cycle of violence. Stephen R. Walt provides a good analysis of the current depressing state of affairs, going beyond the current escalation to see what is at play long-term.

On the whole, this latest series of clashes reveals the utter lack of imagination and strategic foresight on both sides. It is a pointless exchange of violence that will not alter the basic strategic situation one iota. The fighting may enhance Netanyahu’s chances for reelection, but he was likely to win anyway. It may further enhance Hamas’ stature and underscore the impotence of the Palestinian Authority, but the latter’s growing irrelevance was already understood, if not openly acknowledged. But it brings neither side closer to achieving its core objectives.

Israel’s bind is straightforward, as John Mearsheimer lays out clearly here. The Netanyahu government is dead-set against allowing the Palestinians to have a viable state of their own and wants them to accept permanent Bantustan status instead. Netanyahu is eager to negotiate for as long as it takes, provided that no deal is ever reached and that the construction crews can keep gobbling up more land on the West Bank and ensuring permanent Israeli control. Those pesky Palestinians have refused to play that game, and also refused to give up their demands for their own state.

The Mearsheimer article, after pointing out the futility of the current Israeli policy of aerial bombardment of Gaza, argues that the problem stems from Israel’s long-term goals.

So what is going on here? At the most basic level, Israel’s actions in Gaza are inextricably bound up with its efforts to create a Greater Israel that stretches from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the endless palaver about a two-state solution, the Palestinians are not going to get their own state, not least because the Netanyahu government is firmly opposed to it. The prime minister and his political allies are deeply committed to making the Occupied Territories a permanent part of Israel. To pull this off, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will be forced to live in impoverished enclaves similar to the Bantustans in white-ruled South Africa. Israeli Jews understand this quite well: a recent survey found that 58 per cent of them believe Israel already practises apartheid against the Palestinians.

As long as the US government continues to promote the myth that the Israeli government is interested in a two-state solution with a viable Palestinian state, the Middle East will continue to fester.

As Mearsheimer says:

Over the long term, however, the bombing campaigns may come to an end, because it is not clear that Israel will be able to maintain itself as an apartheid state. As well as resistance from the Palestinians, Israel has to face the problem that world opinion is unlikely to back an apartheid state. Ehud Olmert said in November 2007, when he was prime minister, that if ‘the two-state solution collapses’ Israel will ‘face a South-African-style struggle’, and ‘as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished.’ One would think Israel’s leaders would appreciate where they are headed and allow the Palestinians to have a viable state of their own. But there is no sign that is happening; instead, Israel foolishly continues to rely on military campaigns like Pillar of Defence to break the Palestinians.

The idea that war is a good way to achieve political ends is depressingly widespread. John Quiggin says that “war is almost always a mistake as well as a crime” and yet “it seems impossible to get away from the assumption that war, or the threat of war, is a reliable method of achieving desired outcomes.” He concludes:

But if we started any analysis of international relations with the assumption that war will end badly for all concerned, and that the threat of war will probably lead to war sooner or later, we would be right most of the time.

But governments will choose war because it is so tempting for the nation that has superior power. Before war starts, it always seems like the easiest and quickest solution to their immediate problem.


  1. Curcuminoid says

    I’d like to note a few things on the conflict, some of them not entirely relevant to Operation Re-Cast Lead.

    Israel’s policies that hobble any Palestinian state arise less from a desire for a Greater Israel than from fear of the threat a fully functional, probably antagonistic Palestine would present. No sane person could think that Greater Israel would be stable…Although there are a lot of insane people in Israel, whom we like to call ultra-Orthodox Jews (One of their newsletters I’ve seen has a picture of Israel on the front, but in this picture Israel not only includes the West Bank, but the Golan Heights, Gaza, and Sinai.)

    On that note, the rise of the ultra-Orthodox is going to change the face of this conflict just because of demographics. Their growing numbers are infusing more religion into Israeli’s position of the conflict, which is going to make it tend more to extremism. On the other hand, they are a massive drain on Israel’s economy, as most don’t work and they are government supported. Israel may lose the ability to maintain the status quo and move towards resolution out of necessity.

    It’s very telling that both sides think Jews in an area=Palestinians can’t have that area. They hate each other so much that they don’t think Jews can live peacefully in Palestine, and they would either be rebellious or discriminated against. When neither side believes Jews can coexist with Palestinians in the same country, peace isn’t likely.

    Part of the reason the apartheid-like actions of Israel isn’t recognized by many is that they are applied in the occupied territories, not in Israel proper. Arabs in Israel aren’t terribly discriminated against in Israel, and even have representation in the Knesset, Israel’s governing body (which is very much not Apartheid). Israel’s treatment of Arabs in the occupied territories/Palestine, that’s a whole ‘nother story.

  2. StevoR says

    Hamas fire rockets into Israel aimed at innocent Israeli civilians then hide behind their own innocent(~ish) Palestinian civilians and blame any casualties that result on Israel. Go figure.

    If you had rockets being fired at your family, friends and nation and home how do you think you’d respond and what do you think you’d expect your government to do to stop such rockets?

  3. davidhart says

    Well, one of the things I’d want the government to do is consider whether the people launching the rockets do in fact have a legitimate grievance, however wrong-headed their tactics, and then consider whether addressing that issue will be more likely to put an end to the rocket attacks than launching yet another military offensive.

    But more broadly, how deep is the sea off the coast of the Gaza Strip? At some point, the money required to build an entire small country out of reclaimed land off the coast for the Palestinians will balance out to being less than the money spent on trying to maintain the status quo.

  4. slc1 says

    It’s long past time for the Government of Israel to stop playing pattycake with the Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip and take a leaf out of the Assad, pere and fils playbooks. The time for Hama Rules is long overdue.

    Rather then using aircraft, both piloted and drones and sending in ground troops, the IDF should do what Hafaz Assad did to the City of Hama in Syria in 1982 and surround the Gaza strip with hundreds of artillery pieces. Four or five days of continuous bombardment should do the trick; worked for Hafaz.

  5. slc1 says

    The problem is that there are large natural gas fields off the coast of the Gaza Strip which would have to be taken into account in any land expansion scheme there. If the government in the Gaza Strip would get off it’s collective ass and begin exploiting those fields to power their electric power plant, they could stop being dependent on buying coal from Israel, which the latter has to buy from Australia, to power that plant. Good for both the economy of both entities and the environment.

  6. StevoR says

    @davidhart :

    I’d want the government to do is consider whether the people launching the rockets do in fact have a legitimate grievance, however wrong-headed their tactics, and then consider whether addressing that issue will be more likely to put an end to the rocket attacks than launching yet another military offensive.

    Would that be before or after a rocket hits your house and family and /or friends?

    You think Israel has’nt tried negotiating and even unilaterally handing back precious land to the Palestinians even including Hamas? Why do you think Hamas and not Israel now runs the Gaza Strip which was under direct Israeli rule for several decades?

    Israel gave the Gaza Strip back to the Palestinians -- and got Hamas voted in (once -- followed by intra-palestinian civil war but that’s another story.) and constant terrorism and rocketfire in return. Don’t think they”ll be making that “land for peace” mistake again anytime soon.

    The “greivance” of Hamas is that Israel exists full stop. Its bottom line demand is that Israel perishes and is replaced by (yet another) Islamist state. If the person you are trying to get peace with has as their whole raison d’etre that you must die because of their endless fanatical hatred of you, well how can you negotiate and deal with that?

    Israel has tried peace,tried being nice, tried leaving Hamas alone -- and these have failed because Hamas rejects such niceness and appeasement and is unwilling to let the Jews live on their own land whatever the cost and consequences.

    For peace to be made, Hamas will simply have to go -and the other Islamist extremists too. The Palestinians need to recognise the reality that Israel is there to stay and that they must accept it and learn to live with it. Until they do that, whilst they keep trying to committ genocide e against the Jewish state there won’t be peace. Their choice -- and on past form, their leaders will choose wrong as they’ve done so many times before.

  7. StevoR says

    Little known fact -- in the 1970’s Jordan killed more Palestinians than Israel did.

    See :

    Another little known fact -- during at least one of the Palestinian intifadas most Palestinians were killed by other Palestinians accusing them of “collaboration” than killed by the Israelis.

    The Arabs are a hell of a lot more ruthless and cruel to the Arabs than Israel or America or any Westerners ever are and value their own lives so much less than we value them -- as well as having no respect for human rights to say nothing of feminism and progressive values.

    This of course has generally been totally overlooked by the Palestinian lobby and sympatheisers in the West generally and on FTB in particular.

    @slc1 : Or a couple of Daisy Cutter bombs maybe? Quick, effective and if most of the Gazans don’t know what’s hit them, arguably even the most relatively humane solution giving the extremely limited options? Drawn out agonising deaths and extended suffering versus instant nothingness?

  8. StevoR says

    Bit of gallows humour there kinda, naught we can do anyhow.

    The Israeli Defence Forces and the leaders of the small beleagured world’s only Jewish state have far more good information and infinitely more at stake (like, y’know their very lives!) than we do. Up to them natch.

    As the people coming under hostile rocket-fire & fighting genocidal terrorists, they’re the ones we should fully support -not the one’s firing those rockets and seeking to exterminate another six million Jews.

    Horrific hopeless situation for all.

  9. Ichthyic says

    . Four or five days of continuous bombardment should do the trick; worked for Hafaz.

    …and firebombing civilian cities in Germany and Japan worked for the allies in WWII, right?

    you guys are fucking NUTS.

  10. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    I see my two favourite genocidal maniacs are sharing a hoggling session. Really, guys, you should do that sort of thing in private.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *