I had a busy week, partly because of the war, and couldn’t update the blog with my thoughts on the events in Gaza. I guess that’s the problem with being a journalist.
I oppose the war. I think it is immoral and unwise.
On the moral side, I don’t agree with the common Israeli point of view, according to which “we left Gaza and they kept firing rockets”. Israel evacuated the settlements, but kept the siege on Gaza, probably in hope that it would topple the Hamas (This policy, of putting the pressure on civilians in hope of replacing the Arab leadership, is not only immoral, but it also failed us again and again, both in the West Bank and in Lebanon). This does not justify the rockets that were fired on Israel, but since Israel refused to even consider removing the siege or ruled out negotiations with the Hamas, it left the other side with very few options.
Now don’t get me wrong. the bottom line is not that “Israel is to blame for everything” – the “blame game” is not one that I wish to play – but rather, that the real and only solution is talking to the Hamas and removing the siege. This will be a blow to the Fatah, which is regrettable, but the Palestinians will have to sort their political mess by themselves. We can’t go on choosing their leaders for them.
Now let’s talk political realism. What is it exactly that Israel hopes to achieve here? Realistically, everyone agrees that removing the Hamas from power is next to impossible. It will force us to conquer Gaza again, kill or capture their leadership, and put back the Fatah in power. But no real Arab leader will agree to enter Gaza on an Israeli tank. The other option is to go back to governing there ourselves. And that’s even worse.
How about stopping the rockets? That will probably involve conquering the Gaza strip as well. And as long as we’re there, we might even be able to put an end to terrorism, like we did in the West Bank cities after 2003. But what will happen when we want to leave? And what price will we pay while being there? These are neither trivial nor simple questions.
Some people tend to talk about the war’s objectives in psychological terms, like “convincing the Palestinians that they can’t use force against us” or “making them get rid of the Hamas”. Well, good luck with that. Like Tom Segev wrote in Haaretz, Israel is trying to “teach the Arabs a lesson” for decades now. Somehow, they refuse to learn (maybe we should replace the teachers?).
We have to conclude that any reasonable end to the war will involve a new cease fire agreement. The Hamas will demand the removal of the siege. Israel will demand an end to the rockets firing. Maybe Gilad Shalit will be released, in exchange for Hamas prisoners. We could have had all of that before the war.
I really don’t understand what the government plans to do next. It seems that in the Lebanon-style dynamic, we are heading for a ground invasion. As I said, in the long run there is little to gain here. Some people suggest a 48 hours or so cease fire, to see if the Hamas fire rockets. If it continues firing, we go back to bombing. If it doesn’t, we claim victory. But this kind of suggestions only foresee half a step forward. What happens if Hamas fires one rocket, three days from now? We go back to war for a single rocket? And if it fires two rockets, two weeks from now? And how about three? Israel can’t be mobilized for war forever.
There is really no escape from a diplomatic solution. But try explaining that, a month before an election.