Bibi and Hamas–the Only Winners

“Israel is winning the battles, but Hamas is winning the war.”

So ran the headline in the Jerusalem Post atop an analysis of the Gaza war, which began, “The IDF is registering great achievements in Operation Guardian of the Walls, but meanwhile the house appears to be collapsing from within.”

Hard to disagree.

Consider this New York Times commentary about Israel’s prime minister from the runner-up to the Democratic presidential nominee in the primaries of 2016 and 2020, Sen. Bernie Sanders:

“Mr. Netanyahu has cultivated an increasingly intolerant and authoritarian type of racist nationalism …(and) legitimized these forces … by bringing them into the government. … Racist mobs that attack Palestinians on the streets of

Jerusalem now have representation in its Knesset.”

Sanders’ wing of the party is moving toward the Palestinian side of the conflict. “Israeli air strikes killing civilians in Gaza is an act of terrorism,” says Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

Tweets Michigan’s Rep. Rashida Tlaib: “Israel targeting media sources is so the world can’t see Israel’s war crimes led by the apartheid-in-chief Netanyahu. It’s so the world can’t see the killing of babies, children and their parents. It’s so the world can’t see Palestinians being massacred.”

Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan concurs: “We cannot just condemn rockets fired by Hamas and ignore Israel’s state-sanctioned police violence against Palestinians — including unlawful evictions, violent attacks on protestors & the murder of Palestinian children … US aid should not be funding this violence.”

While Israeli attacks are killing Hamas commanders and destroying the sites from which Hamas has fired 3,000 rockets, Israel is suffering serious and intangible losses.

Palestinians in Jerusalem and on the West Bank have risen in solidarity with Arabs and Muslims in Gaza. A dozen were slain last week.

Arab citizens of Israel are daily fighting Jews in cities like Jaffa, Acre and Lod. Writes the Post: “With riots shaking all parts of Israel,” the country “is being torn apart from within.”

Beyond Gaza, Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israel, Lebanese and Jordanians are protesting on the border. In U.S. and European cities like Berlin, London, Paris and Madrid, protesters numbering in the thousands and tens of thousands are marching in solidarity with the Palestinians and condemnation of Israel as a racist and an “apartheid” regime.

Saturday’s morning attack that brought down Gaza’s 12-story tower that housed the Associated Press and Al Jazeera caused a backlash in much of Western media against Israel, which claims the building contained an Hamas intelligence center and was a legitimate target.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Joe Biden have come out in defense of Israel’s right to attack sites from which rockets are being fired into Israel. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, however, has been more muted in backing Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

The GOP seems more solidly behind Israel. More than three dozen Senate Republicans last week urged Biden to “unequivocally” support Israel’s right to defend itself and to “immediately” end negotiations with Iran on sanctions relief, charging Tehran with supporting terrorist activity by Hamas against Israel.

In a letter to Biden, 44 Republican senators wrote:

“Over the past couple days, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, who are funded by Iran, have launched a series of rocket attacks into Israel. They are targeting Israeli civilians and cities, including Israel’s capital Jerusalem.”

Where Israel goes from here, however, is currently unclear.

President Donald Trump’s Abraham Accords, in which the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan established relations with Israel, appear now to be on hold.

For, on Sunday, a statement by the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation called for an immediate halt to what it described as Israel’s barbaric attacks on Gaza and blamed “systematic crimes” against the Palestinians for the fighting which has lasted for a week.

The OIC statement came after a virtual meeting in which Saudi Arabia condemned Israel’s violation of the sanctity of Muslim holy sites and evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.

Clearly, the principal winner from this conflict is Bibi Netanyahu, who was within days of being replaced as prime minister by an opposition coalition when fighting erupted. He is now seen by Israelis as a decisive war leader, defending the country from thousands of rockets and severely pushing the enemies firing those rockets.

As for the two-state solution to which the world has been committed for decades, that prospect seems further from reality than ever.

Having seen what Hamas is capable of and willing to do, what Israeli will be eager to enter a peace agreement with the Palestinians that would mean vacating much of the West Bank, sharing Jerusalem as the capital of both countries, and a Palestinian right of return to lands from which their families were driven in the 1948-1949 Israeli War of Independence, which Palestinians remember as the Nakba, or catastrophe.

A military truce may be at hand, but that is all it will be — a truce before the next round of fighting.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.”

The Image of Victory

If winning a military battle is defined by the accomplishment of one’s military objectives, then Hamas won the current round of violence with its very first ballistic barrage on Jerusalem ten days ago. Israel, on the other hand, won’t win, can’t win and doesn’t even dream of winning. Like in recent ‘rounds’, all Israel hopes to achieve is an ‘image of victory.’ Despite its military might and destructive enthusiasm, Israel can’t prevail militarily because it doesn’t even remember what military objectives are or what they look like.

In the last seven decades Israel has worked relentlessly to divide the Palestinians in an attempt to dismantle their ability to resist as one people. This project had been so successful in the eyes of the Israelis that many of them started to believe that the Palestinian cause had evaporated into thin air. But then, completely out of the blue (as far as the Israelis are concerned), Hamas managed to unite the Palestinians into a unified fist of resistance: on Tuesday every Palestinian between the River and the Sea joined a strike called by Hamas. Such a collective, multi-sectorial strike didn’t happen in Palestine since 1936.

Military victory is not measured by the carnage you inflict on your foe. It isn’t measured by the number of casualties or the residential towers one reduces into dust. Admittedly, there is no room for comparison between Israeli military capabilities and Hamas’ firepower. Israel is one of the most technologically advanced military forces in the world. Hamas is decades behind, yet it wins over Israel in every round of violence.

The reason is simple. Hamas’ military objectives are simple and modest. Hamas has vowed to keep the resistance alive. It fulfills its promise. By achieving this goal Hamas has positioned itself as the Palestinian unifier. Israel, on the other hand, can’t decide its military goals. We hear Israel’s Defence Minister vowing to bring security to the Israelis but Hamas proves him wrong, continuing to rain Israel with rockets at a growing rate. Israel brags about its precision bombing of Hamas’ tunnels, yet rather cynically, Hamas keep operating from tunnels that seem intact and operational.

It doesn’t take a military genius to grasp that in order to stop Hamas, Israel needs to deploy ground forces and to engage in a fierce battle in the streets of Gaza. But this is exactly the one thing the IDF refuses to do and for a manifold of very good reasons. Firstly, the Israelis are fearful of a house-to-house battle. Second, Israel doesn’t want to control 2.5 million Gazans. Third, not one Israeli military leader is willing to face the relentless Israeli mothers brigade. In the region, however, Israel’s reluctance to send foot soldiers to Gaza is understood as cowardice and weakness.

For Israel, Gaza in particular and Palestine in general is a no-win situation.

But there is a deeper reasoning behind Israel’s hopeless situation. Israeli decision makers (both within the political realm and in the military) subscribe to the power of deterrence. For Israelis, the power of deterrence means punishing the Arabs so heavily that their will to fight would practically stop existing. For one reason or another, the Israelis manage to clumsily zigzag through their troubling history in the region in an attempt to validate this doctrine. For instance, Israel works hard to convince themselves that despite their military fiasco in Lebanon in 2006, Hezbollah has been reluctant to enter a new round of violence with Israel because it is intimidated by the consequences.

Examination of Israeli history actually defies the Israeli doctrine. When Arabs are defeated and humiliated in the battlefield they keep fighting until they win. When Arabs win, they often lose their motivation to keep fighting. They occasionally seek peace and harmony in accordance with the Islamic teaching.

In 1967 Israel defeated 3 Arab armies in just 6 days. Israel performed a perfect Blitzkrieg operation. The Israeli air force surprised and destroyed the Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian air forces on the ground in less than four hours. Simultaneously, Israeli Panzers raided into Sinai, within hours the Egyptian forces collapsed. The humiliation of the Egyptian army was unprecedented in military terms.

If the Israeli doctrine carried any validity, Egypt wouldn’t consider any military confrontation with Israel. But the reality on the ground proved the opposite. Just a few months after their June 1967 defeat, the Egyptian Army launched a war of attrition against Israel, one which exhausted the Israeli forces (including the air force). In the War of Attrition (1967-70) Egypt displayed new capabilities, relying on new Soviet ground-to-air missiles that obliterated Israeli air superiority. Yet Israel refused to draw the necessary conclusions. It was suffocated by hubris that prevented it from reading its neighbors and their intentions.

On 6 October 1973 (Yom Kippur) at 2 PM, Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated attack on Israeli forces in the Suez Canal and in the Golan Heights. Within hours the two Arab armies managed to obliterate the Israeli defence lines. A few days later and thanks to a close American airlift Israel recovered. It gained its lost land in the occupied Golan heights and even managed to conquer some new territory in Syria. In the South, Israel managed to establish bridgehead over the Suez Canal. It encircled the Egyptian 3rd army and cut its supply lines. But Israel failed to push the Egyptian 3rd and 2nd armies back. The Egyptian army ended the war, claiming a narrow strip of Sinai back. It was this victory that empowered Anwar Sadat to launch a peace initiative four years later (1977).

Hafez al-Assad, the Syrian leader at the time, didn’t manage to claim a victory. Syria remained a defiant enemy of Israel. It is reasonable to speculate that if Assad was allowed to cling to some of his territorial gains in October ‘73, Israel and Syria could have proceeded into further reconciliatory talks.

The same logic can be applied to Hezbollah. The Lebanese Shia resistance movement is reluctant to fight Israel not because it is afraid of the consequences, as Israelis delude themselves, but because it already won significantly over the IDF. A war with Israel is dangerous for Hezbollah not because Israel will do its best once again to destroy Lebanese infrastructure and flatten half of Beirut, but because the outcome of such a war is unknown. Hezbollah is in a much better position retaining its status as the Arab military force that made the IDF run home with its tail between its legs (2006).

One may wonder whether Israeli strategists are so thick as not to grasp the most obvious facts about their neighbors and what fuels their motivation to fight. It may of course be possible that Israel’s decision makers aren’t as excited by tranquility as some of us want to believe. Gaza is where Israel tests its new weaponry and tactics. Gaza rockets are a necessary ingredient in the Iron Dome’s public relations. Most importantly, the Gaza crisis emerged when Netanyahu’s political options were running out. It was the Gaza current conflict that made the political powers in Israel subside and then crystalize lucidly within the realm of the hard right. This war made both Netanyahu and Hamas stronger.

It would be fair to argue that Hamas is operating within the modernist perception of conflicts as devised by Carl von Clausewitz. For the German military philosopher “war is the continuation of politics by other means.” In ‘postmodernist’ Israel, it seems war is one of the means that keeps some politicians out of prison.

Gilad Atzmon

The One-State Reality

There is a war in Jerusalem right now, a war that ends the Israeli illusion that the Palestinian cause has somehow faded away or evaporated.

Veteran Israeli General Amos Yadlin, former commander of the IDF’s intelligence and a chief Israeli National Security analyst, described the Israeli reality in the most brutal terms in his commentary on Israeli N12: “The Israeli delusions are over. The Palestinian problem is Back. “

Yadlin believes that Israel’s lack of leadership has led to strategic paralysis, in which Israel and Palestine have practically morphed into ‘one state’ and it has only two options to choose from: either to ‘stop being a Jewish State’ or to be ‘undemocratic’! According to Yadlin, the “Palestinians are engaged in a different discourse today than in the past. After the failure of their three main strategies – terrorism, internationalization of the conflict and reliance on the Arab world, the Palestinians have greatly strengthened the discourse of rights. If they cannot achieve their own state, they seek equal rights as citizens of the Greater State of Israel – with the long-term hope of an Arab majority in one state. In the meantime, they hope to exhaust Israel’s economic benefits and gain points in the campaign for Israel’s delegitimization.”

I wouldn’t use Yadlin’s misguided terminology, as the Palestinians are already the majority of the people between the river and the sea. Yet, I believe that his dissection of the situation is largely accurate. It is also consistent with IDF intelligence’s reading of the Israeli Palestinian conflict since the early 1980s. IDF generals have been saying it for years: for the Palestinians to win, all they need to do is to survive. Mahmoud Abbas, whom many Palestine supporters tend to detest, also came to the same realization a while back. It is not war that will defeat Israel, it is actually peace which Israel fears the most.

As if the news is not bad enough for the Israelis and their future prospects in the region, the last election made it clear that the new Israeli kingmaker is no other than Mansour Abbas, the Leader of the Islamic party Ra’am. Benjamin Netanyahu was ready to form a government with him just to sustain his primacy, with the hope that this may help him stay out of prison. But an alternative centrist coalition also can’t be formed without the support of Abbas.

The hardcore right wing within the Israeli Knesset do understand that such political power in the hands of an Islamic party empowers their bitterest enemies. It is destined to bring many more Israeli Arabs to the polls in the next election and if Arabs in Israel enjoy the same political representation as the Jewish majority, they can easily become the biggest political force in Israel. Is Israel ready for an Arab PM, or Muslim minister of defence? I’ll let you ponder over that.

The most peculiar fact in all of that is that Jewish lobbies around the world are actually very successful in dominating different nations’ affairs that are relevant to Israel and Jewish interests. A lot has been written about AIPAC dominating American foreign affairs. A lot was said about the power of the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) and the Labour friends of Israel (LFI) in Britain. Yet in the USA Jews amount to less than 2% of the entire population. In the UK, Jews are less than 0.5% of the Brits. In Israel, on the other hand, Jews are 80% of the Israeli society and about 50% of the people who dwell between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea. One may draw a conclusion that Jews are doing far better for themselves as a marginal exilic identity than being a majority on the land. Zionism, for those who do not know, was born to refute that observation but it failed.