Here in Israel, the rocket barrage from Gaza this evening signaled the end of the cease-fire, and the five explosions I heard in the past hour have a way of concentrating the mind, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson. Israel is waging a war it cannot win because it is fighting the wrong battle in the wrong way, and, as such, it is unsurprising that PM Netanyahu’s popularity – astronomically high just weeks ago – has taken a nose dive. That should help him concentrate his mind a little better.
People are distressed that he stopped short of striking a decisive blow against Hamas, which was within reach just weeks ago. A stalemate leaves the distasteful feeling that the loss of life was in vain, and that Hamas has retained its capacity to launch rockets and missiles at Israeli population centers – including tonight, Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim – reinforces that sentiment. Worse, the ongoing negotiations engender the inevitable but sickening conclusion that the terrorists of Hamas are Israel’s equals on the world stage. It vitiates the notion that Israel is the good guy and Hamas are the modern incarnation of the Nazis, with whom you do not negotiate but crush until it surrenders unconditionally. Negotiations take place between states – not because nations and bands of thugs. The police in Ferguson, Missouri (whatever happened there) are not negotiating with rioters, and even Barack Obama is not sitting at the table with ISIS, at least not yet.
There is no moral equivalence between Israel and a terrorist gang, but Israel is fostering this notion. Some people only understand force and can only be suppressed with force.
Israel would do well to pound home the idea that the “civilians” in Gaza are an enemy population – just like the German and Japanese civilians during World War II who were mercilessly – and justly – bombed into submission. It is unconscionable – at this point grossly immoral – for Israel to continue to provide food, fuel, electricity and water in order to sustain the enemy. Cut it off! And resume it in exchange for an unconditional surrender. That is one way wars are won – through sieges.
There will always be those who argue that Israel can’t do X, Y or Z because the world will not tolerate it. If the last two months have taught us anything, it is that the world will scream bloody murder if Israelis kill one Arab, 1000 Arabs or 10,000 Arabs. It is all the same. By the way, the protests across the world disproportionately consist of and are fomented by Arabs, not ordinary Swedes, Danes or Frenchmen, and therefore are just another tactic in the war. But it is not the deaths of Muslims that seem to concern anyone (proof? Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, etc. where hundreds of thousands of Arabs have been killed in the last decade ) but rather the perception of Israeli success and prosperity. It is simple hatred of Jews that motivates the protests, not love of life of Arabs. That idea has to be internalized, and the false narrative that the Arabs proffer has to be rejected.
What type of enemy are we dealing with and what can be said about the reporting? One need only recall the 2006 kidnapping of Fox News reporter Steve Centanni by Arab terrorists in Gaza. He was released after two weeks – after being forced to make a video in which he purports to convert to Islam, the religion of peace. Naturally, he has not returned to the Middle East since. Do you think that journalists in Gaza are unaware of this, and thus toe very carefully to the Hamas line while there? Would it make sense for Israel – knowing this – to declare Gaza a closed military zone as happens in every war so the propaganda machine is derailed? Of course, it would make sense; that is probably why it is not done. You know, the special rules for Israel.
The UN Human Rights Commission, about to begin its impartial inquiry into Israel’s (and only Israel’s war crimes), offered a startling admission last week. The chair of the inquiry, a Jew-hater named William Schabas, was asked by Dani Cushmaro on Israel TV about the obvious double standard – the US, the Russians, and countries throughout the Middle East have killed countless civilians in their battles – exponentially more than have died in Israel’s battles, and yet only Israel’s conduct of its wars are ever investigated, and repeatedly. How is that possible?
Schabis answered that of course there is a double standard. He would love to investigate the US, Russia, and a host of other countries – but those countries are powerful, have many friends and allies, and so such investigations cannot take place. But Israel is a small country with few friends and allies, and no protectors, and so it is an easy target. Knowing this, is it unreasonable to expect a war to be waged for the purpose of victory and not stalemate – knowing that the criticism is inevitable?
It seems the population here is divided between people who have lost hope in the possibility of victory, so accustomed have they become to partial victories that do little more than restore the status quo but slowly erode Israel’s strategic position; people who are afraid of the consequences of victory (some of them still do not want to accept responsibility for the Oslo and Gush Katif disasters that have brought us to the stage where rockets fall near Israel’s capital city); and, now, the far larger number of people who want to see Hamas demolished, devastated, killed or captured and tried. A sign that hangs on many overpasses states that “87% support the destruction of Hamas.” Unfortunately, the Prime Minister seems to be in the other 13%, and is otherwise intimidated a little too much by Barack Obama.
Obama – having pulled the closing of Ben Gurion airport stunt – has now taken to withholding ammunition from Israel in order to force them to bend to his will. That 53% of American Jews – according to the latest poll – still support him is a testament to the utter estrangement of Jews from their faith, nationality and sanity. Few Israelis harbor any illusions about his competence, values, decency or support for Israel. One happens to be Uri Savir, who gushes over Obama at every possible opportunity but he comes to this fawning honestly. All one needs to know about him is that the blurb after his weekly column describes him as “Israel’s lead negotiator for the Oslo Accords,” which is like someone being described as the “lead navigator on the Titanic.” Undoubtedly, Obama’s hostility weighs heavily on Israel’s decision making, but, from this vantage point, too heavily. That his presidency will be recalled for having hastened America’s decline is no reason to allow him to induce a similar debility in Israel.
Ultimately, Israel’s plight is that it has accepted a reactive, responsive approach to its enemies’ hostilities. Its objectives are defensive, and subject to the evil designs of others. Its tactics are defensive – Iron Dome, demolition of tunnels, etc. Hamas, now convinced that Israel has no interest in victory or in destroying the Hamas leadership, has made a rational decision to resume its attacks. There is simply no downside to it. Whatever harm is inflicted on Israelis – and it is limited – is a bonus. Whatever harm is inflicted on Gaza – whether death of Arabs or destruction of infrastructure – is a bonus, as it galvanizes world opinion against Israel and will bring in more money to rebuild. For Hamas, war is a win-win.
Is there a way to halt that dynamic? Yes. The simple announcement that Israel’s objective is the elimination of Hamas – leadership and all – will send them scurrying into their pits, caves and tunnels. It will give Israel every moral right to destroy their headquarters under Shifa Hospital in Gaza (and how many of the tendentious international press has reported that) and to cut off the provision of all supplies for the duration of the hostilities. Turn off the spigot.
When the world cries foul, just say this is a war. And this is how wars end. With surrender. Otherwise it just goes on and on and on. It is just not normal for people to live with the expectation that rockets might fall on them sometime during the day, and it shouldn’t become normal.
There are signs across the country with the obvious message coming from simple people who are smarter than the pointy heads whose calculations lead to paralysis at best, and Oslo and expulsions of Jews at worst. The signs read, in Hebrew, “Let the IDF win.”
That makes sense, because that is what armies are for and that is what this beleaguered nation seeks.