Be warned: I have no answers. I do have questions, and I do have thoughts. Consider this a stream of consciousness post, with a dash of analysis.
First off, the mission in Gaza that went wrong. Was it a mission of the highest priority that absolutely had to be carried out, regardless of the risk to the potential truce? Or was it less than that, but the army went for it, anyway? My gut tells me it’s the latter, but Bibi and co say it’s the former. I am skeptical. However, there might be a third possibility. It has been suggested to me that Israel regularly penetrates into Gaza, entirely unknown to Hamas. So successful have these penetrations been that they are not seen as risky, but routine. Then Murphy’s Law (or Moshe’s Law?) struck this one time, and all hell broke loose. For sure, I don’t think anyone in the IDF wanted to put a potential truce at risk, but they did.
Second, was Bibi right to call off the IDF and go for the truce? If you are a resident of the south, you will not be happy. (And on your behalf, neither am I.) But Bibi is saying that we – the public – don’t know everything, and we must trust him as being the only one who knows all the facts and knows what he is doing. (As an aside, is it credible that Liberman has been completely out of the loop?) Given the security establishment backed the truce, Bibi can claim he is right, and no other standard matters. However, here’s the thing. As others have pointed out, Hamas has the capacity to cause great damage. In addition, the trouble at the Gaza border, and the fire balloons and kites still continue. How does waiting make the position any safer for Israelis? Is there really a development in the background that will change the balance of terror? After all, everyone surely understands that sooner or later Hamas is going to have to be faced up to. Yes, that means dead Israelis. Yes, there will be a price. No, I am not happy about it, and wish it could be avoided. But, the alternative of being held to ransom every so often by Hamas and their rockets, does not strike me as a sensible long term strategy.
In passing, it’s ironic that the world’s hate figure, and alleged warmonger is the leader who is holding back on military action, and striving for some sort of peaceful solution, or at least a period of peace.
Third, was Liberman right to go? Probably, if only because he had backed himself into a corner with all the threats and bombastic statements. If he had kept quiet, he could have stayed and benefited from whatever Bibi is planning. I think Liberman may have shot himself in the foot.
Mind you, Liberman’s injury is not so bad as Bennett’s. The Bayit Yehudi boss assessed the situation wrongly. Apart from anything else, if Liberman does not know what is going on in the background that might be working to improve the situation, how can Bennett? In other words, he does not have the full facts. So, putting a metaphorical gun to Bibi’s head was naked political ambition, and not great statesmanship.
To be clear, it is possible that Bibi’s claim of a fragile security situation that must be left for him to get through, could be smoke and mirrors. But, even if it is, on balance I believe the right course is to favor country over ambition, and be patient. I remain, however, very concerned about the citizens in the south. When they say they are being discriminated against, they are right. If one missile landed on Tel Aviv, there would be no quiet. Gaza would have been hammered. But it wasn’t, and that suggests that Hamas know what they are doing. Therefore, now is not the time to bring the government down. I’m glad we are not going to elections, apparently, quite yet.
As hinted at in the last paragraph, there is some logic to Hamas’ position. They have shown what might hit Tel Aviv in the future. That focuses the mind. And, although Hamas’ internal position is still under pressure from even more extreme actors, there is one overarching consideration for Bibi and the IDF. Assume that military action is taken, there are terrible casualties, but Hamas are defeated. What next? A vacuum could bring about a worse situation, albeit in the medium to long term. In general, it’s said that you make peace with your enemies. But I don’t see how Israel can negotiate with Hamas given the 100% opposing goals: they want to eliminate Israel, and we want to survive!
It’s also worth mentioning that despite the threat of Hamas (and Hezbollah, let’s not forget) the atmosphere around everywhere here is business as usual. If there is panic, I haven’t seen it. Optimism over experience, belief in a higher savior, or something else?
Perhaps there’s a strand of confidence by the fact that Hezbollah seems cowed. For all their bombast, there are two indisputable facts that strongly suggest Israel’s belief that Hezbollah does not want any actual conflict is correct. First, Nasrallah is still in his bunker. Second, it’s been all quiet on the northern front. Not one rocket.
Another point that puzzles me is the disconnect between the number of IDF attacks in Gaza and the lack of any meaningful degradation to their combat power. The IDF keeps destroying facilities – we are told – but the rocket threat remains intact. Something wrong there. Are the IDF targets worthless except to maintain public confidence? Or, does the IDF know more – such as the location of many missile launch sites – but won’t act until the call goes out for a full scale offensive?
The bottom line remains that for any effective military action Israel might take in Gaza, there are likely to be horrendous civilian casualties. Hamas does not care. The world does not care that Israel would be well within its rights to inflict those casualties. So, unless there’s a brilliant stroke to be delivered by the IDF, Israel is likely to face the condemnation of the world for doing the right thing. It’s positively Orwellian. But if it secures peace around Gaza, it will be worth it.
Finally, you will notice I have not mentioned the peace process. It’s dead. There might be peace ahead, but the Palestinian Civil War – Hamas v Fatah – seems to ensure there is no prospect of any peace process. It doesn’t mean that peace is impossible. It could happen despite the bad faith of Hamas and Fatah. Away from the headlines, social and economic improvements are creating a Palestinian middle class that wants peace, and does not want to sacrifice its children for a homicidal, suicidal, hate campaign that has nothing to do with building a state.
One consequence of the current position is that the peace that might arrive is unlikely to include a Palestinian state. Good. Who needs another failing state in the Middle East to join the other basket cases we have for neighbors?