January 6, 2009


The War in Gaza: Can Israel Have Military Success? (Hampton Stephens, 02 Jan 2009, World Politics Review)

[I]n contrast to the 2006 Hezbollah war, Israel seems to have, at least initially, set rather modest military objectives. At the outset of the Hezbollah war, Israel announced that it wanted to achieve the return of Israeli soldiers held by Hezbollah, cripple the group militarily, and prevent Hezbollah from rebuilding its military capacity in Southern Lebanon. By confounding those very high expectations that Israel created, Hezbollah was able to claim victory, cement the perception of that victory among its constituents in Lebanon as well as internationally and gain politically as a result.

Having apparently learned those lessons from the Hezbollah war, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other Israeli officials have been much more circumspect in their declarations about Israel's intentions this time around. Far from seeking any kind of definitive victory over Hamas, their announced intention is merely to degrade Hamas' ability to terrorize southern Israel with rocket attacks.

...the aim is so minimal it's ludicrous. Didn't they learn anything from W? He let Colin Powell and Tony Blair pretend Saddam was a threat so he could go in and change the regime. The Israelis are pretending to change the regime while attacking an already derisory rocket threat.

Gaza: outlines of an endgame: An outcome to the bitter contest over Gaza in which both sides claim a sort of victory is already becoming visible (Ghassan Khatib, 6 - 01 - 2009, Open Democracy)

The irony is that the objectives of the two sides are not mutually exclusive.

Hamas's strategic objective with this war seems to be to assert itself as the main counterpart to Israel in Palestine, the party that decides on war or peace with Israel. This, after all, is the first war between Israel and the Palestinians that is not fought and led by Yasser Arafat and Fatah.

Hamas spokesman Mohammad Nazzal, commenting on the recent diplomatic efforts to end the war, reminded everybody that no matter who is trying to do what, it has to be understood that the "final word will be for the resistance movement" and not the "so-called legitimate leadership" in Ramallah.

The war on Hamas, which is a part of the regional political Islamic movement, is also allowing the different political Islamic groups in Arab countries to cultivate the unprecedented public Arab sympathy for Hamas. There is no doubt that the war is creating a situation less favourable to the so-called moderate camp. An early sign of this pressure is the statement by the Jordanian prime minister, Nader al-Dahabi, that Jordan might reconsider its relationship with Israel.

The attempt to gain some wider political capital was also illustrated by Hamas leader Osama Hamdan, who in an address to a rally in Syria declared that this war was waged not against Hamas or Gaza, but rather on the Islamic umma (nation).

The losers and the guilty

Israel's tactical objective with its offensive is not completely contradictory. Israel wants to end Hamas' capacity to launch rockets at Israel or at least put enough military pressure on the movement that it will stop. In addition, Israel wants to end the smuggling through the tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border. But Israel understands that it cannot at one and the same time expect the tunnel smuggling to end and maintain its siege on the beleaguered strip, something that would cause a humanitarian crisis unacceptable to the international community.

Hence, for Israel to succeed in its aims it also needs to end the siege of Gaza in some way, whether through the Israel-Gaza crossings, the Gaza-Egypt crossing or both. In other words, Israel can succeed only if the key Hamas demand for a ceasefire, an end to the siege, is also met. Israel would prefer any end to the siege to be conducted through the Rafah crossing, thus fulfilling another strategic aim: that of making Gaza Egypt's responsibility.

Of course, once the blockade ends it isn't smuggling; it's shipping.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 6, 2009 8:16 PM
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