Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Summing up Gaza

Last Weds night PM Netanyahu gave a press conference, flanked by his senior advisors, Defense Minister Moshe "Boogie" Ya'alon and CiC IDF Gen. Benny Gantz.  Given the degree of focus on the Gaza war that there has been in the international media one would think they would be interested in this important summing up by the Israeli leader.  But, it was not shown and hardly mentioned in the media.  If a Palestinian child is not bleeding, forget it!
Of course, Bibi summarized the reasons why Israel has so far won the conflict (see my blog on 28 Aug).  Even though Israelis have ample reasons to be satisfied by the outcome of the fighting so far, nevertheless Bibi's approval rating has been in serious decline during the conflict.  As the rain of missiles into southern Israel continued, his popularity that was nearly 90% at the start of Operation Defensive Edge, dipped now to only 30%.  The reasons for this are interesting, mainly the people in the south expected that the missiles would be stopped, so that they could return to normal life, and they haven't been.  Also the attack tunnels that were discovered and destroyed gave them pause, since it was apparently not known by Israeli intelligence that they were there, opening inside Israel just a few km from Israeli communities.  Even kibbutizim that are generally left-wing, were shocked by this development.  They realize that even if they are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause (they all support giving the Palestinians a State) they would be summarily murdered by Palestinian terrorists (thus illustrating the line that "a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged"). Therefore, they all became hardline, basically what they are saying to Bibi is, take the opportunity and destroy Hamas.  But to do this would jeopardize several political advantages.
Most notably during this conflict, while many western liberals supported the Palestinians, that they wrongly equate with Hamas, the Arab League and most of the Arab countries have been strangely quiet.  Only on one occasion did the Saudi FM criticize Israel, in a mild and almost off-hand way.  In other words, the Arabs countries as a whole for the first time failed to support the Palestinian side, because they recognize Hamas for what it is, a radical Islamist organization, committed to their destruction as well as that of Israel.   This is a case of the western liberals being holier than the Pope (or the Imam).  But, if Israel carried out a ground invasion into Gaza City, with many more civilian casualties, then the Arab States might feel the need to show greater support for the Palestinian side.  The only Arab country that actually supported Hamas during this conflict was Qatar, and also the non-Arab countries Turkey and Iran (note that Turkey's threat to send another flotilla to Gaza during the hostilities was quickly dropped).  This new alignment of moderate Sunni Arab States, that oppose radical Islamic terrorism, as in the IS, bodes well for a future potential rapprochement between them and Israel.
Although there was as usual much talk about a UN Security Council resolution to bring a ceasefire, they never managed to do this, and so it was Egypt that led the way to bring a ceasefire.  And this was advantageous to Israel, since the Egyptians do not favor Hamas, on the contrary, the Egyptians insisted on a ceasefire without conditions.
Perhaps the most notable outcome of the conflict then is domestic, with the right wing, notably FM Lieberman and Bayit Yehudi Chairman Bennett as well as Danny Danon within the Likud Party, attacking Bibi for being too cautious, for not finishing the job, for not destroying Hamas.  Operation Defensive Edge is not over yet, but when it is, if Hamas is not demilitarized and is still in control of Gaza, then Bibi can expect a concerted political attack from the right.


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