Thursday, February 07, 2008

Israel, Gaza and memory

Robert Baer at Time says the powder is accumulating in Gaza and wants only a fuse to get things going in his article A Coming Hamas-Israel War? When Egypt had Gaza bottled up and before Iran began to exercise a dominant influence within the territory military actions in Gaza tended to be circumscribed. Limited war over a limited area. But now two things have potentially changed that.

First, Gaza is now linked up with Egypt, so troubles in Gaza may trouble Cairo in unforseeable ways. Second, the collapse of the Egyptian border has meant Hamas' arsenal, especially in those weapons capable of reaching into Israel, has reached unprecedented levels. In short it has the potential to become a less-limited war over a less-limited area. Baer explicitly recognizes these factors.

Israel knows too that Hamas would like to drag Egypt into it. And, who knows, it might work. At some level someone in Egypt is complicit in smuggling weapons into Gaza. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition party, still looks at Hamas as its Palestinian branch. Iran and Hizballah have been soliciting Egypt's cooperation in more help for Gaza. Will Egyptian President Mubarak be able to hold the line, keep a lid on Gaza, when Israel itself can't?

If this ominous scenario sounds vaguely familiar, where have we seen it before? Why in Pakistan. The process of abetting terror groups as a kind of outdoor therapy for domestic militants, the practice of letting the local psychos blow off steam against the American and the Jew, just like the policy of swelling the voter rolls with illegal aliens who will support admitting more illegal aliens, behaves like a Ponzi scheme that eventually comes to a crashing smash-up. Sooner or later Frankenstein's monster breaks his chains and then all the bets are off.

You would think that politicians would see horror scenarios coming faster than the feckless characters of B-movies. But that is apparently not the case. They didn't see either of the World Wars coming until it was too late. Politics, like cheap wine, does not improve with age. Baer writes:

Walls aside, what Israel sorely misses is the capacity to strike fear into its neighbors, deterrence. The Winograd Commission spelled it out in bleak terms in its report on Israel's failures during the 34-day war. "Israel cannot survive," the official statement said, unless it is able to deter its enemies — teach Hamas and Hizballah a lesson they won't forget.

Forgetting -- or "moving on" as it is now called -- is the politician's stock-in-trade. If voters remembered everything they would forgive nothing. No. In our mutable world "never again" means "never mind".


Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

Baer's article doesn't provide any new insights just a restating of what's known. Hamas is building an army in Gaza. They have plenty of arms. I've seen estimates of ten to fifteen thousand trained troops, with some of them having trained in Syria and Iran. They have developed a military command and control structure so the troops are divided into brigades.

They aren't going to just sit in guard houses and march in parades.

Netanyahu visited Sderot today and was quoted as saying that what Israel needs is deterrence and not attrition. What he means I guess is that Israel needs to hit Hamas so hard that they won't bother Israel any more. It's easy for him to talk from the opposition but that is the direction that things seem to be going.

Barak and Olmert seem to be using a plan of gradual increase in pressure on Hamas. We should expect to see more destruction of Hamas structures and other symbols of Pal govt in Gaza as a next step. Then attempts to kill Hamas leaders. Then finally the invasion.

Israel and Hizballah danced this same minuet on the Leb-Israel border for some years before Israel had had enough. There was a lot of talk of "rules of the game." Both sides tried to deter the other side by periodic attacks and retribution. But it was only a hot war that separated the two sides, although one can't say that the story is over.

Israel can't allow itself to be deterred by a terrorist group like Hamas and for its reasons Hamas appears to think that it has to continually provoke Israel. I can only see an Israeli invasion as the end point.

2/07/2008 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

"I can only see an Israeli invasion as the end point."

The M109 no longer functional in 2008?

2/07/2008 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...


You want Israel to play by Hama rules? It won't happen.

There are lots of ways that a ground invasion of Gaza can happen and certainly softening up the terrorists from the air and with artillery are part of it.

Hamas has shown that they won't simply sit still and may act in surprising ways. Some more surprises may yet come from them. I hope that Barak has some surprises for them also.

2/07/2008 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

The political capital for politicians in Israel to play by any other rules is longer there. Israelis have had it with this nonsense. The US better recognize that, if it wants to keep Israel as a friend.

2/07/2008 06:26:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I keep thinking to myself, that given Hamas' absolute delight in blowing up or shooting at ANYthing, can an attack on an Egyptian target be too far off?

AS we have seen in Iraq, when American targets became too hard to get to (AND they had a dismaying tendency to shoot back, too), then the terrorists went for Iraqi targets, both civilians and police.

I'm thinking that since Israel has always been a difficult target to get at (AND they shoot back, too), Hamas may come up with some reason to start blowing up Egyptian pizza parlors and cops because they'll be so much easier to get at.

There have already been a couple of terrorist attacks on Egyptian resort targets. Now that Hamas is more or less free, how long will it take them to try *their* hand at blowing up Jews/Americans/Aussies in fancy Egyptian resorts.

2/07/2008 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

Mubarak will have to work with Israel to suppress Hamas or risk letting the Ikwan depose him and junior.

It shouldn't be hard. Egyptian agents put Hamas guys in cars with attached beacons, then the IAF bombs them.

As long as Mubarak is discreet, it ought to work. And he can blame Israel for the damage.

2/07/2008 07:57:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

The political capital for politicians in Israel to play by any other rules is [no] longer there.

I don't believe that. If so, when will the bombing begin?

Israelis have had it with this nonsense.

That I believe.

The US better recognize that, if it wants to keep Israel as a friend.

Based on the way the Bush administration acted during the Leb war I would expect that the Bush administration wouldn't really mind a serious attack on Hamas, given that not too many civilians are killed. Of course Dr. Rice might have a problem.

If you look at the early days of the Leb war and assume that an attack on Gaza might be similar some questions arise. Israel started with aerial attacks and dropped leaflets telling civilians to leave the area. In fact during the war it was reported that about 1 million Leb civilians moved north out of harm's way. Would Israel do the same in Gaza?

It's expected that Hamas will retreat into Gaza city, where there are many civilians, where they know the terrain well and have prepared mines and other traps for the IDF. If Israel could force or persuade the Gaza civilians to leave then they could attack the remaining terrorists from the air and destroy the buildings around them. Where would the civilians go? Would the terrorists flee with them?

Obviously the only place for the civilians to retreat to is Sinai, and anywhere else in Egypt. Up until a few weeks ago that option seemed unavailable. Now it seems available. I think some of the terrorists would retreat, probably all the political leaders would do so. But I think many of the terrorists would remain, and die, like in Falluja 2.

What would happen after? Would Israel allow the Gazans to return? What would Egypt do? What would the US do? What would the security council do? I don't know the answers to these questions but I think that those answers wouldn't bode well for the Palestinians and for their idea of a state.

Will things play out this way? Would Olmert do this? Has Barak thought of this? Would it happen on purpose or would it just be an unexpected result of a war in Gaza?

2/07/2008 08:02:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Suppose Israel just nuked Gaza and killed most of the people there?

Yes the usual condemnations which happen when they shoot a Hamas leader. What else is new?

Deterrence. People are afraid. They have nukes, they'll "rock and roll at the drop of a hat" to quote Pacino in "Heat." Suddenly Egypt is deterred again. Same perhaps for Hezbollah and even Iran.

Making an example of someone even if it means killing a lot/most of people has it's uses and can save lives. It's ugly and bloody but all attempts to reform war as Sherman put it usually make things far worse.

2/07/2008 08:17:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...


Political capital for Israeli politicians is derived from the Israeli public. And more and more of the Israeli public is now of the opinion that Gaza is to look like Quneitra.

2/07/2008 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...


Quneitra was taken in a war. My description upthread certainly leads to Gaza becoming Quneitra as a likely outcome. But the Gazans won't be buried under the rubble as in Hama. They'll go to Cairo first.

2/07/2008 09:48:00 PM  
Blogger davod said...

"Based on the way the Bush administration acted during the Leb war I would expect that the Bush administration wouldn't really mind a serious attack on Hamas, given that not too many civilians are killed. Of course Dr. Rice might have a problem"

Baker Hamiltonians rule the US policy. No support will be forthcoming from the US.

And the US wonders why Isreal bul up its own defence industry.

2/08/2008 03:39:00 AM  

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