Posted by Joshua on Sunday, January 18th, 2009
With both Israel and Hamas having agreed to ceasefires, the analysis has begun.
No one can doubt that Israel won. It killed more people, wounded many more, and destroyed more than did the Palestinians. Also, only a few of the poorer and more inconsequential countries in the world got worked up about the lopsided killing. Only 10 Israelis lost their lives in the operation and about half were killed by friendly fire. Israel will be able to celebrate a handy win no matter how one counts it.
All the same, one wonders where the victory leads. A few post ago, I conjectured that Israel’s long term plan must be to drive the unwanted population centers and surrounding territory of Palestine into the hands of Egypt and Jordan. It is hard to imagine a two-state solution anymore.
John Mearsheimer in an article entitled, “Another War, Another Defeat” published in theAmerican Conservative argues that Israel believes it can retain control over the territories indefinitely. He believes the Gaza campaign is a foretaste of what will become an on-going Israeli police operation to pacify Palestinians and try to break their will – “so they come to accept the fact that they are a defeated people.” He writes that the stated goals of the Gaza operation — to stop the rockets and restore Israel’s deterrence posture – are not the real objectives. He writes:
The actual purpose is connected to Israel’s long-term vision of how it intends to live with millions of Palestinians in its midst. It is part of a broader strategic goal: the creation of a “Greater Israel.” Specifically, Israel’s leaders remain determined to control all of what used to be known as Mandate Palestine, which includes Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians would have limited autonomy in a handful of disconnected and economically crippled enclaves, one of which is Gaza. Israel would control the borders around them, movement between them, the air above and the water below them.
The key to achieving this is to inflict massive pain on the Palestinians so that they come to accept the fact that they are a defeated people and that Israel will be largely responsible for controlling their future. This strategy, which was first articulated by Ze’ev Jabotinsky in the 1920s and has heavily influenced Israeli policy since 1948, is commonly referred to as the “Iron Wall.”
What has been happening in Gaza is fully consistent with this strategy.
If Jordan and Egypt can resist the logic of absorbing the Palestinian populations of Gaza and the West Bank, which it seems they can do, then Mearsheimer will be correct. Israel will have to teach every new generation of Palestinians to be supine. This is a difficult undertaking, but perhaps not impossible. many will point to the success the US has had in defeating its autochthonous peoples, but, of course the US was willing to absorb native Americans and permit them equal rights. Israel cannot do this, which makes it hard to see a final solution.
There are many other interesting articles in the same issue: By Avi Shlaim, How Gaza became a Palestinian prison. Operation Cast Ballot, By Tom Streithorst, Kadima seeks votes through violence. Picking Up the Peace, By Daniel Levy, What happens after the ceasefire? Unanimous Consent, By Glenn Greenwald,
See http://incoherenci.blogspot.com/ for a good overview of different analysis of Gaza.
Also read Mark Perry, “Questions for Barack Obama,” at Bitter Lemons. Mark is always smart.
Speaking in an interview with The Washington Post, Obama on Saturday sought to manage expectations of what his administration may initially be able to do in the Middle East. “Most people have a pretty good sense about what the outlines of a compromise would be, Obama said, noting that the problem is political weakness on both sides. Obama said he aimed “to provide a space where trust can be built” and pointed to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s suggestion “to build some concrete deliverables that people can see,” such as greater security for Israelis and economic benefits for Palestinians.”
Syria’s Assad ready to cooperate with Obama
Sat Jan 17, 2009
BERLIN (Reuters) – Syria is ready to cooperate with U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and wants him to get seriously involved in the Middle East peace process, President Bashar al-Assad told a German magazine.
In an interview with Der Spiegel released on Saturday, Assad also expressed some caution about future relations and said he preferred to talk about hopes rather than expectations.
Ties between the West and Syria have been strained by U.S. accusations that Syria turned a blind eye to Islamist fighters infiltrating Iraq and in 2004 Washington imposed sanctions on Syria for backing anti-American groups in the region.
Syria has, however, regained a degree of approval in Europe after supporting a peace pact for Lebanon and forging diplomatic ties with its neighbor after years of dominating it.
Asked if he expected cooperation to be easier with Obama, Assad said:
“I would talk more about hope than expectation. The Bush government has bestowed two wars on us. The world situation has deteriorated in the last eight years in every way, everything has got worse, including economic developments.”
“The new U.S. government must get seriously involved in the peace process. We must help, together with the Europeans.”
Responding to a comment from Der Spiegel that Obama might ask Syria to stop Iran building a nuclear bomb, Assad said:
“We would like to contribute to the stabilization of the region. But we must be included, not isolated, as we have been until now. We are ready for any kind of cooperation.”
He added, however, that Syria would put its own interests first. “Good relations with Washington should not mean bad relations with Tehran,” he said.
Assad also said in the interview, which was conducted on Thursday, that he had been active in making suggestions to help end the conflict in Gaza.
Arab and Muslim states on Friday called on Arab countries to review their ties with Israel over its offensivein Gaza which has killed more than 1,200 Palestinians and to suspend an Arab peace initiative.
Assad also said many European officials had tried to communicate with Hamas. “The Europeans have learned. That is why they are talking to the Hamas leadership here in Damascus — of course not publicly. I won’t name names. But some are people who denounce Hamas,” said Assad.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers)
Syria Makes Its Mark on Regional Politics
Analysis by Helena Cobban*
DAMASCUS, Jan 16 (IPS) – The main artery of Damascus’s famous covered souk (market) sports a giant red banner expressing — in Arabic and English — the disgust and anguish of a nearby private business for the Israeli military’s attacks on Gaza.
In restaurants and other businesses, large-screen televisions that usually play sports are instead tuned to Al-Jazeera’s 24-hour coverage from Gaza. Syrians of all social groups voice sadness — and considerable anger — about Israel’s war on Gaza and the George W. Bush administration’s refusal to press for a speedy ceasefire.
But even amid these emotions, Syrians close to and outside the government expressed some confidence that their country might soon be able to realise two long-held national goals: The resumption of a serious, comprehensive peace process in which all the remaining tracks of the Arab-Israeli conflict — including their own — could finally be resolved, and their escape from the encirclement and multi-faceted pressure that Washington has subjected them to for many years.
On Jan. 14, President Bashar al-Assad told the BBC that he hoped for greatly improved relations with Washington following the inauguration of Barack Obama as president on Jan. 20. He urged the president-elect to work for the speedy resumption of Arab-Israeli peace negotiations.
On that very same day, Obama told CBS News said that he is going to work toward a comprehensive peace in the Middle East “on day one” of his presidency, and that this would include Iran and Syria. “We’re going to have to take a regional approach,” he said. “We’re going to have to involve Syria in discussions. We’re going to have to engage Iran.”…….
…The pro-Israel lobby in Washington and its many powerful allies in the U.S. Congress and the executive branch were at the forefront of the anti-Syria campaign. Syria has been subject since 1979 to stiff economic sanctions because of its place on the State Department’s — highly politicised — list of “state sponsors of terrorism”……
…Though President Assad does face some criticisms from his country’s citizens, on the core issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict and social equity he represents their views much more accurately than do the leaders of U.S.-backed Arab countries like Egypt or Jordan.
Many Syrians have also said in recent years that the mayhem and mass killings that flowed from the U.S. invasion of neighbouring Iraq made them appreciate the social and political stability of their own country much more than they had before. (Syria has been a generous host to some 700,000 refugees from post-2003 Iraq.)…
….So now — as the tragic events in Gaza drag on and the Bush administration enters its last hours — many influential Syrians are starting to feel cautiously optimistic. “There is a feeling that we backed the right horses in international politics,” one political scientist here said. “In 2005, a ’six-month scenario’ for the Assad government was openly talked of in the west. But now, there’s a good feeling here that we’ve overcome that… Those who bet against Syria did not win.”
He and a number of his colleagues in the political elite here pointed out that Syria, which has good relations with a broad range of actors in the Palestinian, Iraqi and Lebanese political scenes, could contribute a lot to any international push to build a stable peace in the region.
“But don’t ask us to break our relations with Hamas, Hizbullah or Iran,” one think-tank head warned. “Those relations are strategic ones for us. And anyway, we can use them to help broaden the base for peace throughout the region.”
If Barack Obama, once inaugurated, does push for a speedy and serious resumption of Middle East peacemaking, he will likely find a willing partner in Damascus.
*Helena Cobban is a veteran Middle East analyst and author. She blogs at http://www.JustWorldNews.org
“…If it is launched as a deliberate incendiary weapon aimed at burning civilians and homes, a war crimes case can be made on the basis that its use violates Protocol 111 of the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons.
Despite growing evidence, first revealed by The Times , that white phosphorus was being used by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) during attacks on Gaza, Israel’s military has denied firing shells with the chemical as a payload. Spokesmen for the IDF haverepeatedly stated that Israel has used only weapons that meet international rules on warfare, and that it has not resorted to any system that other countries, including Nato members, have not deployed in past battles. The evidence that white phosphorus shells have been fired into a densely packed urban is so compelling that the denials have increasingly lacked credibility…”
“However, President-elect Obama’steam can already garner important lessons from France’s always energetic, often impulsive and at times contradictory approach:
* To begin, in the wake of a long hiatus in bilateral relations – a feature of President Chirac’sand President Bush’s tenures – both sides likely will require a significant period of mutual observation and trust-building. Quick results, in other words, ought not to be anticipated. Next, any successful relationship must be based on clear and steady objectives rather than an endless list of demands.
* Patience during negotiations is as important as swiftness when opportunity strikes. Haste, when Sarkozy displayed overenthusiasm, at best was futile, at worst encouraged Damascus to harden its position and play for time. But by immediately welcoming and rewarding Syria’s first positive gestures, France bolstered its credibility while nudging Damascus to move. There should be no hesitation to halt dialogue if events warrant, while maintaining informalcommunication to allow quick reaction at the appropriate moment. For Washington’s new team, this entails immediately acknowledging and reciprocating positivesteps and penalising negative ones.
*Finally, there are lessons for those in the U.S. who bank on a Syrian-Iranian split. This will not occur, at least under current circumstances. However, the willingness to normalise relations with France suggests the regime wishes to diversify its strategic alliances. Washington should promote such a trend, which inevitably would dilute Iran’s importance in Syria’s eyes and facilitate a gradual reconfiguration of its regional alliances…”
Sunday morning, ICRC teams and ambulances of the Palestine Red Crescent Society rushed to areas that had previously been difficult or even impossible to get to because of the fighting.
By midday, approximately 100 badly decayed bodies had been retrieved from under the rubble.
Sadly, no survivors were found, raising fears that the actual death toll could climb in coming days.
Many people who had fled went to extract their own dead loved ones from what had once been their home.
Some were transporting bodies by whatever means they could find for immediate burial in the cemeteries.
“We saw the bodies of two old women being taken away by family members on a donkey cart.
Both had head wounds,” said Iyad Nasr, the ICRC’s spokesman in Gaza.
“It is almost impossible to describe the grief and devastation in that particular place.” A number of areas, including parts of Beit Lahiya, looked like the aftermath of a strong earthquake – entire neighbourhoods were beyond recognition.
Some houses had been completely levelled; others were still standing but were so badly damaged by shelling that it would be too dangerous to move back in.
Roads were completely destroyed, making it almost impossible for vehicles to move through them.
Friends and neighbours who had not seen one another for weeks hugged as they returned to their homes.
Others sifted through the rubble, looking for pieces of furniture or kitchen utensils that could still be used.
As the fighting largely came to a halt and civilians no longer had to concentrate on simple survival, they now tried to come to terms with their loss.
“An old man approached me as I was assessing destruction in a neighbourhood,” said Nasr.
“He told me that everything he had worked for all his life, everything he had achieved, had been destroyed: his house, his orchards of olive, citrus and palm trees.
Then he wept….
Israel’s Barak gains in polls, Netanyahu stays ahead
18 Jan 2009, Reuters
(Adds fresh poll data, edits) By Ari Rabinovitch JERUSALEM, Jan 18 (Reuters) – Just before Israel launched its surprise offensive in the Gaza Strip, Defence Minister Ehud Barak appeared on a top- …
Hamas’s Gaza leader declares “victory” over Israel
18 Jan 2009, Reuters
GAZA, Jan 18 (Reuters) – A Hamas leader said on Sunday Israel’s three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip was a failure and had not cowed the Palestinians. “The enemy has failed to achieve its …