Can Israel “Win” This War? Ctd

Keating now believes that Israel declaring victory and withdrawing from Gaza unilaterally is more likely than a negotiated ceasefire:

Some members of the Israeli security Cabinet may support a long-term reoccupation of Gaza, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu probably isn’t one of them. There’s little public pressure in Israel to end the operation or accept an internationally proposed cease-fire, but it’s conceivable that things might be different if Netanyahu simply declared that Israel’s vaguely defined military goals had been accomplished and unilaterally pulled back Israeli troops. …

This scenario, of course, wouldn’t address the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza or prevent violence from flaring up again in the future. And it certainly feels like a long shot at the moment. But compared with the alternative—the U.S., Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, the Palestinian Authority, and whoever else finally getting on the same page to establish a framework under which Israel and Hamas would agree to terms they’ve thus far found utterly unacceptable—it feels at the moment like the more likely way for this to finally end.

Although Netanyahu has claimed that the objective of the war is to neutralize Hamas once and for all, and some members of his government want him to go even further, the prospect of what happens if the Hamas government in Gaza is toppled leaves Israel in a bind:

Israel’s ideal outcome would be for Hamas to capitulate to Israel’s demands to disarm and reform into a defanged version of its current self—a troublesome but manageable part of a larger Palestinian political infrastructure. But if Hamas won’t bend, it might break, and that would be the worst possible outcome for Israel, said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator now with the Wilson Center.

“Reform or regime change, that’s the central question,” he added. “An unanchored, unmoored, lawless Gaza in the hands of something like ISIS or Islamic Jihad, this proposition would be fundamentally worse than the one we inhabit and inherit now.” The problem with Netanyahu’s strategy, according to Miller, is that Netanyahu may never be able to achieve the ending to the war he’s looking for. He’s unlikely to get a capitulation by Hamas and he can’t afford to destroy its leadership. He also can’t accept a tie, as the 2012 ceasefire was widely viewed in Israel.

Whatever outcome Netanyahu chooses – and it is, in the final analysis, up to him –  Noah Millman is convinced that it won’t serve anyone’s interests in the long term:

Israel’s stated goals for this operation are partly military and partly political. The military goal is to destroy, or at least dramatically degrade, Hamas’s war fighting capabilities – destroy tunnels, rocket-launchers, kill or capture operatives, etc. The political goal is to get the people of Gaza to blame Hamas for the destruction wrought by the war, and turn against the organization and a strategy of armed confrontation with Israel. Leaving aside whether the political goal is likely to be achieved – I think the opposite effect is more likely – it should be clear, from the overwhelming preponderance of the decisions of the current Israeli government, just how limited its political horizon is. Israel does not have a strategy for settling the conflict. It has a strategy, good or bad, for managing the conflict within its current contours. Israel is fighting to preserve the status quo.

That’s the larger context within which the war is being fought. And that context has moral implications for how the war may be fought, inasmuch as we should not desire the status quo ante to be preserved, but the status quo amounts to imposed rule not merely without the consent of the ruled, but over the emphatic, furious, unequivocal refusal of that consent.

Previous Dish on what “victory” in Gaza would mean here and here.