Mairav Zonszein, who opposes the IDF operation in Gaza, wonders if the rocket-bursting of Tel Aviv's bubble is necessary for Israel, since "maybe this means the status quo will break, because it must break":
Of course [the situation in Tel Aviv is] nothing like what Israelis are going through in the south, or remotely even close to what Gazans are going through. It’s all relative and hierarchic, and middle-high class Tel Avivians like me are near the very top of the food chart, with those in Gaza currently at the very bottom. So there’s no comparison.
But that doesn’t make the sirens followed by booms any less scary and awful. Regardless, Tel Aviv is geographically now a part of one of the local wars Israel periodically wages with one of its bordering neighbors. It is no longer immune. And as crappy as that is, maybe it’s exactly what needs to happen – that Tel Aviv now needs to also be part of this cycle of violence – that the daily routines and the bars and the nightlife and the hi-techs cannot function normally. They tell you to continue with your daily routine, but who the hell really can? And who the hell really should?
Allison Kaplan Sommer reflects on life in the new bubble: the suburbs north of Tel Aviv that remain out of the range of Gazan rockets:
The most promising way to force Hamas to become more moderate is to force it to be more responsive to its own public. (As a leading Muslim Brotherhood parliamentarian in neighboring Egypt told me when I asked him whether Hamas would ever accept a two-state solution: "They will have to. Their people will make them.") And the most promising way to ensure such responsiveness is to speed up the reconciliation between the governments in the West Bank and Gaza, so that those governments can agree to hold elections rather than jealously hold on to their own fiefdoms in a fit of paranoia. But that, in turn, will require that Israel and the international community show a greater willingness to countenance Palestinian reconciliation.
Well that puts a quick end to that idea. Matt Duss fears that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "may prove to be the most significant casualty of this episode":
He was the biggest political loser of the last Gaza war, where the perception was that he supported the attack against his rivals. Abbas’s failure to achieve any tangible goods for the Palestinians, either through now-dead negotiations with Israel or through his half-hearted efforts to upgrade Palestine’s status at the U.N., make him more irrelevant by the day. It seems likely that this latest round of war will end with Israel’s most implacable enemy still in place, and its more moderate peace-partner even more weakened.
And Yossi Klein Halevi finds that Israelis are pessimistic about the peace process:
You want to hear about what it’s like here? It’s fucking sad. Everyone I know is sad. My kids don’t care who started it and the little boys in Issawiya, the Arab village I see out my window, don’t care much either. I haven’t met a single Israeli who is happy about this. They know this fixes nothing. The one thing we learned this week is how quickly humans can come to normalize anything. But the hopelessness seeps right into your bones as well.
The forum of 9 ministers will convene in Tel-Aviv 21:00 to discuss the Egyptian mediation for a cease fire in Gaza Obama called Morsi & Netanyahu today. Discussed how to de-escalate situation in #Gaza…underscored necessity for Hamas to end rocket fire Don’t want to jinx, but haven’t heard a strike in #Gaza City since 5pm near Shifa Hospital. The drones are around, but not much else. Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston is reporting that the death toll in #Gaza is now up 105; 750 people injured
Walter Russell Mead claims that Americans support Israel's use of overwhelming force, even if it means more victims like those above:
Certainly if some kind of terrorist organization were to set up missile factories across the frontier in Canada and Mexico and start attacking targets in the United States, the American people would demand that their President use all necessary force without stint or limit until the resistance had been completely, utterly and pitilessly crushed. Those Americans who share this view of war might feel sorrow at the loss of innocent life, of the children and non-combatants killed when overwhelming American power was used to take the terrorists out, but they would feel no moral guilt. The guilt would be on the shoulders of those who started the whole thing by launching the missiles.
But what if the US had previously invaded and occupied part of Mexico, was populating that area with Americans, building American free-ways to build new cities, and slowly asphyxiating the native Mexican population with barbed wire, road-checks, and economic isolation? Wouldn't some of us support undoing the annexation and settlements rather than bombing the crap out of Mexico City in an unrelenting escalation? But Mead has no truck for the tradition of just warfare when it comes to Israel:
[T]he kind of tit-for-tat limited warfare that the doctrine of proportionality would require is a recipe for unending war: for decades of random air strikes, bombs and other raids. An endless war of limited intensity is worse, many Americans instinctively feel, than a time-limited war of unlimited ferocity. A crushing blow that brings an end to the war—like General Sherman’s march of destruction through the Confederacy in 1864-65—is ultimately kinder even to the vanquished than an endless state of desultory war.
So now we're talking Sherman! How many dead Arabs will satisfy Mead? Does he really want Israel to do to Gaza and the West Bank what Russia did to Chechnya? And what does "unlimited ferocity" mean? Nuking them? Or just mass death arriving from the skies? Would that really be "kinder"?
Yes, he used that word: kinder. To mean a Shermanesque march with not a smidgen of "moral guilt". We have gone through the moral looking glass. Tribalism will make you do that, if you are not careful.
(Photo: The bodies of a children from the al-Dallu family lay draped in Palestinian and Hamas (2R) flags during the funeral of several members from the al-Dallu family in Gaza City on November 19, 2012. An Israeli missile struck a three-story building in Gaza City on November 18, killing several members of the al-Dallu family – five of them children – and two of their neighbours, medics said. Full story here. By Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)
One of the most widely distributed photographs from the past week's Israeli/Palestinian violence has itself become a conflict. The dead child in this photograph, an image I referred to last week, was originally reported as having been killed in an Israeli airstrike. Not so fast:
The highly publicised death of four-year-old Mohammed Sadallah appear[s] to have been the result of a misfiring home-made rocket, not a bomb dropped by Israel. The child’s death on Friday figured prominently in media coverage after Hisham Kandil, the Egyptian prime minister, was filmed lifting his dead body out of an ambulance. "The boy, the martyr, whose blood is still on my hands and clothes, is something that we cannot keep silent about," he said, before promising to defend the Palestinian people. But experts from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights who visited the site on Saturday said they believed that the explosion was caused by a Palestinian rocket.
The mere fact that we’re [questioning the validity or spin of these photographs] shows the degree to which images of human suffering in Israel-Palestinian violence are treated as necessarily, even primarily, political; as pieces of evidence to bring before the court of global public opinion. The photos are evaluated on their political strengths and weaknesses: Is the Egyptian prime minister leaning unnaturally into the frame? Do we know for sure that the 11-month-old son of a journalist was killed [link] by an Israeli munition? Was Netanyahu’s tweet [link] too strong?
I have kept my distance from commenting on the latest spiral in this miserable conflict for the past few days. Why? Because the passion on both sides is part of a tribalism that I despise in a conflict to which all now appear to be addicted. The fusion of religion and politics is bad enough; the fusion of politics and religion and territory is the nadir of human conflict. No good can come from it. Who wants to stare into its depressing abyss?
And, alas, the activities and vile philosophy of Hamas are simply incompatible with any compromise; and the same must be said of the potential Netanyahu-Lieberman coalition this latest piece of "deterrence-enhancement" seems to be designed, in part, to elect. State assassination of other countries' leaders is a grotesque act that sets a horrifying precedent any Western country should fear. So too is the targeting of civilians of another country by missile. I wish I could share Peter Beinart's hope for some kind of negotiation between Israel and Hamas. But after the last four years of Netanyahu's Cheney-esque mindset determining events, and Hamas' and Netanyahu's successful weakening of Abbas's hand, all I can say is that I admire Peter's tenacity. At least he still cares.
My ennui comes from the now obvious conclusion. With each of these incursions, Israel is even further embittering and alienating the next generation of Arabs, a generation that will likely determine the future of an increasingly democratic and populist Middle East. As time goes by, technology will also steadily increase the chances of conflict reaching within 1967-lines Israel itself. As Hamas's and Hezbollah's rockets gain greater range and accuracy, Israel's relentless colonization of Palestinian land on the West Bank will encourage them further.
In other words, without diplomacy toward a two-state solution, we are looking at a lifetime of constant Israeli warfare against all of its neighbors, deeper isolation in the region (with Turkey and Egypt already fast moving away) and growing international pariah status as Greater Israel becomes more fundamentalist and less democratic. And at some point, as America's energy revolution leaves us less and less exposed to Middle East oil, and as the national interest becomes more attuned to events in Asia and the Pacific, and as the occupation turns Israel into the South Africa of the 21st Century, the Jewish state will become a self-evident burden for America, spawning terror and conflict and anti-Americanism as far as the eye can see. If all Israel can count on then are America's Christianists and the current GOP, if they continue to spurn American attempts to unwind the conflict by undoing the settlements, then Israelis should be genuinely afraid for their future. I sure am.
They are slowly preparing for national suicide – both in how they operate within the land they control and beyond it. Obama has tried to save them. But you cannot save those who refuse to save themselves.
(Photo: Kashmiri Lawyers set an Israeli flag on fire while holding placards during a protest against Israel and in solidarity with Palestine in the city centre on November 19, 2012 in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir, India. By Yawar Nazir/Getty Images.)
The air campaign against Hamas rocket sites is understandable and defensible. A ground invasion will lead to misery and woe; to a total rupture with Egypt; to a further loss of legitimacy, and thus, deterrent capability — and, at the end of the day, does anyone actually believe that Israel would be able to fully neutralize the Hamas/Islamic Jihad threat? These groups might need time to rebuild, but they would be rebuilt. And then what? Another ground invasion?
Eli Lake's reporting suggests that a ground invasion by Israel isn't likely:
[U.S. officials briefed on Netanyahu's call with Obama] say Netanyahu said Israel would not consider a full-scale ground invasion unless there was escalation from Hamas or a strike that caused significant casualties. There has not been, for example, a date set for such an invasion—nor are the other kinds of contingency plans Israel would need in such a circumstance in place, according to these U.S. officials, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the conversations.
An opinion poll published in the newspaper Haaretz today showed that some 84 percent of Israelis back the offensive against Gaza. But it also suggested Netanyahu’s approval rating could drop if he orders a ground invasion, which only 30 percent of Israelis support. Netanyahu faces a national election in two months.
(Photo: Israeli soldiers prepare an artillery emplacement overlooking Gaza on November 19, 2012 on Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. The death toll has risen to at least 85 killed in the air strikes, according to hospital officials, on day six since the launch of operation 'Pillar of Defence.' By Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Karl Vick examines the horrifying head games at play in the Israel-Gaza conflict:
The daily Ma’ariv wrote that by reaching Tel Aviv from Gaza, the militants “put another 1.5 million civilians into siren anxiety.” That no one was killed, or even hurt, did not seem to matter. In military terms, the conflict is so lopsided that the most meaningful competition is for perception and psychology.
And from the other side:
Israeli forces play an intimidation game as well. On Thursday, according to a report in the Hebrew press, an Israeli gunboat fired a salvo near enough to the refugee camp home of Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh to make a point. The Israel Defense Forces also continued to publicize its preparation of ground forces, even naming the units that would participate: the Givanti Brigade, paratroopers, and an elite tank unit.
Goldblog agrees with Koplow, calling the IDF’s social media campaign the “hamasization” of Israeli PR. In a post we cited earlier, Goldblog adds: David Rothkopf just pointed out to me that people are most influenced by their enemies. In this case, the braggadocio of the IDF is beginning to resemble the braying of various Palestinian terror outfits over the years. All death is tragic, even the deaths of your enemies. Jeffrey also points to Jon Mitchell’s reporting on another troubling element of IDF’s online campaign: The IDF Blog now has atrocious gamification badges with points and rewards for sharing the content to social media. For example, if you visit the site 10 times, you get the “Consistent” badge. If you search the blog multiple times, you’re promoted to “Research Officer.” Yes, Israel has gamified war. This is absolutely horrendous. … Gamification is offensive when coupon companies do it. This is a WAR. The IDF insists that the gamification has been around for months and that Mitchell is incorrect to assume it arose for this conflict. Mitchell doesn’t buy it. Meanwhile, Lauren Bohn has details on the team of 30 soldiers who handle the writing and graphic design for the IDF’s “Interactive Media” branch. One of those soldiers called the Internet an “additional war zone”. Laura Goldman spoke with IDF spokesperson Captain Eytan Buchman about such reasoning: [Buchman:] “We learned from Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009 that there were potential new audiences that we could target rather than the traditional media,” he said. “There is so much misinformation coming out of Gaza. Videos show a man be carried into an ambulance, but don’t show the same man walking out of the ambulance a few minutes later. Hamas falsely claimed to have hit an Israeli naval vessel. Social media allows everyone to see for themselves what is happening and make their own decisions.” As for the controversial decision to show the video of the assassination of senior Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari, Buchman defends it. “The video shows that we hit him when he was in the middle of the intersection to minimize collateral damage,” he said. In a new front in the social media war, IDF soldiers have been sharing their war readiness on Instagram (one such image is seen above). Stepping back, Arwa Mahdawi points out that marketing is something the Israelis have always been good at: Ever since it officially came into existence in 1948, Israel has gone methodically about the creation of a “Brand Israel”.
What is Israel's long-term strategy? Short-term, I understand: No state can agree to have its civilians rocketed. But long-term, do Israeli leaders believe that they possess a military solution to their political problem in Gaza? There is no way out of this militarily. Israel is not Russia, Gaza is not Chechnya and Netanyahu isn't Putin. Even if Israel were morally capable of acting like Russia, the world would not allow it. So: Is the goal to empower Hamas? Some right-wingers in Israel would prefer Hamas's empowerment, because they want to kill the idea of a two-state solution. But to those leaders who are at least verbally committed to the idea of partition, what is the plan? How do you marginalize Hamas, which seeks the destruction of Jews and the Jewish state, and empower the more moderate forces that govern the West Bank?
The IDF in this case is trumpeting the killing of an unapologetic terrorist leader, and nobody should shed a tear for Jabari for even a moment, but the fact remains that many people, particularly among the crowd that Israel needs to be courting, are deeply skeptical of Israeli intentions generally and tend not to give Israel the benefit of the doubt. They cast a wary eye on Israeli militarism and martial behavior, and crowing about killing anyone or glorifying Israeli operations in Gaza is a bad public relations strategy insofar as it feeds directly into the fear of Israel run amok with no regard for the collateral damage being caused. Rather than convey a sense that Israel is doing a job that it did not want to have to do as quickly and efficiently as possible, the IDF's Twitter outreach conveys a sense of braggadocio that is going to lead to a host of problems afterward.
Marc Lynch worries that further escalation between Gaza and Israel will have unpredictable results in Arab Spring nations. On Egypt:
Morsi has demonstrated his preference to pursue a pragmatic foreign policy here, offering some sympathetic rhetoric and a visit from his relatively anonymous Prime Minister but thus far avoiding dramatic gestures such as opening the border with Gaza or throwing Camp David on the table. But as much as Morsi values solidifying relations with the U.S. and the international community, and is constrained by the status quo orientation of the Egyptian military and foreign policy apparatus, he may also see real opportunities to gain domestic popularity and assert Egyptian regional leadership. Morsi's conversations with Erdogan may be implictly focused as much on coordinating to avoid a bidding war over Gaza which pushes both countries towards overly risky moves. But it is not clear that such a stance can be maintained if the tempo of protests and the human toll of the war escalates.
(Photo: Egyptians shout anti-Israeli slogans during a demonstration in front of Al-Azhar mosque after the weekly Friday prayer in Cairo on November 16, 2012. Several thousand people demonstrated outside the Al-Azhar mosque to protest against the Israeli campaign. Arabic writing on placard reads 'Hamas is the symbol of heroism'. By AFP/Getty Images)
Daniel Levy contemplates, at length, the politics of the fighting between Gaza and Israel. His view of the regional picture:
Egypt’s priority for now is a ceasefire. Other Arab and regional states in good standing with Hamas, notably Qatar (whose Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani recently visited Gaza with promises of financial assistance and investment) and Turkey (Hamas leader Khaled Mashal gave the key note address at the AK Party conference of Prime Minister Erdoğan) will themselves be keen for this crisis to be over ASAP. Their priority right now is Syria. And this Gazan escalation will already be taking the gloss off their apparent success in re-launching a unified Syrian opposition grouping in Doha last week. They are now in the uncomfortable position of having worked closely on Syria with the same Western powers (notably the U.S., Britain, France, and the EU) who have been rushing to accord legitimacy to Israel’s so-called “self-defense” action against Gaza. They know that this is music to the ears of the Assad regime and that it will be used against them, especially if more Gazan blood is spilled. If this becomes Cast Lead II, then they will be in no position to promote the intervention they desire in Syria while Gaza is burning.
Look, I'm no defender of Israel, by any means. Their illegal expansion of settlements and what they did to Gaza four years is abhorrent. But what the hell is Hamas thinking firing rockets at Jerusalem? Netanyahu has been waiting for an excuse to bomb Gaza City back to the stone age for years now, and it looks like he might have it. And he has the means to do it. Besides the humanitarian catastrophe it would be, I fear bombing Gaza would be an excuse for a larger Arab / Iranian – Israeli war. Here's hoping that cooler heads prevail.
Agreed on all counts. Another writes:
I understand your distaste, to put it mildly, for the Greater Israel crowd and by the way, I think I am 90% with you on that. What I do not understand is the connection between Greater Israel and the Gaza Strip: Israel left Gaza in 2005. Uprooted thousands of (fanatical) Israelis and handed it back over to the Palestinians. No one has seriously suggested going into Gaza and repopulating it with Israelis. There is no expansionist settlement movement with regard to Gaza. Just Israelis, in Israel proper, running for cover on a constant basis from projectiles falling from the sky.
The only connection this has to the Greater Israel crowd is that by continuously terrorizing the Israeli populace, Hamas justifies and bolsters the Greater Israel argument with regard to the West Bank. If you just ran into a shelter in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, as many of my friends just did, to avoid rockets from Gaza, how eager would you be to establish a Palestinian state whose rockets would be all the more closer? Where is Abbas loudly condemning this in Arabic, to ease the worries of the Israeli center who are about to vote for a new government in a few months (oh, he's at the UN, seeking condemnation of Israel for its response)?
Greater Israel feeds off this because it validates their point: Palestine cant be trusted. If Israelis feel they can't contain this sort of maniacal pointless terrorism from the sky, Palestine will never happen (which by the way is exactly what Hamas wants).
Exactly. Which is why I have never defended Hamas in any way, or denied its Jihadist nihilism, and support Israel's right to self-defense. What I don't support are the settlements on the West Bank that up the ante even further; and what I don't fully understand is how this kind of war, like the one four years ago, actually advances Israel's national interest in the long run, rather than actually eroding it. Which is this reader's point:
Just some thoughts on Operation Pillar of Defense. I’m not going to address the justice or rightness of either side at this point. Suffice to say that Israel has a right to self-defense and that a rise in rocket fire from Gaza is something they should certainly be concerned about. Right now, I just want to talk about the effectiveness of the Operation, and its future ramifications.
To start with, we can assume that the goal of Pillar of Defense is not to cripple Hamas’s war-making ability through military means.
Amir Owen thinks the Gaza assault may be meant to show the world that Israel means business, that "the dark cloud in the Gaza skies might serve as an alternative, or preface to, an Iran operation":
In theory, a force which is able to strike against Ahmed Jabari would be able to pinpoint the location of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And a force that destroyed Fajr rockets would be able to reach their bigger siblings, the Shihabs, as well as Iran's nuclear installations. So as not to leave a shred of doubt, the IDF Spokesman emphasized that "the Gaza Strip has become Iran's frontline base." At first glance, Operation Pillar of Defense seems to be aimed at the Palestinian arena, but in reality it is geared toward Iranian hostility against Israel.
Netanyahu wants to declare victory after a quick military campaign. He wants to address the Israeli public over the next few days and say, we killed the Hamas leader who kidnapped our soldier, Gilad Shalit; we seriously degraded Hamas' ability to strike at Tel Aviv; and we restored deterrence in the Gaza Strip. (Nevermind that, as Gershon Baskin points out, Ahmed Jaabari was Israel's best chance for a long-term cease-fire with Gaza.) Once it's over, Netanyahu gets to play the victorious wartime prime minister.
Carlstrom notes a ground war would likely negate such a plan. Shalom Yerushalmi looks at how the conflict has impacted the upcoming elections:
The ballot box is likely to be dominated now by a security agenda. Israel has entered a state of existential anxiety and concern for its residents, mainly those in the south. At this time, there is no room for opposition, only patriotism. Anything that the left wing might say will be construed as criticism, and any criticism will be interpreted as an anti-national act that undermines the collective morale. Already, yesterday [Nov. 14] the leaders of the left and centrist parties made their way to the TV studios only to express positions in support of the government’s military course of action. None of them dared ask questions that could swing voters away. Silence, a war is on.
Gershom Gorenberg is unsure about the ultimate political consequences:
The initial response of the Israeli public when the IDF is ordered into a major offensive is to rally around the government, to see the action as essential. Later, after the deaths on both sides, after an ambiguous resolution, neither victory nor defeat, a political hangover often sets in. If regret comes this time, no one knows whether it will take less than two months or more.
(Photo: Palestinian Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniya (L) and Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil (R) visit a person who was wounded in an Israeli air strike on November 16, 2012 at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. By Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)
The number of Palestinians killed has risen to at least 24, while the Israeli death toll remains at 3. Many more may have been killed if not for Israel’s “Iron Dome” rocket defense system, developed with the US, which seems to have been effective at reducing the hundreds of rockets that have been launched from Gaza, though at significant financial cost. Recent video of Iron Dome at work:
The defensive shield is a marvel, effectively preventing Israeli casualties, or at least impact in Israel. Earlier this afternoon Phil Weiss, Scott Roth, 972’s Mya Guarnieri and myself experienced it first hand while driving 1.2 kilometers from the militarized border with Gaza. The Iron Dome, high in the sky but directly over our yellow-plated rental car, intercepted three rockets fired by Hamas. The rockets move at an unbelievable speed and I did not see them until they were bursting over our heads.
Yet in Gaza, there is no government funded superhero fighting to save lives against the indiscriminate fire that come from air strikes.
And we know who worked on the Dome for Israel, don’t we? That Israel-loathing president, Barack Obama. And they still would not budge an inch on the settlements.
Targeting Jerusalem is an enormous escalation and very risky, much more so [than] rockets toward Tel Aviv. Rocketing Tel Aviv to my mind guaranteed an eventual Israeli ground invasion, but attempting to bombard Jerusalem just exacerbates the situation to an exponential degree. Blake Hounshell tweeted earlier that Hamas firing at Jerusalem is the equivalent of scoring on your own goal, and I think that analogy is an apt one. It says to me that Hamas is getting desperate, and I think this move is going to backfire in a big way, both in terms of creating a more ferocious Israeli response and costing Hamas important points in the court of public opinion. Hamas is now acting in ways that could cause large numbers of Palestinian casualties and damage to Muslim holy sites, and I think that there will be consequences for this strategy.
Israel's usual strategy [of holding host governments responsible for the actions of the militants] might not bring about such decisive results this time. Hamas will find it hard to pull itself back from the brink and start stopping others' rocket fire. Jabari's death has infuriated Hamas' military wing, and whoever replaces him will be just as militant, if not more. Such a leader will press for revenge and warn Hamas' governing arm that his troops might well join rival groups if Hamas throws in the towel. After all, Hamas is trying to be both a resistance movement and a government. In many ways, it has succeeded as a government, establishing law and order and delivering basic services in Gaza. But Hamas must take care not to lose credibility among Palestinians for its willingness to fight — and die — in the struggle against Israel. So Hamas has tried to walk a fine line by allowing some attacks — and, at times, even participating in them — to maintain its militant street cred while shying away from an all-out assault that would push Israel to repeat Cast Lead.
Hussein Ibish wrote yesterday that "at least some forces in Gaza evidently have no interest in containing the conflict":