Thursday, October 26, 2023

Today's News: What rough beast is coming in the Israel-Hamas War?

Landscape from a Dream. Tate Gallery

Until I read Tom Friedman's column in the New York Times, I didn't understand what was happening in the Israel-Hamas War - particularly why so many people around the world are demonstrating against Israel. Friedman writes Israel: From the Six-Day War to the Six-Front War:
If you care about Israel, you should be more worried than any other time since 1967. Back then, Israel defeated the armies of three Arab states — Egypt, Syria and Jordan — in what became known as the Six-Day War. Today, if you look closely, you’ll see that Israel is now fighting the Six-Front War.
This war is being fought by and through nonstate actors, nation-states, social networks, ideological movements, West Bank communities and Israeli political factions, and it is the most complex war that I’ve ever covered. But one thing is crystal clear to me: Israel cannot win this six-front war alone. It can win only if Israel — and the United States — can assemble a global alliance.
Unfortunately, Israel today has a prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and a ruling coalition that will not and cannot produce the keystone needed to sustain such a global alliance. That keystone is to declare an end to the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and overhaul Israel’s relations with the Palestinian Authority so that it becomes a credible, legitimate Palestinian partner that can govern a post-Hamas Gaza and forge a broader two-state solution including the West Bank.
If Israel is asking its best allies to help the Jewish state seek justice in Gaza while asking them to look the other way as Israel builds a settlement kingdom in the West Bank with the express goal of annexation, that is strategically and morally incoherent.
It won’t work. Israel will not be able to generate the time, the financial assistance, the legitimacy, the Palestinian partner or the global allies it needs to win this six-front war.
Friedman goes on to explain all of these "fronts", how challenging they are to manage, and how difficult it is going to be for Israel to fight this war. 
In particular, these incidents are appalling: A notable summary thread from the former Commander of the US Army in Europe Mark Hertling - here are some of his posts: The drumbeat for a ceasefire seems to be building, even though a ceasefire would actually reward Hamas for instigating the war against Israel. 
People are even demanding that Trudeau needs to somehow singlehandedly get Israel to agree to a ceasefire:
I am reading some interesting substack articles lately too.
Here is former New Republic editor Brian Beutler on inflammatory lefty rhetoric about Joe Biden's supposed "genocide": No, Joe Biden Does Not Support Genocide. Solidarity with innocent lives doesn't require saying things that aren't true
...don’t get seduced by the temptation, or succumb to pressure, to condemn [Biden] eternally as an architect or supporter of atrocity, as though he were a 21st century Kissinger. Don’t be overly swayed by what are essentially factional memes—search Twitter for ”Genocide Joe,” if you’d like—devised to condemn anyone who doesn’t here and now deem Biden beyond redemption.
My sense is that, to this point at least, a harder-line approach would not have worked. It would not have resulted in a ceasefire, or termination of U.S. military aid to Israel, neither of which Biden can control unilaterally.
That’s just one man’s view; I’m no special expert and can’t know with certainty how an alternate approach on an alternate timeline would’ve played out. But this much is clearer: Joe Biden does not support genocide, and has not revealed a tolerance for genocide by reaffirming the U.S. alliance with Israel, because Israel is not perpetrating a genocide. Claiming otherwise isn’t a necessary or wise way to prosecute what are otherwise perfectly reasonable misgivings with Biden over his Middle East policy (or anything else for that matter).
The people driving this trend aren’t involved in the same project as I am, and probably won’t listen. But they have a draw on others in this middle terrain who are genuinely anguished. And I think it’s worth impressing on them how wrongheaded and counterproductive it is to throw in their lot with anyone trying cynically to sort the American left of center in to pro- and anti-genocide camps.
I’m trying to tread lightly because I realize this issue divides members of an already fractious coalition diametrically. And I understand: the people bandying the word genocide about cavalierly aren’t all manipulative cynics or lemmings. Many are understandably distressed and believe using maximally urgent language is the most effective form of activism.
But they are making a mistake.
Here is Judd Legume's useful substack article The $14 Billion Question. Legume summarizes the problems that the US had in its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - high jingo when it started, but no plan to finish - and sees the same problems with Israel's desire to invade Gaza;
...Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told troops on the front line. “The order will come.” Gallant says the Israeli military is in the "first phase" of a three-part operation. The initial phase includes airstrikes and a ground invasion "with the purpose of destroying operatives and damaging infrastructure in order to defeat and destroy Hamas." The second phase "will be continued fighting but at a lower intensity as troops work to 'eliminate pockets of resistance.'" The final phase involves "the creation of a new security regime in the Gaza Strip, the removal of Israel’s responsibility for day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip."
The final step, which involves ending the conflict, is much easier said than done. In many respects, what Israel is attempting to do in Gaza is more difficult than what the United States attempted to do in Afghanistan and Iraq. In both of those countries, there were factions that were generally supportive of America's presence — the Shiites and Kurds in Iraq and the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. But there are no significant number of Palestinians in Gaza who will welcome an Israeli occupying force. And any "security regime" established by the Israelis will likely be viewed with extreme skepticism, at best, by the people of Gaza.
Previous attempts at a ground invasion of Gaza by Israeli forces are a cautionary tale. In 2014, Israeli forces engaged in a battle in Gaza City. The conflict "killed more than 1,600 innocent bystanders and wounded more than 10,000 in a little more than a month." But "Israel eventually retreat[ed] with no significant strategic victories." The dense urban environment in much of Gaza makes for an extraordinarily challenging battlefield.
...In an October 15, 2023 interview on 60 Minutes, Biden said that it would be "a mistake to… for Israel to occupy… Gaza again." But now, Biden is proposing more than $14 billion to aid Israeli operations in Gaza which appears to include a ground invasion. Israel's position is a paradox. Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, said that Israel has "no interest" in an occupation. But Israeli officials have simultaneously warned operations in Gaza "will be lengthy."
According to the New Yorker, "senior Israeli officials told the Americans [visiting Israel] to expect a war that could last as long as ten years." If that's the case — and the United States remains committed to helping finance Israel's war effort — $14 billion will only be a small down payment.

David Rothkopf sums it up in one well-worded tweet:
I respect the Biden national security and foreign policy teams immensely. They are the best in my lifetime. That said, int'l relations often involve x-factors beyond any one country's control. Ukraine has gone well in part because Zelenskyy's gov't and the Ukraine military has done so well, been a reliable partner.
The embrace of Israel depends heavily on what kind of partner the Netanyahu government will be. It is undoubtedly not only the right move but the only possible move. So far the administration has managed it well and the "bear hug" component has precisely been because Bibi & Co. are unreliable. But I worry that at some point there will be no hug tight enough to effectively influence/guide the Israeli government. I can't think of a team I'd rather have handling this for us in the USA. But nonetheless, I worry.


Trailblazer said...

Around the world so many people cannot differentiate between anti semitism and anti Israel.


Cathie from Canada said...

I'm afraid we are reaching that point too rapidly.