Monday, December 29, 2008

Israel’s Gaza Attacks

One argument in the realist camp (Ezra Klein and folks) is these attacks will not solve the core problem of Israel’s security because it is impossible to wipe out Hamas and hence the survived Hamas will get more fertile ground to recruit more radicals. NYT in its editorial also alludes to this line. Another variation is ‘calm for calm’ without loosening of economic blockade by Israel essentially amounted to hindrance in any possibility of normalized relations. And finally the argument that the quest for regime change undertaken by Israel and nurtured by Bush Administration is misplaced with regard to Hamas since the group is totally insensitive to suffering of its own supporters and as NYT editorials call, rather master of exploiting misery of its own people. Meaning it is not possible to uproot Hamas. Israel’s last war with Hezbollah is proof with these hard liners (Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran axis though each player is quite distinct and not so easily mixable into each other) since Israel could not win that war.

All these arguments are quite valid to a large degree. With the Bush Administration almost gone, there are signs (and if not, then those better be) that Obama Administration will not be obsessed with regime change. But Israeli ambitions – that is a different matter altogether.

What is discounted in all this is the possibility that Israel may succeed in inflicting a fatal blow to Hamas; despite being unable to win the last war. If Israel has learned the lessons of the last war, under new defense minister who was Chief of Staff; it is possible that Israel may get its ‘mojo’ in being effective. The point is just because today Hamas and their backers look undefeatable does not mean that they cannot be defeated ever at all. Also despite paeans sung by liberal media, legitimacy of Hamas is still not clear – in the end they got the Gaza control by toppling Fatah in a coup.

Fatah was a terrorist organization too – meaning resorting to killing of innocent folks to achieve political goals. We all know how Yaser Arafat contributed to killing too. But in the end, time to time tough actions by Israel (and smart diplomacy internationally) made Arafat and Fatah to get into mainstream politics by quitting terrorism to quite an extent. That is the long term goal. Regime change is irrelevant.

It can be validly argued that ‘avoiding force’ has failed in baiting Hamas into mainstream politics; same as how it is argued that such attacks radicalize Arab population more. One has to take this whole bogey of explosion of radical Arab opinion with a pinch of salt. Respective Arab regimes will ensure to suppress such expressions for obvious reasons and public opinion is ephemeral in the end.

So the critical question is what are the realistic possibilities for Israel under Barak to achieve the military goal – breaking of Hamas critically? Bringing Hamas to the table is the objective – at least for a brokered peace. In these early days it is not so clear that Israel will prevail in this conflict. This means unfortunately more blood shed.

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