Nov 27th 2012

Gaza: Clarifying Israel's Intentions

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute

Sometimes wars, even little ones, can become clarifying moments in which the clouds of propaganda are blown away and motives of the antagonists come into clear focus. This appears to be the case with the recent hostilities in Gaza.

In the midst of the short but deadly Gaza War, one statement by an Israeli spokesperson struck me as a particularly disturbing distortion of the truth. He claimed that Israel's goal in the conflict was "to finish [Hamas] off, so we can sit with moderates and talk peace".

On so many levels, this was not the truth: Israel did not seek to destroy Hamas; Israel has no interest in working with "moderate" Palestinians; and this current government in Israel has no interest in negotiating a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I believe that despite the moaning and groaning of some Israeli leaders, the Netanyahu government is, in fact, satisfied with the outcome of this last round of hostilities. Hamas has not been destroyed. In Israel's view, Hamas has been tamed and has assumed the role of "policeman" insuring that Gaza's more radical groups will be controlled. This is a situation that Israel can live with.

From the earliest days of the occupation, Israel viewed Gaza as a burden that it would have been more than happy to unload. When then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally "withdrew" from Gaza, he refused to negotiate an orderly hand-off so as not to strengthen the role of Palestinian Authority (PA). He evacuated troublesome settlers from the unwanted Strip, while maintaining near complete external control over the area. In the years that followed, it was not an exaggeration to describe Gaza as a massive open-air prison.

The Hamas takeover, the digging of tunnels which led to the development of an economy based on the smuggling of goods and the importation of arms were the result - as were the three wars between Hamas and Israel that followed in 2006, 2008/9, and the most recent one that ended last week.

Despite its bellicose rhetoric, Hamas, too, appears satisfied with the outcome of the conflict. It has secured international recognition and is now seen as the de facto "authority" in Gaza", assuming a role not unlike that of its West Bank rival, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

The only price Israel was asked to pay was to refrain from further assassinations of Hamas leaders and the promise to discuss with Egypt, in the future, a regime that might ease restrictions on the flow of goods across the border into the impoverished Gaza Strip. Thus with the backing of Egypt and its minions in Gaza, Israel now hopes to have bought itself at least some years of relative peace on its southern border.

If Israel never intended to "finish Hamas", then what of the claim that it wants to work with "moderate" Palestinian leaders to "talk peace"? That, too, is a clear distortion of the truth. In the midst of the Gaza conflict, Israel announced the construction of hundreds of new housing units in the Occupied Territories, coupled with renewed threats against the Palestinian Authority should its President, Mahmoud Abbas, proceed with plans to seek limited U.N. recognition later this month.

What has long been clear is that Prime Minister Netanyahu's acceptance of a "two state solution" and his offer to "negotiate without preconditions" was a feint designed to keep his U.S. patron at bay. To an extent, it has worked. Ignored, however, by Israel's supporters are Netanyahu's own "preconditions": he will never surrender occupied East Jerusalem or the substantial area of the West bank that Israel has annexed into what it calls "Greater Jerusalem; he insists on keeping control of the massive settlements and network of connecting "Jewish-only" roads Israel has built in the West Bank—laid out with the intention of "making impossible the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian State"; and he maintains that he will not surrender control of the Jordan Valley—which Israel claims is vital for its security. All of which make negotiations and peace impossible.

Netanyahu's goal is not a lasting peace based on two states. It appears that he has never surrendered the Revisionist Zionist goal of a Greater Israel, with an autonomous and pacified Palestinian population that submits to Israel's diktat. And, in his way of thinking, he's almost there. The Palestinians (and the international community), he believes, have been sufficiently subdued to allow for continued settlement expansion. The PA areas are now more or less self-policed and dependent on international largess—and threatened with losing some of that financial support should they be defiant and go through with their push for U.N. recognition. And now Gaza may be tamed, as well. It will be policed by Hamas and it, too, is financially dependent on international patrons - with more moderate Qatar, Turkey, and Egypt having replaced Iran and Syria.

Israel sees these developments as short-term gains. They are, however, illusory and are not sustainable.

Strengthening Hamas, while weakening the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority, is, at best, a mistaken strategy. Hamas is playing for time—its ideology has not changed. And weakening the PA only serves to delegitimize and sideline the only real negotiating partner Israel has. Palestinians in the West Bank have been protesting both their deteriorating economic situation and the PA's passivity during Israel's assault on Gaza. Add to this the humiliation caused by Israel's "in your face" behavior as it continues to consolidate its hold over the Occupied Territories and the PA's vulnerability becomes painfully clear.

In the early years of the British Mandate, some Zionist writers were wont to refer to the indigenous Arab population of Palestine as "Red Indians"—an obvious indication of their future intentions. Eighty years later, the colonial enterprise has continued unabated, without the acquiescence of the Palestinians. The current crop of Israeli leaders may still share the vision of their ancestors, but the majority of Israelis and Palestinians desire a different future—which can best be achieved in a just and equitable two-state solution. The path that Netanyahu continues to take is making that impossible. By pursuing the vision of his father's generation, still seeing Palestinians as "Red Indians" to be corralled and tamed in "reservations", he is only paving the way for conflicts yet to come.  

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jun 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "Xi Jinping’s call for friendship gives us an opportunity to examine Chinese politics on both the domestic and international stage. On the face of it, it suggests the possibility of rapprochement between the rich liberal democracies represented by the G7 and the authoritarian Chinese state. However, despite appearances of a call for a closer relationship, there is more than one way of being friends – and Xi’s idea might be somewhat different to what many in countries attending the G7 might expect."
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "
Jun 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " While many conservative Republicans opposed Trump and saw that he posed a danger to their party and democracy itself, they were hesitant to buck the mass movement they had created, fearing that it would turn against them. Some of these same conservatives assumed that with Trump's defeat, the horror of January 6th, and the former president's banishment from social media, the time had come to restore sanity to their party. But the GOP leadership’s continued cowering in the face of what they now call "Trump's base" has caused them to circle the wagons and purge their ranks of those who call for sanity. "
May 26th 2021
Editor's Note: This article is about the Federal Reserve, inflation in the 1970's, and possible similarities to today.
May 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "Netanyahu claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people. He certainly is not. Many Jews around the world, including me, despise Netanyahu’s racist politics. As an American, I am also deeply troubled by the US government’s knee-jerk support of Israel. Fortunately, I am not alone in this view. A growing number of Democratic Congressmen, Jews and non-Jews alike, have called on the United States to stop supporting Israel’s lawlessness. The truth is that the US government’s uncritical support for Israel has come to depend more on evangelical Christians, such as former US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, than on American Jews, who are deeply divided by Netanyahu’s actions. And the evangelicals’ real interest in Zionism is not Jews’ security, but Armageddon, the end of the world, which they believe will come only when all Jews are in Israel."
May 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "This period in US history could go down as the moment when America’s democratic system for electing a president – the most consequential duty of US citizens – was broken, perhaps for good."
May 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "While reading Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) monumental report “A Threshold Crossed,” I felt a range of emotions. It also left me with one big question. I was deeply impressed by the report’s rigorous scholarship. At the same time, it brought to the surface feelings of anger and profound sadness. It’s an extraordinarily complete study detailing not only the many ways Israel has violated a broad range of Palestinian human rights, but the ideology of racial superiority and entitlement that Israel has used to justify its repression." ..... "My advice to both Israel’s defenders and weak-kneed liberals is​, “Read the damn report.” "
May 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: .... "He transformed a transitioning market economy into a stable statist project that rests on an alliance of his inner circle," ..... "He transformed Russia from a respected member of the international community into a rogue state" .... ". He energized NATO by providing it with the adversary it lacked after the end of the cold war," ..... "He befriended hopelessly corrupt, dysfunctional, and unstable dictatorships..." ..... "He forged a quasi-alliance with China, thereby enhancing Russia’s dependence on the one country that might have reason to appropriate those Russian territories inhabited by Chinese."
May 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "On the face of it, the latest escalation of violence is following the template of all inter-ethnic wars. Muslims observing Ramadan shouted nationalist slogans and clashed with Israeli right-wing groups chanting “Death to the Arabs.” The Israelis haughtily marched with their national flag on Jerusalem Day, marking Israel’s capture in 1967 of East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the site of the biblical Second Temple, and of Al-Aqsa, completed in the year 705. Battles in and around the Al-Aqsa compound erupted, with worshipers inside throwing stones at the Israeli police, who responded by firing rubber-tipped bullets and other projectiles, wounding hundreds."
May 13th 2021
"Regardless of how the current and future violent conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem will end, there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace unless East Jerusalem becomes the capital of a Palestinian state while the city remains united."
May 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " Would the United States be prepared to risk a catastrophic war with the People’s Republic of China to protect the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan? "
May 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human history, ancient and contemporary, is replete with instances of genocide – that is, the effort to eradicate a people, erase their history, denigrate their culture, and destroy their physical presence. Many of these atrocities have been recognized by the victims and other nations who support them. But, with the notable exception of the German acknowledgment of the Holocaust, rarely have the perpetrators of these crimes accepted responsibility and offer recompense "
May 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The best way to defend liberal democracy is to practice it at home and abroad with the “courage and self-confidence” that Kennan touted at the dawn of the Cold War. This is also the best way to ensure the survival of our own conception of human freedom. And survive it will."
May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sammy Roth at the LA Times/ Boiling Point Newsletter reports that California’s main power grid was powered for several hours last Saturday by 90% renewables. For just four seconds that day, the grid, which covers 4/5s of the state, reached 94.5% generation by green energy. California is the world’s fifth largest economy. The main grid does not cover Los Angeles County. On the other hand, these figures do not include the electricity generated by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is not counted as renewable but which is also very low-carbon."
Apr 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "It is no accident that there has been an economic divergence in Central and Eastern Europe. Those countries that have joined the European Union have improved their economic governance, and GDP has begun to converge with Western Europe. Between 2014 and 2019, Hungary, Poland, and Romania grew at an annual average rate of 3.9%, 4.1%, and 4.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, Belarus and Ukraine experienced minimal growth during this period, and Russia’s economy expanded at an average annual rate of just 0.7%. Though Russia had a higher per capita GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity) than Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey as recently as 2009, all of these countries have since overtaken it. Russians today are shocked to learn that they are worse off than Romanians and Turks. Among EU member states, only Bulgaria is still poorer than Russia. With its close proximity to the EU single market, Russia could have had higher growth if it had pursued sound economic policies. Instead,..... "
Apr 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "As far as anyone can tell, the US military is not on the verge of an internal breakdown, let alone primed to stage a coup d’état. But few predicted anything like the US Capitol riot before protesters equipped with body armor, stun guns, and zip-ties breached the building. Before the US is blindsided again, its leaders must act resolutely to root out extremism in the military."
Apr 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The new report on 2020 by the International Renewable Energy Agency reveals that the world’s renewable energy generation capacity increased by an astonishing 10.3% in 2020 despite the global economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic." .... "In 2020, the global net increase in renewables was 261 gigawatts (GW). That is the nameplate capacity of some 300 nuclear power plants! There are actually only 440 nuclear power plants in the whole world, with a generation capacity of 390 gigwatts. So let’s just underline this point. The world put in 2/3s as much renewable energy in one year as is produced by all the existing nuclear plants!"
Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."