Hamas has shattered the Israeli illusion that the status quo is sustainable

Noam Sheizaf writes: I’ve exchanged emails with people in Gaza in the past few days. These are people who don’t care much for Hamas in their everyday lives, whether due to its fundamentalist ideology, political oppression or other aspects of its rule. But they do support Hamas in its war against Israel; for them, fighting the siege is their war of independence. Or at least one part of it.

The demand that the people of Gaza protest against Hamas, often heard in Israel today, is absurd. Even if we disregard the fact that Israelis themselves hate protests in times of war, they still expect the Palestinians to conduct a civil uprising under fire. The people of Gaza support Hamas in its war against Israel because they perceive it to be part of their war of independence. A Hamas warrior who swears by the Quran is no different from a Vietcong reciting The Internationale before leaving for battle. These kind of rituals leave a strong impression, but they are not the real story.

Israelis, both left and right, are wrong to assume that Hamas is a dictatorship fighting Israel against its people’s will. Hamas is indeed a dictatorship, and there are many Palestinians who would gladly see it fall, but not at this moment in time. Right now I have no doubt that most Palestinians support the attacks on IDF soldiers entering Gaza; they support kidnapping as means to release their prisoners (whom they see as prisoners of war) and the unpleasant fact is that most of them, I believe, support firing rockets at Israel.

“If we had planes and tanks to fight the IDF, we wouldn’t need to fire rockets,” is a sentence I have heard more than once. As an Israeli, it is unpleasant for me to hear, but one needs to at least try and understand what lies behind such a position. What is certain is that bombing Gaza will not change their minds. On the contrary.

“But if they didn’t fire rockets or launch terror attacks there would be no siege. So what do they want?” the Israeli public asks. After all, we already left Gaza. [Continue reading…]

When Israelis say “we left Gaza,” it’s as though the territory was granted independence and political autonomy. Of course withdrawal meant no such thing.

“The disengagement [from Gaza] is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that’s necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians,” said Dov Weisglass, adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Indeed, by removing a few thousand vulnerable Jewish settlers and Israeli troops, one of the most tangible effects of this so-called withdrawal was to make Gaza easier to bomb.

As soon as Israel puts troops back on the ground in battle, the clock starts ticking. Sooner or later, the price — in terms of Israeli casualties — risks becoming unsustainable. The alternative — occasional air strikes — is as easy as mowing the lawn.

All that Hamas can do is try and make the cost of the latest operation as high as possible and by this measure, in the eye of some observers, Hamas can already declare victory.

Ariel Ilan Roth, Executive Director at Israel Institute, who has served in the Israeli navy, writes:

War is not an exercise in fairness, but in the attainment of strategic objectives.

And, on that score, Hamas has already won. It has shattered the necessary illusion for Israelis that a political stalemate with the Palestinians is cost-free for Israel. It has shown Israelis that, even if the Palestinians cannot kill them, they can extract a heavy psychological price. It has also raised the profile of the Palestinian cause and reinforced the perception that the Palestinians are weak victims standing against a powerful aggressor. Down the road, that feeling is sure to be translated into pressure on Israel, perhaps by politicians and certainly by social movements whose objective is to isolate Israel politically and damage it through economic boycotts.

As multiple airline now cancel flights to Israel because of safety concerns, they might not be joining the boycott movement (BDS), but the effect could to some degree be the same.

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5 thoughts on “Hamas has shattered the Israeli illusion that the status quo is sustainable

  1. Chet

    As Gideon Levy of Haaretz newspaper recently correctly wrote regarding the Hamas demands to agree to a cease fire, “But the (bitter) truth is that when Gaza is not firing rockets at Israel, nobody cares about it. ” The U.S. and European governments ignore the wanton suffering Israel imposes upon Gaza. When the international press talks about a peaceful period in Gaza or the West Bank what they really mean is that no Israeli is killed while Palestinians continue to be killed by the IDF and settlers with impunity. Israel knows that no military action will resolve the problem, what they want is to maintain the status quo so they can continue to squat on more land and make the two state solution impossible.

  2. Dennis King

    Nobody wins in war. There has never been any progress in human history. Extreme? Fine. I have a high standard. Here is when you’ll know that we’ve finally made progress:

    The year is 5012. The teacher walks into the classroom for the first time. She hands out a syllabus, and tells the students to review it. While they’re reviewing the syllabus, she prepares herself, checking notes, setting up overheards, etc.

    While she’s preparing, a student comes across an item on the syllabus that reads, “War: Barbarism of The Ancient Period, 10,000 BCE to 2030 CE.” Note the last date, which is included as part of the ANCIENT period. The student asks, “Ms. McElroy, what is war?”

    Ms. McElroy responds: “Well, it’s a bit premature for me to explain that. Although I am told, by some of my superiors, that there is a 70% chance that we will definitely cover this barbaric period of human history, the final decision has not been made yet by the school board.

    The student asks, “But why is it that it might not be approved.” The teacher answers, “Many other school districts around the country attempted to teach about war, but, in most cases, too many of the students became physically ill, so the school boards discontinued teaching about war. Most school boards leave it up to parents to teach about the ancient, barbaric practice of war, although surveys have indicated that 90% of parents do not teach about war.”

    That’s when we’ll now that we have made progress.

  3. igor

    if hamas was not shooting rockets there won’t be any blockade in the first place.
    you and others like you ignore this fact

  4. Paul Woodward Post author

    This is the simplistic analysis of people who want to portray Israeli massacres as punishment for Palestinian misbehavior.

    What Israeli military commanders understand but are much more guarded in expressing in public, is that Hamas is the only group that has the capacity to enforce a ceasefire; that it has generally been very reliable in maintaining these ceasefires; and that the ceasefires invariably break down after Israel conducts air strikes on Gaza.

    Once again, this war on Gaza began with Israeli strikes on July 6. Prior to that, in a cynical and opportunistic move, Israel reneged on a previous ceasefire agreement by arresting Hamas members in the West Bank under the pretext that this was in connection with the murders of three teenage settlers. In connection with that case, Israel arrested over 500 Palestinians without arresting the two murder suspects. During three weeks when the authorities already had strong evidence that the teenagers were dead, the IDF conducted Operation Brother’s Keeper and this along with the inflammatory rhetoric of Israeli political leaders helped stoke anti-Arab sentiment in Israel resulting in the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir.

    Rather than dissipate the passion for vengeance that Netanyahu had continuously been stoking, after making perfunctory expressions of regret about Khdeir’s gruesome murder — the teenager having been burned alive — the Israeli prime minister then unleashed the full force of the IDF on Gaza. Israel’s appetite for killing Palestinians shows no sign of being satiated.

  5. Paul Woodward Post author

    The cost of war might always appear too high but there have been many times when for obvious reasons victory is claimed. America won its war of independence. The allies defeated Nazi Germany.

    If the post-war era you envisage ever emerges there will not be any school districts across the country, because there will be no countries. For as long as there are political entities willing to use violence in contests for the control of territory, it looks like war will continue.

    The only thing that might mitigate this drive towards conflict would be that globally there is a more even distribution of power. Where every side has more to lose, there is a better chance of peacefully resolving conflicts.

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