Regardless of what else happens anywhere else on Earth, even in the same generalized region of the Middle East (where no less a figure than the former Iraqi PM Iyad Allawi, that great savior of American military-imposed democracy as the man first installed before Nouri al-Maliki was eventually tapped, termed Bush and his policy toward Iraq complete failures)... little ever seems to change viz the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Currently, Israel has just commenced a ground offensive into Gaza, after a week of aerial bombardments. The results will inevitably be significant casualties to Hamas and to Gazan civilians, and there will almost certainly be casualties on the Israeli side.
The usual suspects offer the usual opinions, such as Victor Davis Hanson more or less channeling George W. Bush here, conveniently forgetting that non-state Third World shithole Gaza (literally administered by a terrorist organization) is not exactly in a fair fight with Israel, even if Gazan rocketeers do occasionally hit something or someone in Israel with their home-made rockets (of which over 6,000 have been launched thus far in recent months.)
As an American Jew with what are usually thought of as liberal leanings, I am, as usual, upset that Israel always seems to find itself in the position of having to incur the world's ire. I admit that even I am annoyed at those who would assert that there is moral equivalence between terrorist attacks designed to murder civilians and retaliation-- even disproportionate retaliation, which, btw, I believe that the current Gaza assaults constitute, and even where civilians are killed and wounded. Israel is far more fastidious than, say, the United States, in trying to minimize civilian casualties, even as Hamas uses the population as human shields. But there is a context. Israel could have responded to Gazan-based rocket launches on its Southern towns for a long time... but why now? With Bush as a lame duck, and Obama due to be installed in less than three weeks...
IMHO, Israel's government has, for its own domestic political purposes (how widely reported here is it that an Israeli general election is scheduled for February 10, 2009?) decided to "get tough on Hamas," which, of course, has certainly been trying to provoke something like this for as long as it has controlled Gaza. And so, much will be blown up, many will be killed or wounded, and at some point (presumably before January 20th), "military objectives will have been achieved," and, well... "calm" will be restored, which, of course, is the same utterly psychotic "status quo" in which settlements expand, Hamas consolidates in Gaza, Hizbollah consolidates in Southern Lebanon, and, thanks to the genius Neo-cons (who were often American Jews who thought they were helping Israel), Iran has been both incentivized by American aggression (yes, that's the word) and freed up by American stupidity (yes that's the word) in removing Iran's number one counter-balance (that would be Saddam Hussein), duly enabled to develop nuclear weapons which, unlike Hamas's rockets (notwithstanding possible unwelcome surprises), would most seriously threaten Israel's very existence.
And so here we are. Amidst its own soldiers taking casualties in the ground assault, Israeli public opinion will probably harden, and likely, regardless of a decisive victory or not (and no one seriously expects Hamas to formally surrender, now, do they?)... Bibi Netanyahu will likely find himself PM around 3 weeks after Barack Obama is sworn in as President. Or perhaps (current foreign minister) Tzivi Lipni and (current defense minister) Ehud Barak will manage to pull this out after all.
Either way... somehow, we just know... nothing will really change.
Update (1-5-09): A voice crying out for some moral thinking here, and just what is "too much" against the scope of a hardened Israeli public coming, unsurprisingly, from within Israel itself.
I can't find anything that confirms that 6,000 number. Even if you include mortars as rockets (which they aren't).
Given the difference in power, both militarily and politically, it's got to be Israel that makes the important moves toward peace. And as you say, local politics there as well as here will make that very hard to accomplish.
Posted by Michael L at January 5, 2009 10:02 AM
The 6,000 number is, to channel Colbert perhaps, "widely reported" (CBS, for example, uses it here: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/12/29/world/main4689076.shtml ), so it's at least "fact-esque. I do think I'm a bit off in my time-frame... the 6,000 seems to be since around 2005, rather than just the past few months.
The interesting thing is that the answer may end up being something like a "3-state" solution, breaking off Gaza... Gaza is far more radicalized than the West Bank, where it appears Abbas and the PA may be able to do business with Israel and vice versa (although, note the post re: settlement expansions, which is just stupid and indefensible on the part of Israel). But Israel again faces a demographic issue: its own Arab citizens have children far more rapidly than its Jewish citizens, and in, perhaps 30 or 40 years, may well outnumber Jews, and at some point, do democratically what could not be done militarily or by terrorists, and simply vote Israel out of existence. As such, for Israel's long-term viability, it has to-- and pretty quickly, all things told-- establish a viable Palestinian Arab state so viable and successful that even some Jews might want to live there.
Gaza, alas, will have to be dealt with separately, perhaps by a multi-national re-mandate (Egypt for sure, perhaps Turkey, the US and the UK), and its own rapid development project... normal carrots and sticks of a "peace process" probably wouldn't work among a populace for whom a terrorist group like Hamas is very popular, so some external control force with at least some legitimacy-- like a "re-mandate"-- will be in order.
And Israel really needs to do something about its insane direct-proportional voting system that allows any lunatic party in the Knesset if it passes a rather minor 1, 1.5% threshold, and encourages instability and shaky coalitions... possibly some part of its parliament should be "first-past-the-post" district elections, maybe a written constitution... some things are desperately needed there structurally that will go a long way to enable any kind of "peace process".
I fear, however, that nothing ever seems to change there... and I'm not quite sure what will turn that around.
Posted by the talking dog at January 5, 2009 10:51 AM