Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Can Israel Win?

Two articles I read today indicate that Israel will be hard pressed to win the current war in Gaza. Batya Melamed writes in YNET that Israel has no faith in the justice of its cause or its actions.

A moment before we lose more kids, God forbid, in the coming battle in Gaza, we must ask the Israeli government to stop the tanks, ground the planes, call the battleships back to port and silence the artillery. We must do more than ask: We must plead with our government not to go out to this extraneous battle.

Just let us avoid this war. It is doomed to failure from the start.

There are two reasons for this: One, because our weak spot was been revealed for all to see during hostage crises in the past, and Israel's "diplomatic attempts" to bring about the release of hostages in the past. Those who had anything to do with those negotiations (both families and negotiators) now admit our government has been weak of hand and weak of will when dealing with murderers.

Secondly, they will not succeed because when we compare Israel's military power to that of our neighbors – we never talk about the main point. We compare weapons, or talk about the lack in technological advancement between the two sides.

But no one measures the power of the most important weapon a country who wants to live, who is dedicated to defeating its enemies, can have: Faith in the justice of its cause and its actions. The ability to walk upright, and even the willingness "to die for one's country."

Melamed may be right that on a political level, Israel lacks faith in the justice of it's cause or actions. However, on a strategic level most Israelis are resolute that the current incursion into Gaza is the most moral and just mission possible; the rescue of IDF soldier Gilad ben Aviva Shalit, and ensuring the cessation of Qassam rocket attacks against Southern Israel. Whether the political echelons will allow the IDF to fully complete this mission is another story, but you would be hard pressed to find an IDF soldier who would not want to satisfy these 2 objectives.

Daniel Pipes explains Israel's attitude towards war is that of management & containment, not victory. Pipes feels that Israelis don't understand the concept of total victory and therefore they always stop before it is achieved or worse, never try to achieve it in the first place.
Wars are won, the historical record shows, when one side feels compelled to give up on its goals. This is only logical, for so long as both sides hope to achieve their war ambitions, fighting either continues or potentially can resume. For example, although defeated in World War I, the Germans did not give up their goal of dominating Europe and soon again turned to Hitler to try again. The Korean War ended more than a half century ago, but neither North nor South having given up its aspirations means fighting could flare up at any time. Similarly, through the many rounds of the Arab-Israeli conflict (wars in 1948-49, 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982) both sides retained their goals.

Those goals are simple, static, and binary. The Arabs fight to eliminate Israel; Israel fights to win the acceptance of its neighbors. The first is offensive in intent; the second is defensive. The former is barbaric, and the latter civilized. For nearly 60 years, Arab rejectionists have sought to eliminate Israel via a range of strategies: undermining its legitimacy through propaganda, harming its economy through a trade boycott, demoralizing it through terrorism, and threatening its population via WMD.

Rather than seek victory, Israelis have developed a lengthy menu of approaches to manage the conflict.

These include: [updates by Jameel]

  • Unilateralism (building a wall, partial almost complete withdrawals): the current policy, as espoused by Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, and the Kadima Party.
  • Lease for 99 years the land under Israeli towns on the West Bank: the Labor Party of Amir Peretz
  • Palestinian Arab economic development: Shimon Peres.
  • Territorial compromise: The premise of Oslo diplomacy, as initiated by Yitzhak Rabin.
  • Outside funding for the Palestinian Arabs (on the Marshall Plan model): U.S. Representative Henry Hyde.
  • Retreat to the 1967 borders: Israel's far left center to left.
  • Push the Palestinian Arabs to develop good government: Natan Sharansky (and President Bush).
  • Insist that Jordan is Palestine: Israel's right. [JATM: haven't heard this one in a while]
  • Transfer the Palestinian Arabs out of the West Bank: Israel's far right.

    These many approaches are very different in spirit and mutually exclusive. But they have a key element in common. All manage the conflict without resolving it. All ignore the need to defeat Palestinian rejectionism. All seek to finesse war rather than win it.

  • In simplistic terms, Israel has no long term vision. The Israeli left believes in short term solutions and hope things will work themselves out over time (even if they don't, like Oslo and the Disengagement). The Israeli right believes in not offering serious solutions at all -- and if they do, they are often for election campaigning only and not for implementation. A serious rightwing proposal is here...but it was from a think-tank, and never considered by a rightwing politician.

    As Israel breathlessly stands together today praying for the safe return of IDF soldier Gilad ben Aviva (Shalit), kidnapped Israeli Eliyahu ben Miriam (Asheri), and the success of the IDF mission into Gaza, I pray that Israel find unity in the belief in the justice of it's cause, and that we are worthy of leaders who can lead Israel together towards unity.

    Once we stand united, as a people and nation -- will victory be assured.

    Cross-posted to The Muqata

    Wherever I may go, my blog always turns towards Eretz Yisrael

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