Saturday, January 17, 2009

What Next For Us?


I confess to being ambivalent about the ceasefire. Merely by not dying, Israeli soldiers were exposing the myth of Hamas being able to fight Israel. Although their bombast and boasting harked back to 1948 and 1967, and should lead to a breakdown in any trust in Hamas based on its pretence at being a genuine threat to Israel, I am not sure that every opportunity has been taken to hammer that message home, nor to eliminate Hamas commanders, nor to find and free Gilad Shalit.

But it is also clear that Israel has delivered a lesson that Arab States, Hamas and Hezbollah have heard loud and clear. The view that Lebanon 2006 was a complete disaster is not one that I ever subscribed to, but this operation has delivered huge plus points in terms of uniting the country, restoring the morale of the IDF and demonstrating that Israel is prepared to act to protect its population.

The downside is the appalling suffering of the civilians in Gaza. That the suffering may be mainly down to Hamas is beside the point. There comes a time when innocent people (dismissing as asinine the proposition that they deserve death for the way that some of them cast their vote) should not be asked to bear the brunt of an operation whose aims are largely achieved. That only 2 ministers voted against and that the military commander of the operation wanted the ceasefire are both significant factors.

As the world sees what happened in Gaza there will inevitably be much talk of war crimes together with hatred and venom. That reaction will play itself out in time and, when those who want to feel good about themselves by reaching for simplicities have gone, I truly believe that the world - aided by the comparative silence from Egypt and Saudi Arabia and the idiocies from Tehran - will come to understand that Israel did the right thing, notwithstanding the dreadful suffering thereby caused. In the meantime I shall not be watching the BBC, which is in any event all too easily confused with Al Jazeera.

That does not mean that we must retreat to the mantra that they all hate us. They do not and it is folly to say so. The world will react to the horror it sees. It will take time for that horror to be put in perspective. With good fortune (God's help) the UN will be seen to have played an overtly political hand and its influence will be much diminished, people will accept that Hamas used UN premises and those papers which cried foul over Israel's shells falling on those premises will be left with egg on their face.

The challenge for Israel and for us is not to become too wrapped up in the feeling of persecution. We won. We must now show that we can reward those who cooperate as well as we can punish those who would attack us.

I amend this to add that the BBC today interviewed a Hamas 'fighter' rejoicing in the name of Abu Hamza (which should possibly be Mamzer). In a breathtaking act of honesty, Hamza said "we shall fight until the last child". Needless to say, the Beeb wholly failed to pick up on what this actually meant. They did, however, manage to report that "Israel claims that Hamas are a terrorist organisation" as if the assorted Governments of the world had never voiced an opinion. Next time you feel like complaining about the NY Times or CNN, just think that it could be worse.

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