Eyeless in Gaza

By Tom Hayden / The Rag Blog / November 21, 2012

The Israeli political establishment — and donors like Sheldon Adelson and the militant neo-conservatives — seem to be eyeless in Gaza, in the phrase of Aldous Huxley.

Whatever the temporary outcome of this latest war — as this is written, the Israelis are on the verge of a ground invasion — the balance of forces in the new Middle East has shifted against Israel’s military might and towards Tel Aviv’s worsening diplomatic and political isolation.

While it is true that Hamas rocket fire gave the Israelis a plausible case for self-defense, Israel’s targeted killing of Hamas leader Ahmed al-Jabari on November 14 only inflamed the Palestinian fighters to new levels of resistance, leading the Israelis into a strategic trap: either back down from their invasion plan or motor into an urban quagmire and accept greater global condemnation.

An “emboldened” Hamas may exceed its potential capacity by relying on longer-range Fajr-5 missiles from Iran and by testing the limits of its diplomatic support from Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, and the Arab world. But the greater risk is to Israel in trying to impose a military solution that leaves a crater of diplomatic isolation smoldering across the region.

Prime Minister’s great mistake was to attach Israel’s destiny to Mitt Romney. As The New York Times reported November 8, “freed from electoral concerns, the second-term president may prove likelier to pursue his own path without worry about backlash from Washington’s powerful and wealthy pro-Israel lobby.” It also is possible that Obama will use the crisis to increase the pressure on Iran over its smuggling of Farj-5 rockets through Egypt.

Only a diplomatic breakthrough might end the cycle of “eyeless” violence. J Street, the liberal Jewish alternative to AIPAC, is urging a ceasefire coupled with immediate progress towards a two-state solution, a path Israel’s political hawks stubbornly refuse. The Palestinian Authority is petitioning for non-state membership in the United Nations, a diplomatic opening that Congressional hawks will oppose with a cut in funding to both the PA and the UN. With both a military victory and a diplomatic breakthrough blocked, the conflict will continue being a death spiral, as the balance of forces shifts steadily against the Israelis.

From a commentary by Uri Avnery, formerly of Israel’s foreign ministry, “Another Superfluous War.”

“Was there an alternative? Obviously, the situation along the Gaza Strip had become intolerable. One cannot send an entire population to the shelters every two or three weeks. Except hitting Hamas on the head, what can you do?

“A lot.

“First of all, you can abstain from “reacting”. Just cut the chain.

“Then, you can talk with Hamas as the de facto government of Gaza. You did, actually, when negotiating the release of Shalit. So why not look for a permanent modus vivendi, with the involvement of Egypt?

“A hudna can be achieved. In Arab culture, a hudna is a binding truce, sanctified by Allah, which can go on for many years. A hudna cannot be violated. Even the Crusaders concluded hudnas with their Muslim enemies.

“The day after the assassination, Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who had been involved in mediating Shalit’s release, disclosed that he had been in contact with Ja’abari up to the last moment. Ja’abari had been interested in a long-term cease-fire. The Israeli authorities had been informed.

“But the real remedy is peace. Peace with the Palestinian people. Hamas has already solemnly declared that it would respect a peace agreement concluded by the PLO – i.e. Mahmoud Abbas – that would establish a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, provided this agreement were confirmed in a Palestinian referendum.

“Without it, the bloodletting will just go on, round after round. Forever.”

[Tom Hayden is a former California state senator and leader of Sixties peace, justice, and environmental movements. He currently teaches at Pitzer College in Los Angeles. His latest book is The Long Sixties. Hayden is director of the Peace and Justice Resource center and editor of The Peace Exchange Bulletin. Read more of Tom Hayden’s writing on The Rag Blog.]

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