The War That Israel Lost

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Yves here. The Israel-Palestine ceasefire is reportedly holding, despite skirmishes…which makes me wonder if this is merely a de-escalation under different branding. That would still be progress but much more tentative than a ceasefire.

This article goes bigger picture and looks at how Israel’s winning of battles is losing it friends. I’ve been saying for some time that Israel is destined to find the US a less loyal ally over time; younger Jews don’t care about Israel all that much. And I even know some older Jews who decided they could not longer defend Israel after its 2006 invasion of Lebanon. Israel therefore must secure its position as best it can now, even though it’s not clear what that means in practical terms.

By Shir Hever, an independent scholar and journalist based in Heidelberg, Germany. His most recent book is ‘The Privatisation of Israeli Security’ (Pluto Press, 2017). Originally published at openDemocrcy

Back in 2000, the right-wing Israeli politician Ariel Sharon marchedinto the Al-Aqsa Mosque with a detachment of bodyguards. The provocation sparked the second Intifada, which lasted until 2005. Sharon was the leader of the opposition Likud party at the time. The fighting that erupted after his visit also stoked the flames of populism and nationalism in the country, and less than a year later, in March 2001, the Labor Party government of Ehud Barak collapsed and Sharon became prime minister.

The events of this May in Israel-Palestine are a frightening repetition of what happened in 2000.

The results of the March 2021 elections in Israel, the fourth elections in a two-year period, were inconclusive. Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) failed to gather a majority in his allocated time to form a government. Shortly after the president gave the opportunity to opposition leader Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party, Netanyahu sent Israeli police to storm the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem during the Al-Qadr Night prayers on 8 May, and injured 330 Palestinians.

On 10 May, Palestinian groups in the besieged Gaza Strip (namely Hamas and the Islamic Jihad) fired rockets in response to the violation of the mosque. Pogroms in Jerusalem in which angry mobs went hunting for Palestinians to beat up or kill spread to other cities. In Lod and in other so-called “mixed cities”, Palestinian citizens of Israel organised their own groups, and one Jewish Israeli was killed. The Israeli air force began a brutal bombardment campaign of the Gaza Strip, but the rockets from Gaza did not stop. By the time the ceasefire came into effect, 11 days after the fighting started, 232 Palestinians (including 65 children) and 12 Israelis, had been killed.

A Political Manoeuvre

Four consecutive elections in two years did not achieve a clear majority for any candidate in Israel. Politicians are expected to show loyalty to theiridentity group rather than to values and ideals. Ultra-Orthodox Jews are suspicious of middle-class secular Jews, Orthodox religious nationalists despise the LGBT community – and Palestinians, of course, are hated and marginalised by all Zionist parties.

In this latest election round, however, one of the four parties comprising the Joint List which represents the largest part of the Palestinian citizens of Israel and part of the Jewish Israeli left, broke off from it. Ra’am, the party that left, is headed by Mansour Abbas, a conservative Muslim. This split in Palestinian political representation ironically strengthened Palestinian legitimacy, with Abbas playing the role of kingmaker, who neither the right nor the left can afford to alienate.

When the violence erupted, Israeli politicians, especially Netanyahu supporters, escalated racist incitement against Palestinians (whether in Gaza, the West Bank or inside Israel’s borders). An atmosphere of hate and fear took the country by force. Since the parties engaged in negotiations to form a coalition without Netanyahu represent opposing identity groups – aside from Lapid’s Yesh Atid, which represents secular, middle class Jews, and Ra’am, there was Naftali Bennet’s New Right, which represents Jewish religious nationalists – they could no longer cooperate and coalition talks collapsed.

Meanwhile, Lapid failed to utter a single word of criticism about the killing of Palestinians by the military and the police. He has until 2 June to find a majority and form a government, otherwise new elections will be declared, with Netanyahu staying on as interim prime minister.

Already, two party leaders with whom Lapid has been negotiating – Bennetand Gideon Saar (a defecting member of Likud, unhappy at Netanyahu’s alleged corruption) – have both hinted that they could renege on their campaign promises not to join Netanyahu’s government. As soon as Bennet and Saar shifted their positions, Netanyahu quickly accepted Egypt’s proposal for a ceasefire with Hamas.

To the general Israeli public and media, Netanyahu’s manoeuvre is fullytransparent. The state of emergency gives him a chance to stay on as prime minister, and to stave off his corruption trial.

Israeli politicians critical of Netanyahu, however, are afraid to talk about his cynical manipulation of the violence. If they do, they will be branded as “leftists” or “Arab lovers”, both considered insults in Israeli politics. Inside Israel, the fear of having one’s loyalty and nationalism brought into question is stronger than the fear of Hamas’s rockets.

A Heavy Toll

To date, thousands of people are injured and hundreds have been killed, while economic damage is counted in the billions of dollars – but most of the suffering has been borne by Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip.

Incitement and populism are taking a heavy toll on Israeli society. Most young Israelis do not enlist in the military anymore. Not because of a political opposition to the actions of the army, but simply out of personal priorities. Corruption is rife in the government, so why should ordinary citizens be expected to hold themselves to a higher standard and give up years of their lives to the army?

Amid this “everyone for themselves” mentality, public institutions are collapsing. The police have proven incapable or unwilling to stop pogroms, to protect demonstrators or to arrest violent Jewish rioters. When the chief of police urged calm and spoke of “terrorists on both sides,” he was immediately rebuked by Amir Ohana, Likud minister of public security, who branded him a leftist.

Similarly, the military does not function as an organised army, but as an undisciplined angry mob. The brutal bombing of Gaza was poorlycoordinated and even the quality of propaganda that the Israeli military produces in order to justify the bombing is lower than ever.

On 14 May the Israeli military press unit deceived foreign media, claiming that Israeli ground troops were marching into Gaza in order to get Hamas fighters to take shelter in tunnels, which were promptly bombed. The lie failed, because the military press unit did not send the same misinformation to the Israeli newspapers. Hamas officers saw through the trick and avoided entering the tunnels.

Israel’s security agencies could have prepared for rockets from Gaza, or for the protests in the West Bank and inside Israel, but they hadn’t. Their only strategy was deterrence – causing enough death and suffering to convince Palestinians to stay docile out of fear. But when Palestinians overcome their fear, as they have been doing in recent weeks, deterrence becomes meaningless.

A Show of Strength

The general strike by Palestinians across the entire territory of Israel-Palestine on 18 May showed an unprecedented level of unity, and only highlighted how divided the Israeli public has become.

The surprising military strength of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the angry Palestinians rising up after decades of discrimination and humiliation, the protests spreading into the West Bank, Palestinians disappointed by the decision to cancel the expected elections this year – all this has created panic in Israeli public discourse, especially in the media.

Critical Israeli journalists have been silenced, some have received death threats and sought protection from security guards. Other journalists, by contrast, have called for more violence, even for a massacre of Palestinians. (In the media, an often-used euphemism for a massacre is “victory picture” – a symbolic image of destruction that would deny Palestinians the opportunity to claim victory.)

On the tactical level, Israeli armed forces have superior weapons, but on the strategic level, they are losing international legitimacy. The Israeli side is completely predictable. Military operations are dictated by the short-term political interests of Netanyahu. Israelis are internally divided, and politically paralysed. Fear of losing face prevents them from seeking compromises.

In contrast, the Palestinian side is united but unpredictable, and has many options for how to proceed. The military operation, dubbed “Guardian of the Walls” by Israel, may have ended with a ceasefire. But it appears that despite the horrifying death toll among Palestinians, the Israeli side has lost.

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  1. vlade

    I’ve read somewhere (can’t remember where now, but was in the last few days), that in the US the most important allies of Israel aren’t the American Jews, but Evangelicals. And I doubt that with the current Israeli policies they loose many of those.

    There was a fascinating part of one of the In our Time podcasts on The Rupture, which amongs others was talking how a specific version – pretribulation (a british invention, by the way via Darby and Scotfield Reference Bible), changed many Evangelicals in the US from very progressive, liberal (think Quakers etc.. – anti-slavery, pro-worker rights etc. etc.) to the current crop.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Vlade.

      I have read and heard similar, including from a former colleague. He, Zionist and Orthodox and with a north London born and bred son serving in the IDF, blames US evangelicals for the embassy moving to Jerusalem, “Nowt to do with us, guv.” Yeah, right!

      Northern Irish and Scottish unionists and loyalists are another source of support. The Calvinist concept of the elect fits well with the chosen people stuff.

        1. Eric Blair

          Important point, Ireland was out in front for freeing Nelson Mandala and one on the first to sanction apartheid South Africa.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        On one hand there is this, but I think it’s about legitimacy, a latter day Saint Helena project. They look for Noah’s Ark because they can’t dig up other “relics”, and they attach themselves to Israel for the same reason. The Mormons went all in on DNA testing to prove there really were Jews in the Americas back it’s the day.

        Then heck for Southern Baptists, well, I mean they split from the National Baptist organization because of differing views on slavery. I mean Israel is just a bunch of fellow travelers who are white enough.

      2. vlade

        Yes. It is one of the words I have where I get the spelling 99 times out of 100 wrong. Go figure.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      Yes, its one of those very odd alliances that the Middle East regularly throws up – evangelicals are super pro Israel for some obscure reason connected with some biblical interpretations. Given that its all connected with the Rapture, the Israelis may come to regret this.

    3. timbers

      Regarding Evangelicals and Israel.

      My raised Catholic 85 yr old father of Irish/French/German decent is fairly well informed, recently told me he is no longer a supporter of corporate America being disappointed in them, likes history, and wrote a scathing letter to Mitt Romney back when Romney was saying mean things in public about Trump when Trump was in office. He says his Jewish friends tell him he is more pro Israel then anyone they know.

      I have been referring to Israel when I communicate with him with terms that will be moderated out of existence, here.

      He also says it’s time to get rid of masks.

      I will send him a link to this article.

    4. Carolinian

      There’s a house in one of the old mill villages of my town that has a Confederate flag out front and an Israeli flag. Perhaps it’s time for some to admit that both institutions were/are about white European supremacy. And just as the antebellum South persisted in part out of fear of those it had mistreated the same seems to be true of Israel. Surely only a “truth and reconciliation” commission can work to fix this with emphasis on truth. It’s not about morality but about the realization that the world has bigger problems to deal with now than those who wish to keep playing the imperialistic “great game.” And without a doubt when it comes to the latter the elites of my own country are prime offenders.

    5. John A

      As I understand it, the evangelists interpret the bible as prophesising Israel will be created/restored/established again and this will then be followed by the second coming of Christ, a battle with the antichrist, armageddon and the end or the world for everyone except the true believers who will ascend to heaven.
      They are basically trying to speed up this bibical prophesy.
      On the other hand, certain Jewish factors have always been opposed to Israel as they claim that it is up to God to establish Israel, not humans.

      1. Procopius

        They are basically trying to speed up this bibical prophesy.

        I would describe it as, “They are trying to force the god to follow their plan, rather than his own.” I am not a Christian, and I read the Book of Revelation as the hallucinations of a man dying of thirst on the island of Patmos, but some of the kinds of Evangelicals who believe in prophecy and speaking in tongues take it literally. Really, the book nearly was not accepted into the canon, and it should not have been.

  2. Taurus

    There is a change in the coverage in the US media. Today’s top article in The NY Times expresses sympathy with the Palestinians. It remains to be seen how much of this sticks around and how much reverts back to “Israel has the right to defend itself” [and it is just too bad that some children had to die].

    1. PlutoniumKun

      There was a discussion on The Hill on this, it does seem that there has been a distinct change in mood in the media, to question Israeli actions is no longer outside the Overton Window. I wonder if Bidens reflective support for Israel may have backfired on the Israelis – this gives the right the excuse to shift to a more pro-Palestinian stance. And its noticeable that the progressive wing of the Dems hasn’t suffered a backlash from their cautiously critical stance.

      The other shift that is bad news for Israel is that the Gulf arabs seem to have decided that they need a rapprochement with Iran. This could significantly shift the whole balance of power away from Israel, as its Gulf money that keeps so many of Israels direct neighbours so quiet.

    2. upstater

      Seeing the building housing AP deliberately targeted no doubt helps focus the great minds of US “journalism”. Had it been solely Al Jazeera’s office, it would have elicited a collective “meh”. I doubt NYT or WaPo have Gaza bureaus; oddly google can’t answer the question for me.

    3. liz

      The change in coverage has been slight here in Canada. Newspaper articles about the conflict have had their comments sections closed and they predictably “balance ” the coverage by always mentioning the few dead in Israel I guess to try and balance the far more dead in Palestine. There has been no coverage of the possible political ramifications for Netanyahu or anything about the long term blockade/terrible conditions experienced by the Palestinians during the long occupation. No coverage of live fire on protesters and not much coverage of the human toll on Gazans while the hole in the wall that killed the Jewish boy and pictures of Israelis running into their shelters “terrified for their lives” seems to outweigh any possible coverage of dead Palestinian children. So the “balance” is not really.

    4. Dalepues

      This was the top rated and replied to comment on a May 19 Column by Nicholas Kristof at the NYT:

      “I’m an American Jew married to an Israeli. All of my in-laws live in Israel, and I want to offer one glimpse of the thinking of many Israelis that I’ve met in visiting the country more than 25 times. This should shed light on many Israelis’ beliefs that the US will support them indefinitely, no questions asked.

      This is very much my individual take based on my own experience. There are exceptions, I must note. But this is what I’ve found most often. Many of the Israelis I’ve met are incredibly arrogant to Americans. They speak condescendingly to us. They believe us to be fools (and for our unstinting support, perhaps we are).

      They believe we owe them their existence as a nation. They have a hyper-inflated sense of their own importance. And this cultural behavior has only increased during the past thirty-five years that I’ve known the country and some of its citizens.

      And so it is no surprise to me that they elect leaders the likes of Netanyahu.

      We are wrong to fixate on Israel’s leaders, seeming to believe that they’ve just sprung into their positions. Israel elects its leaders. Thus, its leaders are a reflection of the populace.

      So I’d offer this take. Netanyahu will not respond to Pres. Biden in good faith, because he knows the majority of Israelis do not want him to. They much preferred Trump, who was – and still is – extremely popular in Israel.

      And until the US disabuses Israel of these notions, nothing will change there.”

      53 Replies1930 Recommended

  3. The Rev Kev

    With Israel I do believe that it is a matter of the irony and the contradictions in modern Israel that will be their undoing. The irony here is that the Hebrews dreamed and worked for centuries to move back to the Holy Land in order to be closer to their God but through hubris, are now further away than ever. The contradictions? Well, where do you start? A technologically advanced nation those tactical doctrine is straight out of the Torah. A country with a modern liberated lifestyle for women who yet find their pictures digitally eliminated from the public sphere and who know that a growing part of the country wants them to give up public life and return to the home. A country which claims to be a modern nation and yet whom many of its citizens find no problem with killing children on the grounds they they will grow up to be fighters (yes, according to people that have lived there, this is a thing).

    Israel has been called the only Democracy in the Middle East but whose political system is so chaotic & choked, that they cannot even form a government after what, four straight elections? No wonder they cannot form a long term strategy. The only thing that saves their bacon is their relationship with the US but instead of any gratitude, display a contempt and dismissal for any worries that the US has or even any other country for that matter. God knows what Israel will be like when it is the Ultra-orthodox that really runs things but at that point I would expect an outflow of secular Israelis who would find themselves being persecuted. Yeah, it will be the contradictions with the prevailing hubris that will be Israel’s undoing. And it should be remembered that the Palestinians do not have to win many battles or even any battles with the Israelis. They need only win one battle – the last one.

    1. Jon D.

      Alongside all these contradictions is what might be called the Territory Trap. The major violence really began with Israeli police storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the middle of Ramadan. But the backstory is the Israeli move to evict Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah area of East Jerusalem. One might think that the quickest way to calm things down would be to cancel the planned evictions, but that is precisely the sort of move the Israelis cannot make. To do that would be tantamount to admitting that taking land away from Palestinians under legally and morally questionable circumstances is wrong. If that instance of land seizure is wrong, then what about all the other seizures going back to 1967, or for that matter 1947? Once you pull on that piece of string the State of Israel as presently constituted begins to unravel. So the alternative–raw military force–is all there is for the Israelis.
      It’s been estimated that about a million Israelis hold foreign passports and the foreign passport business has been doing very well in recent years. They may come in very handy, sooner rather than later.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Jon.

        Please see my comments when they come out of moderation.

      2. JohnnyGL

        Both of these comments are solid.

        I think Netanyahu’s finally running out of options. His pullout of the settlements in Gaza in 2006 look like a masterstroke in hindsight and probably bought them a lot of time. At this point, he’s managed to hang on to power for an absurdly long period of time, but in so doing, he’s worsened the crisis, pushed israeli politics towards the nutty right, and gotten the israeli state worked into a drunken stupor. At this point, if he goes, i wonder if the next PM will feel the need to escalate the conflict in order to hold a coalition together, — and face more int’l condemnation and alienation? Or, would the next PM try to cool things down, and face a backbench insurrection and get removed from the job?

        Recall, once S. Africa’s apartheid regime faced the loss of US support, it had to negotiate an exit strategy. US support for Israel hasn’t looked this shakey for a long time.

        The ever lingering question remains: Who is going to have the vision and the will to force through a one-state solution?

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          That was Sharon and then Olmert when Sharon stroked out. Netanyahu and Sharon are rivals, even from their Likud days. Say what you will about Sharon (there is a great deal to say), Sharon was a realist with an understanding of what Israel is and needed to do to keep going as it had been. How long can an ethno-state last is an important question.

          pushed israeli politics towards the nutty right,

          Bibi is the nutty right. Its not an Overton Window situation with him. The beatdown by Hezbollah is likely the only thing that has kept Israel in check or at least Netanyah. Too many people know what happened.

          1. AdamK

            “Bibi is the nutty right.”
            Ironically no, Bibi isn’t the nutty right, there are worse than him like Sa’ar, Bennet and Ben Gvir, and if they are in power or emboldened, which they already are, Bibi Netanyahu will be considered a nominee for the Nobel peace price.

          1. David

            It did, actually. It had either six or seven warheads, and it is the one example in history of a nuclear weapon state that gave up that capability voluntarily. It was quite a topic of conversation in the 90s. As told to me, they were for use against the expected Soviet/Cuban invasion via Angola, which was expected at some point in the 1990s.

          2. upstater

            South Africa had a long running nuclear weapons program, which did cooperate with Israel.


            Some reports even claim an actual test occurred in the Indian Ocean (Vela incident).

            But nuclear weapons aside, South Africa never had the raw political power in DC or public support that Israel has so effectively organized (evangelicals, likudniks, AIPAC). Support of Israel is a third rail in US politics; apartheid South Africa never had anything close. Anti-communism propped up US governmental support of South Africa until it became a non-issue with the collapse of the USSR. It also became bad business global corporations. Now corporations are quite happy with dysfunctional South Africa.

            I am very skeptical that Israel’s apartheid state will be dismantled anytime soon. The occupation is now 54 years running and only gets more brutal over time. BDS has been made illegal in most states and at a national level there has never been a slap on the wrist as a consequence of Israeli actions.

      3. schmoe

        “Israel has been called the only Democracy in the Middle East’ by those unaware that Lebanon had a more representative democracy until the US crushed it via sanctions after Hezbollah won a number of seats. Arab parties in Israel are viewed as toxic and shunned as part of a governing coalition, same as the far right in Germany, although in Germany’s case allowing the far right into a coalition government has not always gone well.

        1. John Wright

          I know someone who stated that the USA should support Israel because it is the “Only Democracy in the Middle East”

          To which I responded, “So what? How does the operation of Israel’s government benefit the typical American?”

          1. Darius

            Israel is a democracy the way South Africa was. For some, but not for others, who were excluded from participating.

        2. The Rev Kev

          Re Lebanon- ‘Its financial power and stability through the 1950s and 1960s earned Lebanon the name of “Switzerland of the East”, while its capital, Beirut, attracted so many tourists that it was known as “the Paris of the Middle East”.’ How things change – or were changed.

          1. sharonsj

            Yet virtually all of the Lebanese Jews left because there was no future for them there.

      4. rudolf

        I don’t remember the link, but one of the Israeli generals, “victorious “ after the 7 day war, quipped “we have a choice: Israel can be a democracy or Israel can be a Jewish State. Israel cannot be both.” The way things are going, Israel might have neither.

    2. jonst

      I would bet money on one thing Kev (leaving aside for the moment the irony of self identified “Rev” giving pedantic lectures to the Jews)……there will be few, if any, standing in the ME after ‘the last one’. See the Temple sieges. the Jews will know how to sign off if it comes to that.

      1. Jason

        “Most European capitals are targets for our air force … We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.”

        – Martin Van Creveld, Israeli military expert and advisor to Ariel Sharon, professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem

        1. hunkerdown

          I suspect they’re so mad about Russian air-defense weaponry in their corner of the world for that very reason. They can’t threaten to kill us all for not complying with them.

          1. fajensen

            The Russian equipment probably does not have Israeli-designed software in it.

            Maybe we should talk more to the Russians about that missile defence against “North Korea” and “Iran”?

      2. Jason

        Golda Meir (“Mother Israel”) threatened to destroy the world with nuclear weapons during an interview with Alan Hart on BBC.

        Hart: “Prime Minister, I want to be sure I understand what you’re saying … You are saying that if Israel was ever in danger of being defeated on the battlefield, it would be prepared to take the region and the whole world down with it?”

        Meir [without the shortest of pauses for reflection, and in the gravel voice that could charm or intimidate American Presidents according to need – AH]:

        “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”

      3. Jason

        Amos Rubin, an economic adviser to former Lehi terrorist and subsequent Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, said:

        “If left to its own Israel will have no choice but to fall back on a riskier defense which will endanger itself and the world at large … To enable Israel to abstain from dependence on nuclear arms calls for $2 to $3 billion per year in U.S. aid.”

        In other words, we go a little crazy if we don’t get our way. We’re so crazy, in fact, that we’ll destroy the world – which may in fact destroy ourselves in the process – but we don’t care.

        Incidentally, Israel’s people were well at work stealing nuclear know-how anyway. Working both sides, as it were.

      4. Fern

        “Most European capitals are targets for our air force … We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.” — military advisor to Ariel Sharon

        “there will be few, if any, standing in the ME after ‘the last one’. See the Temple sieges. the Jews will know how to sign off if it comes to that.” — NK commenter jonst

        Jonst has laid down a chilling threat. Take him seriously. I hate to say it, but I’ve heard this exact threat from a zealot in my extended family — but the “target” wasn’t European capitals, it was the U.S. It’s very scary. You’ve got to talk to some of these people to believe it. We’ve got to stop the military aid ASAP. Israel is a tiny country, and the self-selection in immigration vs emigration can change the ideological and emotional composition of the country very quickly. It’s pretty clear that many of the reasonable people have been emigrating and the crazies have been immigrating, and the crazies are setting the tone. This is in addition to the fact that the “tone” was bad to begin with, due to the underlying inconsistencies involved in setting up an ethnostate while pretending to be a democracy. An Israeli expat friend of mine in the early 1980’s told me that “the crazies from Brooklyn” were destroying the country. The small handful of people I know who have emigrated to Israel or are seriously considering it are all people with social skill issues who find it easier to blame their social problems on antisemitism than to directly address them. My Israeli expat friend told me back in the early 80’s that there was a sign in Ben-Gurion  airport that said: “Will the last one out please turn out the lights”. Now, it’s clear the motto has changed to “press the button”.

        In short, we’ve given advanced nuclear weapons to a small handful of emotionally disturbed people. I don’t know how we’re going to get the genie back in the bottle.

        Gideon Levy said that opposition to the assault is virtually nonexistent in Israel. He blamed the media for refusing to give any coverage to the Palestinian suffering. This implies that the crazies apart, there is still a mass of Israelis who could be reached if they weren’t brainwashed. Cutting off military aid would be the first step to force them to listen.

      5. The Rev Kev

        When I was typing my comment last night about how the Palestinians needed to win only the last battle, I knew that as the west will never let Israel fall, that what needed to happen was a final negotiation between the two groups after a future Israeli defeat in a war. Jonst seems to have thought that I was talking about the Fall of Jerusalem 2.0 but in doing so started to talk about the Samson Option – and nuking the entire Middle East rather than an attacking group/country. If jonst is reading this, I wish to assure him that I also give pedantic lectures about “shrine-lickers” and “happy-clappers” as well. :)

        1. jonst

          I have no doubts, and really, no problems regarding your comments on even more widespread lectures. The lecture from a Rev just struck me as ironic. That’s all. Sort of in the manner of Roth character from one of his novels.

          My point was simply a plea for imaging any ‘ win the last one’ because to contemplate it is too horrific. And if, maybe, both sides abandon the dream of the ‘last war’ being a successful war they might realize they have to live together. Admittedly a long shot. Still, I can hope for it.

  4. David

    It might be useful at this point to hand over the microphone to one of the greatest military pundits, Carl von Clausewitz. So, Carl, how do you see things?

    – Well, as I’ve been saying for the last two hundred years, war isn’t something abstract or technical. It’s an act of violence to compel an enemy to do what we want. If they do what we want, then we have “won.” War, as I’ve always said, is an instrument of national policy (albeit with extra options) and so any use of military force has to have a policy and an objective behind it, or it’s just a lot of aimless violence. So the question here is, what was Israel trying to achieve? I don’t mean in the tactical sense of destroying something, I mean what was the strategic objective that this operation was supposed to bring closer? If you don’t have a long-term strategy, that means you don’t know what you are doing and why, which means that military action won’t get you where you need to go except by coincidence. If you take their strategic objective to be the survival of an ethno-nationlist-religious state, then frankly I don’t see how this operation brings it any closer. In fact, I’d say the opposite.

    – The other point I often made was that if you are going to win, you have to identify a certain vulnerable point in the enemy’s dispositions, and go for that. This is what I called the Centre of Gravity: it’s the thing around which all else turns, and isn’t necessarily military, it can be political or even economic. In the case of the Palestinians, it’s very hard to see what this is. What could be successfully targeted to force them to accept the situation in Gaza and elsewhere, without protest? On the other hand, I think it’s clear that for Israel, it’s the will of the jewish population to continue the struggle, and that seems to be taking a hit at the moment. It seems to me that Hamas has correctly identified their opponents’ Centre of Gravity and is going for it. That being so, it doesn’t matter how many Palestinians Israel kills: this is not a sports match after all, where you win by doing more damage than the other side.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I think that those are two very good points David. You always have to get back to fundamental principals by people like Carl von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu. And if the strategic point of this latest war was to keep Netanyahu in power and out of jail, then Mission Accomplished.

      1. JohnnyGL

        In my longer comment above, i question whether in saving his own skin, he’s actually helping to erode the longer term foundations of the zionist project. We’ll probably need to wait 10yrs to know the answer.

      2. The Vole

        >people like Carl von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu …

        See also Thomas C. Schelling / The Diplomacy of Violence:

        The usual distinction between diplomacy and force is not merely in the instruments, words or bullets, but in the relation between adversaries – in the interplay of motives and the role of communication, understandings, compromise, and restraint. Diplomacy is bargaining; it seeks outcomes that, though not ideal for either party, are better for both than some of the alternatives. In diplomacy each party somewhat controls what the other wants, and can get more by compromise, exchange, or collaboration than by taking things in his own hands and ignoring the other’s wishes. The bargaining can be polite or rude, entail threats as well as offers, assume a status quo or ignore all rights and privileges, and assume mistrust rather than trust. But whether polite or impolite, constructive or aggressive, respectful or vicious, whether it occurs among friends or antagonists and whether or not there is a basis for trust and goodwill, there must be some common interest, if only in the avoidance of mutual damage, and an awareness of the need to make the other party prefer an outcome acceptable to oneself.

        With enough military force a country may not need to bargain. Some things a country wants it can take, and some things it has it can keep, by sheer strength, skill and ingenuity. It can do this forcibly, accommodating only to opposing strength, skill, and ingenuity and without trying to appeal to an enemy’s wishes. Forcibly a country can repel and expel, penetrate and occupy, seize, exterminate, disarm and disable, confine, deny access, and directly frustrate intrusion or attack. It can, that is, if it has enough strength. ‘Enough’ depends on how much an opponent has.

        There is something else, though, that force can do. It is less military, less heroic, less impersonal, and less unilateral; it is uglier, and has received less attention in Western military strategy. In addition to seizing and holding, disarming and confining, penetrating and obstructing, and all that, military force can be used to hurt. In addition to taking and protecting things of value it can destroy value. In addition to weakening an enemy militarily it can cause an enemy plain suffering.

        Pain and shock, loss and grief, privation and horror are always in some degree, sometimes in terrible degree, among the results of warfare; but in traditional military science they are incidental, they are not the object. If violence can be done incidentally, though, it can also be done purposely. The power to hurt can be counted among the most impressive attributes of military force.

        Hurting, unlike forcible seizure or self-defence, is not unconcerned with the interest of others. It is measured in the suffering it can cause and the victims’ motivation to avoid it. Forcible action will work against weeds or floods as well as against armies, but suffering requires a victim that can feel pain or has something to lose. To inflict suffering gains nothing and saves nothing directly; it can only make people behave to avoid it. The only purpose, unless sport or revenge, must be to influence somebody’s behaviour, to coerce his decision or choice. To be coercive, violence has to be anticipated. And it has to be avoidable by accommodation. The power to hurt is bargaining power. To exploit it is diplomacy – vicious diplomacy, but diplomacy.

    2. Alex

      I agree with your first point. Netanyahu’s intent to distract everyone’s attention from the corruption investigation and make a coalition government with Arab parties politically impossible is indeed transparent to everyone.

      Not sure about the second one. From what I see around, the will to continue the struggle has strengthened, if anything. Things like these tend to push people to the right unfortunately

      1. JTMcPhee

        In the minds of many Israelis, there is a goal in mind — Eretz Israel, “Greater Israel,” which extends “from the Nile to the Euphrates,” in various permutations like this:

        Not sure what the Israel -tes would gain if they could accomplish this land grab. Also not sure what the US taken as an entity has in mind for our own future, though our thug leaders are all still all in on “full spectrum dominance.”

        Some notions I’ve come across over the years, on Israeli mindset: First, I think most of them refer to the US as “Uncle Sucker.” Dumb enough to let them penetrate our national secrets, prostrate enough to let them try to, and almost succeed in, sinking one of our ships, the USS Liberty in 1967, asinine enough to let them suck us into being their mercenaries in the Mideast, and foolish enough to send them billions of dollars and megatons of war materiel.

        Second, there’s a phrase that captures much of the aggressive, condescending arrogance that Israelis display toward us and each other it seems, according to Israeli writers, the behavior of the Israeli polity: “Don’t be a freier!” I’ll let someone who knows best what it means explain it: “Thou Shalt Not Be A Freier,” And that’s how Israelis think about the US: We are “freiers,” to be lied to and manipulated and taken advantage of. Netanyahu has bragged (as have some former Israeli PMs) about lying to the US and misleading us and taking full advantage of us. And yet the Imperial leadership still sends Israel tribute.

        Not that the Empire and the rest of the world don’t have their share of suicidal monomaniacs and self-dealers. One of my faves, who actually did a nice dance with Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders and businesses at the expense of the Palestinian people, is Yasir Arafat. Here’s a long read from the Atlantic from quite a few years ago, that lays out in gory and disgusting detail how Arafat sold out “his” people and enriched himself: “In a Ruined Country: How Yasir Arafat Destroyed Palestine.,”

  5. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    Readers may be interested to hear that every June, except last year and this year for obvious reasons, a reception is held at the Houses of Parliament for British citizens serving in the IDF. The reception is hosted by the multiparty Friends of Israel. The Israeli ambassador is guest speaker and thanks the, er, um, Brits for their service.

    The reception is paid for by the British taxpayer and for the benefit of people who care nothing for queen and country and are loyal to a foreign power.

    My father and his best friend, my godfather, served queen and country for 25 years each. Neither has ever been invited to Parliament. Many, but no longer a majority of, homeless people are ex servicemen. They don’t get this sort of jolly, either.

  6. CuriosityConcern

    So the question here is, what was Israel trying to achieve? I don’t mean in the tactical sense of destroying something, I mean what was the strategic objective that this operation was supposed to bring closer?

    I have started to believe that war and warlike behaviour are a function of the short terms elected officials in western democracies are allowed to serve. If your government only has two or four years to lead and then will be replaced by a government that will 180 your work, then quick and forceful actions will be incentivised, especially actions that splash across the news. Can’t help but wonder what a 10 year presidency in the US would be like as opposed to 4 years. Another upside, would save us money and energy on elections.
    I don’t think I originated this concept, but probably picked it up somewhere over the years.

      1. CuriosityConcern

        FDR for another 16, but I would have to concede that he was a wartime president.
        I suppose I would also concede 10 years of elected office might be too long, but the average lifespan of citizens was lower when the original 4 year terms were worked out. I’d like to think voters anywhere in the world(maybe even the US) would take their voting more seriously if the terms were ever extended. Maybe the choices we have would be different if we had deliberated more on our choices in the past.
        Probably a pipe dream, but it is different than what we are currently doing and possibly could give us different results.

  7. Just Saying

    Time to give North America back to those who lived here first! Hamas is a terrorist group using civilians & children as shields.

    1. The Rev Kev

      A big tell in this recent war was when Israel bombed the only Covid clinic in the Gaza and killed their top Covid doctor as well. And the major road that led to their main hospital was totally destroyed. And water supplies here hit too. So, how would Israelis feel if Palestinians were doing this to Israelis?

      1. sharonsj

        According to the New York Times, Israel attacked a nearby building and “sent shrapnel and debris flying across the street, damaging the lab and the administrative offices of the Hamas-run Health Ministry.” So it was not deliberate; it was collateral damage.

  8. David

    Since the end of apartheid in South Africa has already been mentioned, and since the comparison is often made with the Palestinian situation (and there are some interesting similarities), it might be worth saying a word about SA in the 1980s.

    First, the increasing isolation of the country in those years did not lead to moderation of the regime, but rather to radicalising it. The more isolated the country became, the more the regime saw itself, and was able to present itself, as an international victim, the target of a vast Total Onslaught directed from Moscow, with the aim of overthrowing the last democracy in Africa. Although the regime was ready to make a few token concessions, even the so-called “verligte” (“enlightened”) Afrikaners weren’t really prepared to give up very much. The isolation, and even more the violence and chaos within the country, pushed large number of English-speakers into voting for the hard-line Afrikaner National Party for the first time.

    So far so bad, so why did it change? From what’s been written (corroborated, for what that’s worth, by what I’ve been told) there were three things. How much what follows is relevant to Palestine is debatable, but, anyway. The first was the effects of the boycott and sanctions on the economy. This especially affected the business community, largely English-speaking, who were always against rigorous apartheid because it was economically inefficient and bad for business (and with a folk-memory that it was originally targeted against them). I’ve been told of discreet meetings between business leaders and the ANC during the 1980s.

    The second was the realisation by the security apparatus that in the end they couldn’t win. They could invade Angola as often as they liked, but they couldn’t permanently stop the military wing of the ANC from operating there. The most they could do, as one General said to me just after the end of apartheid, was “to buy time” for political change in the country. It seems as though both the Foreign Ministry and, more importantly, the National Intelligence Service, were saying the same thing. The third was weariness in the population. Men of military age were being called up for service in Angola and some were not coming back. The wider population was tired, frightened by bomb attacks and shootings, and wanted it all to stop.

    None of this might have mattered, however, without the end of the Cold War. The Enemy disappeared overnight, and the whole raison d’être of the regime vanished with it. This provided De Klerk, after he took over from PW Botha in 1989, with room for what he thought were essentially token concessions. (The regime had been negotiating secretly with the ANC for a while, even under Botha). Freeing Mandela and un-banning the ANC and the Communist Party, were seen as relatively low-cost initiatives which would improve SA’s status in the world, and gain goodwill which would obscure the fact that de Klerk was only intending to make minimal concessions in the negotiations. What followed (recounted, for example, in some excellent books by Alastair Sparks) was a total defeat for the regime, as they were out-negotiated by Mandela and by Cyril Ramaphosa, the current President.

    Does this provide any hope? Well, maybe, I’m not sure.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, David.

      With regard to contact between SA business and the ANC, that is correct. They took place in London and the Netherlands.I had heard about / rumours of them then, but about 1990, when asked about a job at Lonrho, it was confirmed. It was also confirmed a year later when dad went to work in SA, and Lesotho and Swaziland, for 18 months.

    2. urblintz

      Some believe Mandela caved as opposed to out-negotiated:

      “Is South Africa finally maturing to the point that the economic – not just political – compromises of the 1990s democratic transition can be reconsidered? When engaging student activists, for example, University of the Free State rector Jonathan Jansen frets that “If [former President Nelson] Mandela gets any mention at all, it is as a sell-out, the man who led South Africa into a soft transition that left white privilege undisturbed and black poverty undiminished”.

      There has been tough questioning of Mandela’s deals by a diverse range of critics.”

      I don’t know what the truth is and am in no position to judge the great Nelson Mandela but have come to understand that post-apartheid SA and his part in creating it is a bit more complicated than the popular narrative.

      1. The Rev Kev

        An interesting question this. I suspect that a factor is that when Mandela came in, the situation back then was nothing like it is right now. The whites in the country still held the important levers of power like the military, judiciary, the bureaucracy, etc. It would take time to change the mix of people in power to reflect the population more as people were trained up. First priority would of course would have been to stabilize the economic situation before that plunged the country into chaos which could lead to a civil war. But now would be a good time to change some of those deals.

        I only spent several weeks in South Africa during the apartheid-era and found that every time you think that you had an idea of what the go was, you would discover that it wasn’t necessarily so. A minor example – I met a guy that said that South Africa was still exporting a lot of goods to the rest of Africa. But in the documents, it would just be labelled ‘Product of Africa.’ Certainly a lot of the South Africans did not appreciate what their country had become to satisfy a vocal and powerful minority and wanted change too. And it did.

      2. Arizona Slim

        I have been following Noraly’s motorcycle travel videos on YouTube. Right now, she’s in South Africa. To me, it looks the same way as described above. White privilege intact and black poverty widespread.

        1. Thuto

          I’m seeing some very interesting comments about SA from the commentariat that i’d love to respond to semi-longform but i’m recovering from an injury and thus unable to. Years ago you and I had a brief exchange here where I pretty much stated what you state here re: white privilege and black poverty in post-apartheid SA and you let on that a previous trip to our shores had confirmed as much to you, that little had changed in terms the economic status quo and privilege had failed to sufficiently migrate from where it was located during apartheid. I’m once again here to confirm your youtube inspired diagnosis to be on point. A tourist can land at any big airport in SA (Durban, Cape Town or Joburg) and the drive to their hotel will quickly disabuse them of the notion that the dynamics of wealth distribution have shifted in any meaningful way.

          Race remains largely a proxy for privilege and poverty in contemporary SA, that dynamic remains firmly intact. Any policy attempts at redress are increasingly getting bogged down in legal challenges by well funded lobby groups for Afrikaaner old money like Afriforum, who at present are interdicting an initiative by the Department of Tourism to get black people to join the ownership ranks in the hospitality industry (how dare blacks aspire to own hotels and guest lodges, apparently, according to Afriforum, they should be happy with the “jobs” these establishments provide). As you stated years ago, it was pretty clear to you in the places you stayed in that “whites owned and blacks served”, that’s still the case today. “Reverse racism” is the leitmotif in the propaganda defending the status quo and pushing back against attempts to broaden the ownership ranks in the economy at large. So yes, as you put it “white privilege intact and black poverty widespread”

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Sorry to hear about your injury, hope things aren’t too bad. I was hoping to see you comment here on the discussion about Mandela.

    3. upstater

      David, your points are well taken and some briefly mentioned in my earlier comment. But if the presidency of a corrupt billionaire oligarch like Cyril Ramaphosa or predecessors Zuma or Mbecki represents some sort of “victory” of the anti-apartheid forces and was a total defeat for the Afrikaaners, this ignores the fact that the multinational corporations won the war. They pressured the Afrikaaners solely for business reasons; morality wasn’t on their agenda. Without support of the USSR, the ANC would have been unable to continue the civil war in any event.

      Note the sell off of state assets to cronies and the sorry state of SOEs, some of which were truly world class. Contemporary South Africa is a hotbed of the worst sort of oligarhic corruption that would make the Russians or Mexicans blush. Enfrachisement ultimately means little, as the country remains highly segregated, crime is rampant and it has one of the highest GINI coefficients in the world. Ramaphosa, the former union leader, was even on the board of a platinum mining company that slaughtered striking miners. Unlike South Africa, Israel has no resources to plunder and a tiny consumer market only defense contractors or spyware companies care about Israeli business. Multinationals could care less about Palestinians.

      Israel and Palestine are nowhere near comparable to South Africa. There is the religion factor that is even more intractable than race, there are remains of the residue of European imperialism, Nazism, the Inquisition and centuries of pogroms. Israel is in no sense isolated as South Africa became in the 70s and 80s. Indeed, Israel was far more isolated and a pariah 40 years ago than today. The radicalization of politics in Israel is little different than what is occurring in the so-called western democracies. And it’s barbaric militarism looks a lot like that of the US. Warmaking with Likudnik characteristics…

      1. JTMcPhee

        “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others,”” decreed the pigs in “Animal Farm,” who the other animals could now see sitting in chairs and playing cards and eating and smoking with the Humans, through the windows of the farmhouse… Wonder why it always seems to work out the same way?

        Stupid effing humans…

      2. David

        OK, two points briefly. Mandela was accused, at the time and since, of betraying the ANC and giving away too much. There’s some truth in that, in the sense that much of the ANC leadership at the time still believed the apartheid state could be overthrown militarily, and the country remodelled as a Soviet-style command economy. Mandela and some of his colleagues knew this was not possible. Effectively what they did was to take political power away from the Afrikaners, but leave most of the economic power with the English-speaking white middle class. I don’t think there was much choice at the time – they needed those skills if the country was to prosper, and anyway the ANC was a multi-racial organisation (it would be quickly cancelled today) with whites in its top ranks, and wanted to offer whites a future in the country as well. Mandela was not a saint: he was not Martin Luther King and certainly not Gandhi. He was the symbol of an armed struggle that eventually achieved most of its objectives. Yes, SA has many problems and Ramaphosa is not a saint either (though he’s a massive improvement on Zuma, and I know something about the titanic behind the scenes struggle to get rid of that dangerous man) but thirty years ago not many people were prepared to believe that the country would even survive very long. Before the elections in 1994 there was the smell of fear in the air in the major cities, they were picking dead bodies up every morning, and right-wing commentators were rubbing their hands at the prospect of racial violence and civil war. It never happened, because quite a lot of people on all sides put a lot of effort into making sure that it didn’t.

        My point in bringing up SA again – one or two people had already mentioned it, I think – is that it is increasingly offered as a model for how the Palestinian crisis can be resolved. (There’s an article in todays’s Observer, which I can’t be bothered to read.) As I said, I’m not sure this is true. First, as I suggested, external pressure only played a limited role in the end of apartheid anyway, and SA at the time was much more vulnerable than Israel is today. Second, although there seem to be some interesting similarities (and I won’t say any more about Israel because I’ve never been there) the differences seem to me to be far more important.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I think pointing to SA as a model is a bit of a waste of time, Israel/Palestine is such a different country. I think there were a number of points in the past half century when some sort of deal could have been done that would have made one or more relatively stable countries in that region, but that time has gone. A core problem I think has been the huge influx of new immigrants to Israel who seem to have pushed domestic politics past any sort of potential for compromise. Most Israelis I’ve met casually over the years have been relatively speaking left wing/hipster types, but even they will talk in quite apocalyptic tones when the subject of Palestine/Gaza comes up and are often surprisingly fast to defend their own government. They do remind me sometimes in that way of white South Africans and Zimbabwians I knew back in the 1980’s.

          As for South Africa, its very easy to criticise Mandela for what happened post apartheid, but I’ve never read a convincing account of what else he could have done, except perhaps have been more duplicitous (i.e. back out of many of his assurances to establishment whites once it was safe to do so). You can find plenty of precedents for that type of choice, from post war Germany and Japan to any number of post colonial situations, where the choice was an uncomfortable set of compromises with peace and stability, or a real shot at creating something better, with the risk that it could all turn into some sort of Khymer Rouge hell. You can certainly make a big picture argument that those countries that emphasised post conflict stability over radical change have done better in the very long run (Ireland being one example, but there are many others). West/East Germany, China/Taiwan and North/South Korea are also interesting contrasts.

          Back in the 1990’s I knew a few white and mixed race South Africans who had left, all were incredibly pessimistic about their country (most assumed a collapse into some sort of Congo type situation was inevitable). I slightly knew one who had been a senior civil servant and had some hilariously bleak stories about the sort of job he had to do during the apartheid years in order to uphold the perception of legal and administrative normality – like knocking on doors to present legal documents for some mundane purpose in a township while trying to pretend that he didn’t have a 30 man military squad behind him, the sole purpose of which was to stop him getting shot or lynched.

          1. Thuto

            Re: Mandela, his bold vision for a non-racial, post-apartheid South Africa led him to pack a suitcase full of good-faith for his trip to the negotiating table, whereas his counterparts the Afrikaaners packed theirs full of duplicity and subterfuge. I don’t usually buy into the argument that he knowingly “sold out”, his mistake was in showering his opponents with unearned trust by thinking that even they had “seen the light” and shared his bold vision for the country. As the past 25 years have shown, nothing could have been further from the truth, the whites wanted to negotiate a settlement that maintained white privilege and black subservience.

            The BBC lopsided arrangement that ensued is what some have called “stability”, and to the extent that said stability averted civil war , which it did, one could argue it’s due its praise. But this stability has come at a cost for the majority of black people in South Africa, whose lot in life has changed little in a generation since Mandela first became president, even as it further cocconed whites in their privilege, insulating them, and the corrupt ANC politicians who now plunder the state, from the threat of a black revolt. Mandela was an idealist in an environment that called for pragmatism and a little cunning, and the country is still paying for that mistake.

            1. Thuto

              Not sure how “BBC” ended up in the first sentence of the last paragraph. It’s meant to read “the lopsided arrangement that ensued…”.

  9. Real Friends

    We will have to look at a map to see how this war turned out. I guess that they have conquered more land and now feign a truce. Check the salami effect as a concept. Here is the basic idea.

    I highly doubt that Israel are losing friends that matter, things like Jeffrey Epstein make sure of that.

    Also in Germany they have labeled the BDS as “anti-semitic” movement. In Germany that is almost tantamount to page 2 on Google. You are a corpse. The Bundeskanzlerelection has just started and already the US-Agent Baerbock is attacking opponent as anti-semite. Geeman support for Israel is die-hard.

    The billions of sales of arms to Israel by Biden says “we are cool”.

    The anti-semite lobby is strong in Europe. It made sure that Corbyn was knocked down.

    1. Alex

      The maps are misleading, they mix private ownership of land and its official status.

      On the first map, the land coloured white is Jewish owned, but on the last map the land owned by Arabs within the green line is not coloured green even though there are dozens of such settlements and they occupy non-negligible area.

      Also, state lands that were not owned by anyone are coloured green on the 1946 map

      1. Real Friends

        “mix private ownership of land and its official status.”
        – private: that’s the settlers just moving in. State declaring it official territory later on. It doesn’t matter if the maps mix the ownership because both private and state forces are in play to make sure that the Palestinians’ outdoor prison gets smaller and smaller.

  10. John Beech

    The guilt for ignoring Jewish plight leading up and during WWII’s massacres led to a strange result of Jews now practicing Apartheid with the Palestinians. The British surely didn’t do anybody a single favor in the Levant, beginning with the Sykes-Picot lines they drew with the French in 1916 and their proposal to the UN in 1947 to divvy up British Palestine, eh? What a mess. Sad thing? The dealmaker known as The Donald probably had a better chance of getting a deal done between the parties than anybody in history and now this opportunity has flown the coop due to the hatred everybody has for the guy. Too bad.

  11. john d

    The initial provocation of the Palestinians served to aid Bibis policies and Bibis attempts to stay in power. Once a certain momentum starts in the region,political reality makes it difficult to stop. Bibi will stop at nothing to stay in power.

    Israeli society has leaned more right wing thanks to an increasing orthodox population and the political ‘leaders’. The pipe dream of a 2 state solution is long dead thanks to political/power interests on both sides who use religion as a weapon to control the people.

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