Your humble blogger is not feeling so hot, so forgive my being a bit cursory. But it seems important to register where things are in the Gaza conflict and where they look set to go next, give that the pause/ceasefire will end and Israel will resume its assault, supposedly on Hamas, but really on Gaza residents, if nothing else by making Gaza even more uninhabitable than it has become. And that is before the extermination of those residents looking very much like a feature and not a bug. Fresh evidence supports this view:
Lest we forget: Israel's army is wiping out any chance of Peace by utilising the temporary lull in Gaza to raid Jenin in the West Bank. That's what Western gvts are supporting behind the lie of a 2-state solution: The complete annexation of the West Bank once Gaza is 'cleansed'.
— Yanis Varoufakis (@yanisvaroufakis) November 29, 2023
As discussed below, once the ceasefire ends, Gaza will presumably soon run out of fuel, which again means photos and reports out of Gaza will fall to close to zero due to lack of power and Internet connectivity. The last time that happened, since Americans have the memories of goldfish, Gaza outrage on Twitter and the media dropped markedly (admittedly, protest numbers did seem to hold up, but the blackout hadn’t been operative all that long before the “pause” and reporting resumed). Given that the US holiday season, and with it, reduced news engagement, is coming soon, Israel probably feels it has a lot of room to operate once Gaza goes dark again through at least the new year.
Aaron Mate suggested that the pause was due in significant degree to domestic pressure. Perhaps readers have some news snippets to indicate whether the Israel public thinks hostage exchanges have gone far enough, or whether the Netanyhu government might find it prudent to have a later pause? This of course has the side benefit of dampening down international criticism a tad:
Israel could have had a hostage deal nearly one month ago, but chose a ground invasion instead. It then rejected the same Qatari-brokered deal last week.
What changed now? According to Amos Harel of Haaretz, the Israeli “security establishment” has developed the “understanding… pic.twitter.com/8rvMN7AFlz
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) November 22, 2023
Keep in mind the longer-term outcome is still indeterminate, since there are a lot of wild cards, such what happens if Biden slips a cog, or Israel very much mis-manages its response to the Turkiye-sponsored 1000 boat flotilla the Times of Israel reported as supposedly coming to Gaza to deliver aid.1
This tweet seemed useful as a point of departure:
This is a 180 like we've probably never seen in US foreign policy. Biden is now essentially calling for a ceasefire 👇 When less than 3 weeks ago the White House officially called a ceasefire "wrong, repugnant and disgraceful"… He literally went from saying Hamas could benefit… https://t.co/bqjCkFVuOv
— Arnaud Bertrand (@RnaudBertrand) November 29, 2023
I am not convinced. I see the tweet Bertrand highlighted as weak tea. Yes, it is a positioning shift but Biden and the Democrats generally have been under a tremendous amount of pressure for their dogged support of Israel and the very limited actions they have taken to curb the assault on Gaza and get aid in.
Keep in mind that Biden personally is very much a champion of Israel. Former British ambassador Alastair Crooke pointed out Biden has done the least of any recent US president to promote the two-state solution. Biden gave away all of his leverage by fully backing the Israel government as the war started. John Mearsheimer has said no two countries are so joined at the hip in history as the US and Israel. And not that this tweet even rose to the level of being a commitment, but Biden has made important commitments and then quickly took action that amounted to a repudiation, witness his empty words to Xi about hewing to the US “one China” policy.
Even though US support for Israel in the conflict has fallen in recent weeks. But showing how much poll results depend on the phrasing and ordering of the questions, another recent poll claimed much higher support for Israel, but with the backing falling substantially in younger age cohorts
We’ve been saying for years that Israel ought to know its US sponsorship was set to fade over time. In IIRC 2004, Peter Beinhart described how young Jews didn’t identify much with Israel. That mean the Israel lobby’s ability to muster donations and votes was set to weaken over time. One might think that could create pressure among those who noticed this trend to establish the most favorable facts on the ground in Israel and the region before the influence of the Israel lobby started to wane as its base inevitably shrank.2
And aside from Biden’s established loyalty to Israel, his poor performance in polls, the fact that Biden needs as many votes as he can get in Congress to get his various initiatives funded once the stopgap expires and the fact that Democratic primaries will soon be upon us3 means Biden could pay a real cost if he is seen as going too far in pressing the Israel government. As M.K.Bhadrakumar put it:
The elites fear that the Lobby will target them if there are any signs of them wavering in their support for Israel. Put differently, the political elites do not place American national interests above their own personal or career interests. Thus, the Israel Lobby always wins on the Palestinian issue and in extracting generous financial support for Israel with no strings attached. Make no mistake that the Lobby will go to any extent to have its way whenever the crunch time comes, such as today.
Biden is hardly in a position to displease or annoy the Israel Lobby on a day of reckoning. So, why is he making big promises to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi of Egypt that “under no circumstances will the United States permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank, or the besiegement of Gaza, or the redrawing of the borders of Gaza”?
The answer is simple: these are fait accompli that have been forced upon the US and Israel by the Arab States in their finest hour of collective security, none of whom is willing to legitimise Israel’s genocide or its roadmap of ethnic cleansing. Didn’t even little Jordan say ‘no’ to Biden?
Biden is making hollow promises. In reality, what matters is that the Israel Lobby will go to extraordinary length to protect the emerging Greater Israel. Again, it costs Biden nothing by affirming support for a two-state solution. He knows it will be aeons before such a vision takes life, if at all, and if South Africa’s experience is anything to go by, the journey will be fraught with much bloodshed.
There is the question of what Israel’s aims are. Many see Israel caught up in a revenge-spasm, as the US was after 9/11. That is true but may not be the operative truth. Alastair Crooke on Judge Napolitano described how the Mizrahim have come to have the majority in the Knesset, and how they are committed to Israel retaking historical Israel, as in more territory than the current state boundaries, and razing the Al Aqsa mosque and rebuilding the Temple Mount on that site. Keep in mind Al Aqsa is the third holiest site in the Muslim faith.
Given the difficulty of finding material on YouTube, forgive me for going from memory. But Crooke described, in some detail, how in the weeks/months before the attempt to desecrate Al Aqsa by sacrificing a goat in it (!!!). the Israel cabinet had met underneath it (yes, Israel has been digging below the mosque) and resolved, “This is our land. We are taking it.”
Now this sounds a tad suicidal. But if you hold an even dimmer view of Palestinian and Arab capabilities than we did of Russia before the SMO, it no doubt seems perfectly reasonable as well as of course endorsed by God.
And so far, Israelis must be telling themselves that their bet is paying off since none of the Muslim countries in the ‘hood has intervened in a serious way to stop the slaughter of Palestinians. Crooke has pointed out Gaza is not habitable long-term with no hospitals. And it won’t take that more residence/infrastructure destruction to make it uninhabitable in the short term. Disease, dehydration, lack of food and exposure will greatly increase the death count in Gaza.
But Israel probably also thinks it has to at least seriously bloody Hamas on top of the less difficult task of depopulating Gaza. Douglas Macgregor, in an otherwise fine new piece at The American Conservative, ignores the possibility that the slaughter of civilians has a motive other than revenge. Did he miss that Israel has a long-standing policy of disproportionate retaliation? Scott Ritter has described other savage Israel practices, like breaking the arms of Palestinian kids that taunt soldiers, taking them into custody and making sure the arms are set badly so the children will be crippled.
Magregor says that if Israel is not willing to negotiate (and I see no reason it will be absent suffering strategic defeats), a wider war will result:
More to the point, is Israel’s desired end state an “Arab-Free Israeli State from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean?”
To survive a regional war of decision, Israel will have to transform its society into a heavily armed fortress, a nation in arms with the capacity to withstand a long, devastating siege. Israelis knew from Israel’s inception that a Jewish State in the Middle East could only be sustained through force of arms, but transformation into a fortress is new. It turns Israel into a battleship with very limited maneuver room.
In war and peace, the priorities for a battleship, (or for a modern aircraft carrier), are, in order, to stay afloat, stay afloat, and stay afloat. To stay afloat in a region that is incurably hostile to the Jewish State, Israel must judge what they can achieve with military power (including U.S. military power) against what they may lose in terms of public support….
Given that national survival is Israel’s strategic imperative or top priority, it is hard to imagine how the nation-in-arms policy would succeed. Israel’s economy is already fragile. Without substantial infusions of cash from Washington, the Israeli State will implode. It would also be a serious mistake to dismiss the seriousness of Turkey’s President Erdogan’s vow to bring Jerusalem to justice over “crimes committed in the Gaza Strip,” along with his insistence that Turkish soldiers will one day fight in Gaza.
Israel has already had 300,000 people leave, which is a big number in a small country. In addition, the reservists being called up are disproportionately urban/secular Jews, since young Haredi are exempt from service. So a protracted war would increase internal fissures.
The Cradle argues that the military operation in Gaza has not gotten very far. The discussion below is consistent with the observation that Israel says it has killed 1,000 Hamas fighters, out of an estimated force of 30,000 to 40,000. From The Cradel:
This picture reveals, to a large extent, the results of Israel’s ground operation: civilian massacres and infrastructural destruction galore, but with little damage to the military structure of the Palestinian resistance. A number of its leaders have indeed been killed – most recently Al-Qassam’s northern commander and military council member Ahmed al-Ghandour – but its command and control system still ticks on effectively….
Before the 24 November truce, the occupation army had exhausted its ability to maneuver on the ground, having already deployed the majority of its regular combat forces in the northern and western axes.
It will need to search for innovative solutions if it seeks to advance toward densely populated areas in northern Gaza, such as Jabalia refugee camp, the Al-Zaytoun and Al-Shuja’iya neighborhoods, Al-Shati beach camp, and other vital places the Israelis have failed to penetrate. These areas are the ground zero of the Palestinian resistance, in which these forces have prepared themselves – and their tunnel infrastructure – for fierce and protracted confrontations.
The main reason the occupation government agreed to a short truce is that its ground incursion had hit this wall – in addition to other factors such as US pressure to release American captives. Simply put, the Israeli army needs
This may seem to be a bold claim, but that does not make it untrue. And Israel, for the perceived safety of its citizens as well as to preserve a thin veneer of international credibility, needs to subdue Gaza from a military standpoint, and not merely kill all its civilians. Some have argued that Hamas is a dead man walking due to its inability to resupply. But how much can the get in from the tunnels that go to Egypt?
There are still a lot of known unknowns, at least for observers. Perhaps the fog of war will clear a bit in upcoming weeks.
1 Over my pay grade, but I wonder if Israel can prevent them from using the port, as opposed to trying to block their approach.
2 It was striking to see how some Israel lobbyists were taken aback as the lack of support for Israel among the young in the US generally. Gee, if young Jews don’t identify much with Israel, why would you expect to fare better with young Gentiles? However, arms merchants are in theory fellow travelers, but for them, any threat is a good horse to ride.
3 The Israel Lobby has proven effective in marking up unsupportive candidates by backing primary opponents, so that even they win, they’ve spent so much doing so that they go into the general election weakened.