It’s no fun being a sober realist. The fact that Hamas and Israel, the latter due to substantial US pressure, have agreed to a hostage swap (limited to 50 Hamas hostages for 150 Israel hostages, all under 19) and 300 aid trucks a day over a 4 day pause means very little in the trajectory of Israel’s campaign to exterminate Palestinians in Gaza. It’s big significance is as a talking point for each side: for Biden and Israel, to make a low-cost concession and blunt global condemnation; for Hamas, to show willingness to negotiate and get disproportionate hostage exchanges. Below are the terms of the deal as Hamas understands them:
Hamas statement on truce:
"After difficult and complicated negotiations over many days, we announce, with the help and success granted by Allah Almighty, the reaching of the agreement of a humanitarian truce (a temporary ceasefire) for a duration of four days with diligent and… pic.twitter.com/zp4QEWDNLq
— COMBATE |🇵🇷 (@upholdreality) November 22, 2023
300 trucks a day is only a small dent compared to the needs of the inhabitants of Gaza.
It is also noteworthy that Gaza coverage on Twitter (and many other venues) dropped dramatically after the lack of fuel in Gaza resulted in loss of power and with it, Internet and cell phone service. The flow of images of the horrors in the combat zone fueled international outrage and made it difficult for Israel to defend its position in front of the wider world, not that that mattered much to its ground campaign. The US is too tethered to Israel at the hip to do much more that achieve change in conduct at the margin. Its theoretical great leverage translates into paltry practical influence due to the how Israel has built itself into a kingmaker within the Beltway and has also succeeded in branding criticism of Zionism as anti-semitism.
As former ambassador Alistair Crooke pointed out in his latest interview on Judge Napolitano, Israel’s destruction of hospitals in Gaza alone makes the enclave uninhabitable. You can’t run a medical system for a large population on a long-term basis out of field hospitals. Israel was on the verge of achieving that in North Gaza.
Israel spent last night bombing the only remaining hospital in north Gaza and bombing homes all over south Gaza. https://t.co/hllVMLrbmh
— Mohammad Alsaafin (@malsaafin) November 20, 2023
There is little reason to think Israel will stop destroying hospitals. Of course, flattening housing and wrecking infrastructure also advances the end of making Gaza uninhabitable….until it is rebuilt to suit the needs of Israel.
Now admittedly, the entry of aid truck and presumably aid workers will allow for a round of new images of the state of human and habitat destruction in Gaza, so there will likely be another outrage boomlet. But unless Gaza gets enough fuel to restore electricity and the Internet on a sustained basis, Gaza will go dark again, and with it, the opportunity to document Israel’s crimes and use them to maintain and increase international pressure.
Israel will just kidnap 150 people and hand them over to Hamas for 50.
This whole hostage taking thing is a meme.
Israel has escalation dominance, without external help Palestine is finished. https://t.co/9nB9VH8xsx
— Korobochka (コロボ) 🇦🇺✝️🇷🇺 (@cirnosad) November 22, 2023
The reality is the only parties that can stop the carnage are Arab/Muslim states, by attacking Israel with enough intensity to force Israel to pull substantially out of Gaza to defend other fronts. They have chosen not to and are instead engaging in a campaign of harassment (which by some accounts is escalating; it’s hard to know given disparate actions by different players). They may win the long game by weakening Israel, particularly economically. The Cradle had a must-read account of the impact as of earlier this month. Things can’t have gotten better. Key sections:
Data cited from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reveals a bleak reality – one in three businesses have either shuttered or are operating at 20 percent capacity since Operation Al-Aqsa Flood commenced on 7 October and punched a hole in Israeli national confidence.
More than half of businesses face revenue losses surpassing the 50 percent mark. The southern regions, closest to Gaza, bear the brunt, with two-thirds of businesses either closed or functioning “to a minimum.”
Adding to the crisis, Israel’s Labour ministry reports that 764,000 citizens, close to a fifth of Israel’s workforce, are jobless due to evacuations, school closures mandating childcare responsibilities, or reserve duty call-ups.
On Monday, Bloomberg put numbers to the economic impact of Tel Aviv’s military belligerence: The Gaza war has cost the Israeli economy almost $8 billion to date, with a further $260 million in losses incurred with every day that passes.
There’s a lot more detail, such as on damage to the tech and tourism sectors, and the impact of new reluctance to use Palestinian workers. Another story described how the agriculture sector is in crisis due to the loss of foreign field hands (particularly Thais) and the lack of enough Israelis who are willing and able to step in.
Now one can argue that Israel is small enough that the US (unlike with Ukraine) could support its government budget on a long-term basis. But what kind of society would it be? One with a badly atrophied commercial sector, a bulked-up military, subsisting on foreign welfare?
But even if Israel’s opponents succeed in bleeding Israel into permanent weakness, that is of no help to the Palestinians, who still look set to be killed in catastrophic numbers. Perhaps enough international pressure could eventually be brought on the US to get us to finally pull Israel’s choke chain. But by then, it seems highly likely that Israel will have established facts on the ground in Gaza (deaths plus built environment destruction) for Israel to have decisively won in its aim of removing substantial numbers of Palestinians from Israel permanently.