There appears to be a Rubicon on Regime Change that has been made by not only the governement of Israel but also the general populace - Hamas and its supporters are condemned as being so unreconciliably toxic and bent on the destruction of Israel that their defeat and elimination from Gaza and its politics justifies not only the current war in Gaza but any other action against those who would countenance restrictions on let alone the elimination of Israel.
In effect, just the Palestinian rocket attacks alone, although they have claimed only 4 Israeli lives, justifies nearly 1000 Palestinians killed and quadruple that number wounded and probably well over a million people traumatized daily with near death experiences night and day. Not to mention ongoing poverty and economic deprivation because sea, air, and land routes are controlled by Israel and kept to a bare sustenance trickle under the argument that weapons used in making bombs and rockets will be imported otherwise. Talk about going all in and poisoning the well of peace - Israelis broadly appear to be united on this.
Now the danger of rockets to Israel is real. True the current Palestinian Qassam rockets have largely proved ineffectual in the current Gaza battles. But in the action against Hezbollah in Northern Lebanon back in 2005, the Israelis were never able to turn off the rocket bombardments. And inevitably the technology, range, and payload of the Hezbollah rockets will improve. So yes, rockets are a danger to Israel and clearly they have told every nasty, thuggish Al Qaeda and true terrorist types that Israel fears rockets.
Now having told anybody and everybody willing to listen about your greatest fear (President George Bush just did that in his last Press Conference) what is Israel doing to allay that fear? Betting that it can achieve regime change in Gaza. Before considering that possibility, lets consider whether there were other alternatives.
First, are all Palestinians leaders just terrorists seeking the destruction of Israel? Well that depends on who you believe. Nearly 70% of the voting population supported Hamas and Hamas supports the destruction of Israel – so…. But palestinians may have voted for Hamas for some reasons beyond the destruction of Israel. Hamas is responsible for a number of social projects in the Gaza Strip where unemployment hovers about 30% or more and refugee camps at poverty line levels dot the landscape. Hamas aid is as vital as the EuropeanUnions to keeping the Gaza Strip from falling into desperate poverty. But its not just economic aid but social institutions like schools, health clinics, and sports programs that Hamas sponsors. And if the previous Palestinian Fatah goverment had at least been halfway competent and negotiated with Israel for relaxing the economic screws tightened so fast such that Palestinian businesses can only deal with Israel – and not ship to other markets, maybe they would not have lost the generally free and fair election. It also would have helped that Fatah did not have a reputation for corruption. More or less, Israel, by going all-in on nearly indiscriminate attacks on Gaza, has foresaken one of its strongest allies in the region – the ordinary Palestinian population. It is this population that wants economic prosperity and a stable Palestinian homeland as much as Israelis want the same for themselves.
But the second question is whether Hamas and its current leadership is absolutely committed to the destruction of Israel or just paying homage to its supplier of moneys, Iran. Could the Israelis have tested this loyalty by relaxing trade between Gaza and the rest of the world – promoting the rise of legitimate Palestinian businesses while carefully weeding out with international help/supervision any importing of rockets or other arms into Gaza. Also some of the Hamas leadership has spoken in support of the Arab land for peace deal – in which Israel respects the pre-1967 boundaries. Given the slow but steady”settlement” of Israelis onto Palestinian territories in the WestBank to the tune of 250,000 settlers and still constantly growing despite many calls from the US, UN and other Western powers to cease and desist – maybe the Israelis have been acting hypocritically too. The Israelis decry Palestinian terrorists while quietly taking land through settlements on the West Bank for the past 20 years accelerating in the last 5 -making an Oslo, Arab League or any other settlement nigh impossible to achieve.
Are these Israelis settlers on WestBank territories not just quiet terrorists too – Handy killers of Palestinian hopes? Do they not crush the dream of a just peace just as surely as any Palestinian Qassam rocket ? Has not the Israeli extreme religious right become as intransigent about what is their just territory (all of King David’s Israel to the complete obliteration of any Palestinian state) as they accuse Hamas of being towards the existence of Israel?
Now Israel’s goverment has publicly disavowed any Regime Change aspirations – instead vowing to exterminate any resumption of Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza. But Benjamin Netanyahu, the leading candidates for the Prime Ministers office in upcoming February 10th Israeli national elections has not been so discreet – he has campaigned for Regime Change.
And the all-in Regime Change bet appears to have garnered some support in North America – take Jonathan Kay’s article in the January 13th National Post editorial page: “In Gaza, Israel’s campaign against Hamas is a watershed that could lead to a safer, more stable Middle East. ”
The Downside to Israel
One of the reasons that the world is in an economic tailspin is that in the rabid pursuit of profits, America’s investment bankers lead the charge to another economic bubble because they refused to heed the warning of the risks involved. The same may be true for Israel. And again, the West and particularly the United States may be victims of their kneejerk support of Israel (President Bush greenlighted Israel’s attacks on Gaza as an appropriate response for rocket attacks on Israel). And so Iran can walk all the way to the bank and deposit all the Worldwide illwill generated by the disproportionate response by Israel. Within the Muslim community Iran stands tall while moderates like Egypt, Jordan and others appear as near traitors. And Fatah and West Bank Palestine leader Mahmoud Abbas continues to lose support among his own Palestinian people.
So who is going to around to help negotiate a ceasefire or peace settlement? Not Hamas - and likely not Fatah either. So will Israel have to re-occupy Gaza ? Or call in the UN ? Will whoever occupies now be engaged in armed skirmishes and suicide attacks like the Israelis did to the British in pre-1947 Palestine ? How exactly did Jonathan Kay, Israel’s government and the Israeli public get to the idea of “a safer, more stable Middle East” with this all-in bet on Regime Change? Only the Shadow knows what evil or good lurks in the hearts of men. But certainly what is missing in Israel right now are some real Mensch who could look past the next election and gaining momentary advantage in the continuing Hundred Years War in the Land of Canah.