Citizen Action Monitor

If Gaza ceasefire holds, Netanyahu and Abbas will be big winners and Hamas big losers

So says prominent US Jewish scholar and activist critic of Israel

No 1115 Posted by fw, August 05, 2014

Israel has always opposed the introduction of international forces, but in the current climate it just might work to the advantage of everyone – except Hamas. “Unlike in previous rounds of fighting, Israel and Egypt will ensure that Hamas will be unable to rebuild its force – Egypt by continuing to prevent smuggling and Israel by the freedom of action it has reserved itself in a unilateral move in which it decides the rules of the game, chiefly, the prevention of Hamas’ force buildup,” says Maj. Gen (ret.) Amos Yadlin, director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University and a former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate. And that will herald Netanyahu’s moment. If – and it’s a big if – all this comes to pass, it will present Israel with the best conditions to make peace with the Palestinians since the death of Yasser Arafat, with strong regional backing from the moderate Arab world. If this is indeed what Netanyahu has in mind, he will need to summon all his rhetorical and political skills to carry his party with him to the inevitable conclusion: a demilitarized Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza headed by Mahmoud Abbas.”Matthew Kalman, foreign correspondent based in Jerusalem

Norman Finkelstein, the always controversial activist thorn in the side of Israel, was a guest on today’s Democracy Now broadcast. He talked about what happened in Gaza, why a ceasefire now, why it will last, and what lays ahead. When host Amy Goodman rather abruptly ended the conversation with Finkelstein, before he had finished his “what’s next” conjectures, an article on Norman’s website by Matthew Kalman seems to bring Norman’s train of thought to its logical conclusion.

Click on the following linked title to watch the Finkelstein interview and access a full transcript. Alternatively, read below a much abridged transcript, with added subheadings of main points, text highlighting, and added links. In addition, an excerpt from the Kalman article concludes Norman’s line of thinking. Unfortunately, no You Tube video of the Democracy Now interview was available for embedding as part of this post.

Gaza Ceasefire: After 1,800+ Dead, What Led Israel to Stop the Assault — and What Comes Next? Guest Norman Finkelstein, Democracy Now, August 5, 2014

ABRIDGED TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN — So, Norm, the ceasefire has been announced. It’s holding, well, just hours into it. And there is, if it holds, going to be negotiations taking place. Talk about what has happened.

[The remainder of this transcript focuses exclusively on excerpts of Finkelstein’s words]

Netanyahu operates under two constraints: international limits – i.e. US limits — to the death and destruction he can inflict on Gaza, and limits Israelis put on number of combatant deaths they will tolerate

Well, the first thing is to have clarity about why there is a ceasefire. The last time I was on the program, I mentioned that Prime Minister Netanyahu, he basically operates under two constraints: the international constraint—namely, there are limits to the kinds of death and destruction he can inflict on Gaza—and then there’s the domestic constraint, which is Israeli society doesn’t tolerate a large number of combatant deaths.

Obama, enabler of Israel’s massacre, and US puppet Ban Ki-moon, signaled to Netanyahu the terror bombing has to stop

He launched the ground invasion for reasons which—no point in going into now—and inflicted massive death and destruction on Gaza, where the main enabler was, of course, President Obama. Each day he came out, he or one of his spokespersons, and said, “Israel has the right to defend itself.” Each time he said that, it was the green light to Israel that it can continue with its terror bombing of Gaza. That went on for day after day after day, schools, mosques, hospitals targeted. But then you reached a limit. The limit was when Israel started to target the U.N. shelters—targeted one shelter, there was outrage; targeted a second shelter, there was outrage. And now the pressure began to build up in the United Nations. This is a United Nations—these are U.N. shelters. And the pressure began to build up. It reached a boiling point with the third shelter. And then Ban Ki-moon, the comatose secretary-general of the United Nations and a U.S. puppet, even he was finally forced to say something, saying these are criminal acts. Obama was now cornered. He was looking ridiculous in the world. It was a scandal. Even the U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, was now calling it a criminal act. So finally Obama, the State Department said “unacceptable,” “deplorable.” And frankly, it’s exactly what happened in 1999 in Timor: The limits had been reached, Clinton said to the Indonesian army, “Time to end the massacre.” And exactly happened now: Obama signaled to Netanyahu the terror bombing has to stop. So, Obama—excuse me, Netanyahu had reached the limit of international tolerance, which basically means the United States.

Israel’s primary aim was to destroy the tunnel system within Gaza. Tunnels enabled Hamas fighters to become a formidable guerrilla force, killing about 65 Israeli troops compared with 10 in the 2009-10 conflict

The problem was, the tunnels in Gaza, it turned out, they had created a fairly sophisticated network of tunnels, incidentally—I know we’re not allowed to make these comparisons—not unlike the bunkers that were built in the Warsaw Ghetto—primitive, but effective—and the Hamas fighters were able to come out of the tunnels, and they inflicted a significant number of casualties on Israel. During Operation Cast Lead in 2008, ’09, 10 Israeli combatants were killed, of which four were from friendly fire. This time it was about 65. Now, during the Lebanon War in 2006, about 120 Israeli combatants were killed, but that was against the Hezbollah, which is a formidable guerrilla army. So, half and more were killed in Gaza this time. So, Israel’s aim was not to destroy the tunnels going into Israel. That’s ridiculous. What they wanted to do was destroy the tunnel system inside Gaza, because now an effective—not very effective, but effective—guerrilla force had been created. And Israel, every few years, has to—or less than few years, has to mow the lawn in Gaza. And so, they wanted to make sure the next time they mow the lawn—

Israeli commentators are already talking about the next Gaza war, the next time the military will “mow the lawn”

Well, [“mow the lawn”] is the Israeli expression. You go in, and you kill a thousand people, destroy everything in sight, and Israel calls that “mowing the lawn.” So every few years they have to go into Gaza and mow the lawn. They want to make sure next time they mow the lawn—because if you read the Israeli commentators, who are really a sick bunch of people, all of them are talking now about the next war. Every single commentator is talking about the next war. This one isn’t even over yet. But they want to make sure the next time they go in, there won’t be tunnels. So that was the real aim of the mission.

The problem for Israel is that the invulnerable tunnel network inside Gaza is still there; in this context, Israel — having slaughtered over 1,800 Palestinians — lost the war

The other problem was, these tunnels were actually not vulnerable to aerial bombing and artillery shells. So even if they destroyed everything in sight, the tunnels are still there, Hamas comes out, and significant Israeli casualties. So Netanyahu realized ground invasion is over. There’s no further they can go, because of the domestic Israeli constraint: They don’t tolerate combatant casualties. The international constraint kicked in when Obama said, “It’s over, folks. Have to stop. Killed too many U.N. people this time.” And then the ceasefire was signed.

What going to happen next?

Well, it’s pretty clear what’s going to happen. And as a matter of fact, already in mid-July I posted something on my website predicting what would happen, exactly what did happen. What’s going to happen now is, for domestic reasons, Netanyahu has to end the projectile attacks on Israel. Hamas says it won’t stop firing its projectiles, quote-unquote, “rockets,” until and unless Israel lifts the blockade of Gaza. So what’s going to happen—and it’s exactly what I said, as I said, three weeks ago—

First, the blockade of Gaza will be partially lifted as the Palestinian Authority will control traffic between Gaza and Egypt

  • what’s going to happen is they’re going to bring in the Palestinian Authority to control the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, lift the blockade partially because of that crossing;

Second, although Israel destroyed Gaza, the international community will be expected to cover the costs of reparations

  • then, on the Israeli side, they’re already talking about huge amounts of international donor aid to rebuild Gaza. It’s really a kind of weird conflict. I mean, there are so many weirdnesses about this conflict. Israel blows everything up. Nobody even talks about Israel paying reparations. It’s just taken as a matter of fact that the international community rebuilds after Israel destroys. It’s just a schnorrer state, “schnorrer” being the Yiddish for a sponger. We destroy, they pay. Nobody even discusses the possibility maybe Israel should pay reparations for its death and destruction in Gaza. In any case—

At this point, basically what’s going to happen is it’s [the war] over. Obama said it’s over. The ground invasion had reached its limit. And now Netanyahu has the problem that he has to end the rocket—the projectile attacks on Israel. And the only way he can do that is he’s going to have to agree to some lifting of the blockade. So, at this point there’s nothing left that Netanyahu can do. He inflicted the death, the destruction—he mowed the lawn. And now what’s probably going to happen is they’re going to bring in the Palestinian Authority, there will be rebuilding of Gaza, they’ll attempt to disarm Hamas.

Third, Kerry will try to impose his peace initiative, which is tantamount to a Hamas surrender. The Palestinian Authority will happily agree

  • And I think the finale, the last stage, the coup de grâce, is going to be that Kerry is going to dust off his peace initiative—namely, imposing on the Palestinians a surrender. With Hamas now neutered, Hamas disarmed, they’ll try to impose the Kerry peace initiative on the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority will happily agree. And then there will be, again, a September 1993, a big peace agreement signed, and all the people will celebrate peace.

The slaughter of 1,800 people, the leveling of Gaza, all for what? – The lifting of an illegal, immoral blockade

Well, except for one thing: You didn’t have to kill 1,800 people. You didn’t have to level Gaza and reduce it to rubble to lift the blockade. The blockade is illegal. It’s immoral. Why did you have to wait ’til after to do what was demanded under international law before?

*****[END OF INTERVIEW]*****

At this point Amy Goodman rather abruptly ended the conversation with Finkelstein before he had finished his “what’s next” conjectures. However, I plucked from Norman’s website an August 4, 2014 article by Matthew Kalman, an independent foreign correspondent based in Jerusalem. The article is titled, Can Netanyahu pluck peace from the rubble of Gaza?Some indications suggest that Israel is planning to use the operation in Gaza for a new diplomatic initiative.

Kalman’s piece seems to follow Finkelstein’s train of thought and where it might have gone had the Democracy Now interview continued a bit longer. Here’s the relevant excerpt from Kalman’s article

If Netanyahu is seen to agree to a ceasefire now when the Israeli public believes that the job is only half done, that the Hamas military infrastructure is still in place, then he will be perceived as having been defeated and not having scored a decisive victory against Hamas. He knows that he would be facing almost certain defeat at the polls in the next election if he is perceived as not having finished the job.

But if Netanyahu can leverage a pullout from Gaza by creating a historic opportunity for peace, he might transcend the narrow interests of his party and win the support of the majority of Israelis who still want to see a viable two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

Once Israel has destroyed Hamas’s military capability – primarily the tunnels and rockets – logic suggests that Israel has two options: either withdraw and wait for the next round, or reoccupy Gaza.

But there is a third way, endorsed last week by Maj. Gen. (ret.) Israel Ziv, former head of the IDF Operations Directorate. That would be to use the current diplomatic climate as a launchpad for a new diplomatic initiative.

The first step would be to place Gaza under the protection of an international peacekeeping force led by Egypt to prepare for new elections. According to all the polls before Operation Protective Edge began, Hamas’ popularity in Gaza has been plummeting. Their increasing weakness was a key factor in their decision to accept the unity agreement with Fatah earlier this year that foresaw the end of Hamas rule in Gaza.

The election will pave the way for the return of PA control to Gaza and political reunification with the West Bank without the threat of Hamas and other radicals undermining the calm.

Egypt’s reward will be the opportunity to rebuild its economy with backing from the U.S. and Saudi Arabia – who see the suppression of Hamas as a key element in pushing back the tide of radical jihadism now sweeping the Arab world.

Israel has always opposed the introduction of international forces, but in the current climate it just might work to the advantage of everyone – except Hamas.

“Unlike in previous rounds of fighting, Israel and Egypt will ensure that Hamas will be unable to rebuild its force – Egypt by continuing to prevent smuggling and Israel by the freedom of action it has reserved itself in a unilateral move in which it decides the rules of the game, chiefly, the prevention of Hamas’ force buildup,” says Maj. Gen (ret.) Amos Yadlin, director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University and a former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate.

And that will herald Netanyahu’s moment. If – and it’s a big if – all this comes to pass, it will present Israel with the best conditions to make peace with the Palestinians since the death of Yasser Arafat, with strong regional backing from the moderate Arab world.

If this is indeed what Netanyahu has in mind, he will need to summon all his rhetorical and political skills to carry his party with him to the inevitable conclusion: a demilitarized Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

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