Saturday, December 27, 2008

Israel begins its much announced assault on Gaza - what is next? (UPDATED!)

Israel's lack of options - sympathy with the devil?

After weeks of rumors, speculations and not so veiled threats, Israel has finally begun its assault on the Gaza strip. Predictably, it began with F-16 airstrikes at "Hamas targets" and, equally predictably, the hospitals in Gaza are filling up with many casualties (190+ killed and many more wounded). Actually, this is the "least-bad" strategy for Israel as it makes it possible to achieve a number of simple objectives:

  • Destroying as much as possible of the Hamas infrastructure in Gaza thereby "softening up" Hamas in preparation of a ground assault
  • Killing a number of Hamas officials with the same aim as in above
  • Scaring the Palestinians in Gaza, think of it as an Israeli version of "shock and awe"
  • Exposing as little Israeli lives as possible (Hamas has proved that it can destroy Merkavas)
  • Scoring political brownie points with the Israeli public opinion by appearing "firm" and "doing something"

So far so good, but what comes next?! There the outlook for Israel looks much much bleaker and the choice of easy options rapidly shrinks to very little. Let's look at four basic possible options the Israelis can pick from:

Gradually phasing out the attacks and come back to some kind of deal with Hamas:

While otherwise not unreasonable, this option is unlikely to be very attractive for the Israelis for a simple reason: it solves nothing, it only freezes the conflict and pushes the hard and inevitable decisionmaking time further in the future. In this logical, the current airstrikes are just a way to bring Hamas to the negotiating table assuming, of course, that that kind of strikes would somehow inspire the Palestinians to accept living in the biggest concentration camp on the planet.

Sustaining an air campaign against Gaza for a long(er) period of time:

Think of it has "crowd control with F-16s", only unlike what the Americans are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. For the Israeli politicians this is always an attractive choice - killing Palestinians in great numbers while not risking spilling "Jewish blood". First problem with this option: F-16 tend to run out of targets very fast, at least when they are used for crowed control. Second problem, this gives no incentive whatsoever to Hamas to do anything but increasing the tempo of its missile strikes at Isarel. Third, this is a PR disaster for the already universally despised "only democracy in the Middle-East". Lastly, this "solution" really solves nothing, it's just a more brutal version of the first option (freezing the conflict).

Initiated a limited invasion of Gaza

The danger of that option is immediately apparent to any Israeli politician: the loss of "Jewish life". Even a limited invasion of Gaza is absolutely guaranteed to result in the death of Israeli soldiers. Still most Jews could be convinced to accept these deaths if they believe that less Jewish lives would be at risk from doing something than from doing nothing. Problem - even once postulated that some limited Jewish casualties are acceptable this option seems devoid of any real military rationale. Think of it, what could be achieved in such a limited attack? As the example of Falludjah has shown, Hamas forces will have no difficulty redeploying deep into Gaza if pressed hard and while in normal warfare retreats are very dangerous to execute, in the mostly urban condition of the Gaza strip Hamas forces will, no doubt, be able to pull back very safely when needed (remember how much time Hamas had to prepare for this invasion). Just "squeezing" Gaza around the edges makes no sense at all, and its not like Hamas needs to get right to the edge of Gaza to fire its rockets (and even short range rockets could then be re-directed at Israeli forces participating in the operation). As with all the options above, the "limited invasion" option achieves nothing real. It could be a feel-good "psychotherapy" for the insecure Israeli public, but the feel-good effect would not last very long.

A full-scale invasion of Gaza

That's the big one, the option which definitely change the situation on the ground, doubt here, but would it change it for better?

First, that means taking on about 15'000 Hamas fighters plus another 1'000-1'5000 Iz al-Din al-Qassam operators and taking them on in a highly prepared urban environment in the midst of 1'500'000 Palestinians fully supportive of Hamas. Even if Hamas fighter are nowhere near the level of capability of Hezbollah operators, taking them on inside Gaza is a highly nontrivial task. This could also take a lot of time with no easy, fast, victory to show for. Even if the Israelis managed to fully occupy Gaza and take control of all its main objectives, there would be enough Hamas fighters left in the Strip to immediately initiate a resistance campaign. Then there is the issue of the inevitable civilian toll that such an invasion would result in. Of course, Israeli Jews don't give a damn about killing Palestinians, but just imagine the PR disaster such a butchery would result in for the "only democracy in the Middle East which shares our Western values"! No amount of alarmist warnings about the "new Antisemitism" or the "next Holocaust" will help cover up the horrors of a full-scale invasion of Gaza (although a major war elsewhere, say between India and Pakistan, or another well-timed "9/11" might do the trick).

A full-scale invasion of Gaza also begs the question of the end result sought. To put the Israelis back in charge of a Mega-prison with 1'500'000 Palestinian inmates? That would mean taking on the responsibility of the conditions inside the strip - a logistical nightmare even if taken on only for propaganda purposes.

No, short of simply killing them all, or at least most of them, there is no workable "solution" for the Gaza problem the Israelis are faced with. Nor do they have a solution for the "Hezbollah problem" in Lebanon, or the "Arab problem" inside Israel problem. Heck, I would even argue that Abbas and his Fatah thugs have outlived their utility and that soon there will be an equally frustrating "West Bank problem" for the Israeli leaders to tackle.

The reality is simple - Israel is running straight into the wall of reality: there is no way a state based on racism and violence can survive in the long term. To cling on to their racist dream of a "Jewish state" the Israeli Jews need to come to terms with the fact that the only way to achieve this is to kill or deport the vast majority of Palestinians and that is simply not an achievable goal to begin with. Even more importantly - there is only one viable alternative to the murder or deportation of most Palestinians: giving up the sick dream nightmare of a "Jewish state" and accepting the inevitability of the "One State Solution" of a single, unitary state based on the simple "one man one vote" (the "Two State" nonstarter has already petered out before even coming into existence).

I don't think that the Israeli Jews are anywhere near coming to accept the inevitability of a non-racist "one state", not by a long margin, thus the utterly senseless violence with continue *without* any kind of real strategy or vision behind it.

Remember who is ruling Israeli today (at least formally): Ehud Olmert, the guy who totally FUBARed Israel's idiotic war against Lebanon in 2006. This guys is a born looser, somebody in the same league as Dubya or Saakashvili - expect nothing even remotely reasonable from him. Would Livni & Co. do any better? I don't think so. I think of Livni as the "Israeli Obama", "racist imperialism with a human face": same ugly policies - different person in charge of promiting them.

Olmert and Livni will kill Palestinians simply because that is what they are capable of. There is no need at all for any long-term strategy: the Israelis are not "result oriented" - they have, for a long while already, become purely "activity oriented" with a basic and simple rationale: if there is a problem - let's just kill more Palestinians.

What is going on in Gaza is senseless. It is also an disgrace for all of civilized mankind who mostly just sits there and watches how the Zionists are going berserk killing and maiming thousands of people in the futile pursuit of a sick racist fantasyland which will never happen.

And the end of this is nowhere in sight.

The Saker

UPDATE 1: According to al-Manar, the number of victims is now as high as 225+ dead and another 700+ wounded. There can be no doubt now that Israel has committed major war crimes (again, what else is new?).

Al-Jazeera report about the first day of bombings in the Gaza strip:

Hamas press conference video:

Iranian TV reports about the carnage in Gaza: