Friday, November 23, 2012

Israel's slow-motion collapse

Israel has never been the military superpower its propaganda claimed it to be, but neither was it a paper tiger.  At the very least, the Israelis did an excellent job triggering conflicts when it best suited them, they excelled at camouflaging what where surprise attacks into a "defensive operation", and they always managed to conceal their real losses.  But none of this would have been possible if Israel did not have at the very least maybe not an "invincible Tsahal", but a credible and basically competent military.

Even the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 could (very generously) be interpreted as a choice rather than a collapse.  But all the conflicts Israel has been involved in since that date have ended in what can only be called abject failures.

In 2006, the Israeli attack and invasion of Lebanon ended in one of the most humiliating defeats in the history of warfare:  Hezbollah succeeded in defeating Israel's four brigades, three reserve divisions and entire Air Force and Navy with roughly one thousand second rate Hezbollah soldiers (the best Hezbollah fighters were all kept north of the Litani river).  Truly, this victory of the Resistance against the Zionist occupier was a "divine victory" and it changed the whole equation in the Middle East.

In 2008, the Israelis attacked Gaza with very mixed results at best.  Operation "Cast Lead" lasted three weeks and it saw a limited land invasion of Gaza.  Besides the usual orgy of wanton violence against the Palestinian population, including the systematic use of phosphorus bombs against civilians, this assault yielded very little in terms of tangible results.  Gaza had withstood the attack, Gilad Shalit was not liberated and, worst of all, Hamas not only survived but its "street cred" was vastly improved.  As for Israel, its public image suffered yet another PR disaster.  But still, the Israelis did penetrate inside Gaza from several directions, and they could claim that they could seriously threaten Hamas.

In the latest Israeli attack on Gaza, they IDF failed even to do that and this is really devastating for the IDF's deterrent capability.  This time the operation lasted only one week, and it ended with Palestinians filling the streets of Gaza in a mass demonstration of joy and gratitude for having so rapidly forced Israel to seek a ceasefire.

There used to be a time when the IDF would go all the way to Beirut to hunt down Arafat and when Mossad would go all the way to Tunis to kill Abu Jihad.  Now the IDF can't even occupy Bint Jbeil right across its border, and it is afraid to even enter the Gaza Strip.  How the mighty fall indeed...

The consequences of this Israeli weakness  are truly very serious: the Gaza Strip is turning into a safe heaven for the Palestinians while the siege of Gaza has pretty much lifted since Mursi took power.  Hezbollah in the north, Gaza in the southwest, Mursi and the Islamic Brotherhood in the south and a Syria turning into a mix of 1970s Lebanon and 1980s Somalia to the northeast.  To the east, of course, there is Jordan, as loyal to the USA and Israel as ever, but that also might change in the not too distant future.

Do you remember Condi Rice predicting the birth of a new Middle-East and Bernard Henri-Levi explaining that the "Arab Spring" is a good thing for Israel?  In a way, they were probably both right: a new Middle-East is definitely taking shape, and the Arab Spring is probably to the advantage of Israel, but only in the short term.  The one thing which neither Rice nor Levi did ever imagine, not in their worst nightmares, is that nobody in that new Middle-East would fear Israel anymore whereas Israel would be terrified of everybody.

I am still convinced, more than ever before, that the days of the Zionist entity are numbered. 

The Saker