Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Israeli War on Gaza
By Uri Avnery
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, November 19, 2012
HOW DID it start? Stupid question.
Conflagrations along the Gaza Strip don’t start. They are just a continuous
chain of events, each claimed to be a [or “in”] “retaliation” for the
previous one. Action is followed by reaction, which is followed by
retaliation, which is followed by …
This particular event “started”
with the firing from Gaza of an anti-tank weapon at a partially armored jeep
on the Israeli side of the border fence. It was described as retaliation for
the killing of a boy in an air attack some days earlier. But probably the
timing of the action was accidental – the opportunity just presented itself.
The success gave rise to demonstrations of joy and pride in Gaza. Again
Palestinians had shown their ability to strike at the hated enemy.
HOWEVER, THE Palestinians had in fact walked into a trap prepared with great
care. Whether the order was given by Hamas or one of the smaller more
extreme organizations - it was not a clever thing to do.
across the fence at an army vehicle was crossing a red line. (The Middle
East is full of red lines.) A major Israeli reaction was sure to ensue.
It was rather routine. Israeli tanks fired cannon shells into the
Gaza Strip. Hamas launched rockets at Israeli towns and villages. Hundreds
of thousands of Israelis rushed to their shelters. Schools closed.
As usual, Egyptian and other mediators went into action. Behind the scenes,
a new truce was arranged. It seemed to be over. Just another round.
The Israeli side did everything to get back to normal. Or so it seemed. The
Prime Minister and the Defense Minister went out of their way (to the Syrian
border) to show that Gaza was off their minds.
In Gaza, everybody
relaxed. They left their shelters. Their supreme military commander, Ahmad
Ja’abari, climbed into his car and drove along the main street.
then the trap closed. The car bearing the commander was blown up by a
missile from the air.
SUCH AN assassination is not carried out
on the spur of the moment. It is the culmination of many months of
preparation, gathering of information, waiting for the right moment, when it
could be executed without killing many bystanders and causing an
Actually, it was due to take place a day
earlier, but postponed because of the bad weather.
Ja’abari was the
man behind all the military activities of the Hamas government in Gaza,
including the capture of Gilad Shalit and the successful five-year long
hiding of his whereabouts. He was photographed at the release of Shalit to
So this time it was the Israelis who were jubilant.
Much like the Americans after the Osama bin-Laden assassination.
THE KILLING of Ja’abari was the sign for starting the planned operation.
The Gaza Strip is full of missiles. Some of them are able to reach Tel
Aviv, some 40 km away. The Israeli military has long planned a major
operation to destroy as many of them as possible from the air. Intelligence
has patiently gathered information about their location. This is the purpose
of the “Pillar of Cloud” operation. (“And the Lord went before them by day
in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way – Exodus 13:21).
am writing this, I don’t know yet how the whole thing will end. But some
conclusions can already be drawn.
FIRST OF All, this is not
Cast Lead II. Far from it.
The Israeli army is rather good at
discreetly drawing lessons from its failures. Cast Lead was celebrated as a
great success, but in reality it was a disaster.
Sending troops into
a densely populated area is bound to cause heavy civilian casualties. War
crimes are almost inevitable. World reaction was catastrophic. The political
damage immense. The Chief of Staff at the time, Gabi Ashkenazi, was widely
acclaimed, but in reality he was a rather primitive military type. His
present successor is of a different caliber.
statements about destroying Hamas and turning the Strip over to the Ramallah
leadership have been avoided this time.
The Israeli aim, it was
stated, is to cause maximum damage to Hamas with minimum civilian victims.
It was hoped that this could be achieved almost entirely by the use of air
power. In the first phase of the operation, this seems to have succeeded.
The question is whether this can be kept up as the war goes on.
HOW WILL it end? It would be foolhardy to guess. Wars have their own logic.
Stuff happens, as the man said.
Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak,
the two men in overall command, hope the war will wind down once the main
aims are achieved. So there will be no reason to employ the army on the
ground, enter the Gaza Strip, kill people, lose soldiers.
Deterrence will be restored. Another truce will come into force. The Israeli
population surrounding the Strip will be able to sleep soundly at night for
several months. Hamas will be cut down to size.
But will this whole
exercise change the basic situation? Not likely.
Ja’abari will be
replaced. Israel has assassinated dozens of Arab political and military
leaders. Indeed, it is the world champion of such assassinations, politely
referred to as “targeted preventions” or “eliminations”. If this were an
Olympic sport, the Ministry of Defense, the Mossad and the Shin Bet would be
festooned with gold medals.
Sometimes one gets the impression that
the assassinations are an aim by [in] themselves, and the other operations
just incidental. An artist is proud of his art.
What have the
results been ? Overall – nothing positive. Israel killed Hizbollah leader
Abbas al-Moussawi, and got the vastly more intelligent Hassan Nasrallah
instead. They killed Hamas founder Sheik Ahmad Yassin, and he was replaced
by abler men. Ja’abari's successor may be less or more able. It will make no
Will it stop the steady advance of Hamas? I doubt
it. Perhaps the opposite will happen. Hamas has already achieved a
significant breakthrough, when the Emir of Qatar (owner of Aljazeera) paid
Gaza a state visit. He was the first head of state to do so. Others are
bound to follow. Just now, in the middle of the operation, the Egyptian
prime minister arrived in Gaza.
Operation “Pillar of Cloud” compels
all Arab countries to rally around Hamas, or at least pretend to. It
discredits the claim of the more extreme organizations in Gaza that Hamas
has gone soft and lazy, enjoying the fruits of government. In the battle for
Palestinian opinion, Hamas has gained another victory over Mahmoud Abbas,
whose security cooperation with Israel will look even more despicable.
All in all, nothing basic will change. Just another superfluous war.
IT IS, of course, a highly political event.
Like Cast Lead, it
takes place on the eve of Israeli elections. (So, by the way, did the Yom
Kippur war, but that was decided by the other side.)
One of the more
miserable sights of the last few days has been the TV appearances of Shelly
Yachimovich and Ya’ir Lapid. The two shining new stars in Israel’s political
firmament looked like petty politicians, parroting Netanyahu’s propaganda,
approving everything done.
Both had hitched their wagons to the
social protest, expecting that social issues would displace subjects like
war, occupation and settlements from the agenda. When the public is occupied
with the price of cottage cheese, who cares about national policy?
said at the time that one whiff of military action would blow away all
economic and social issues as frivolous and irrelevant. This has happened
Netanyahu and Barak appear many times a day on the screen.
They look responsible, sober, determined, experienced. Real he-men,
commanding troops, shaping events, saving the nation, routing the enemies of
Israel and the entire Jewish people. As Lapid volunteered on live
television: “Hamas is an anti-Semitic terrorist organization and must be
Netanyahu is doing it. Adieu, Lapid. Adieu Shelly. Adieu
Olmert. Adieu Tzipi. Was nice seeing you.
WAS THERE an
alternative? Obviously, the situation along the Gaza Strip had become
intolerable. One cannot send an entire population to the shelters every two
or three weeks. Except hitting Hamas on the head, what can you do?
First of all, you can abstain from “reacting”. Just cut the
Then, you can talk with Hamas as the de facto government of
Gaza. You did, actually, when negotiating the release of Shalit. So why not
look for a permanent modus vivendi, with the involvement of Egypt?
A hudna can be achieved. In Arab culture, a hudna is a binding truce,
sanctified by Allah, which can go on for many years. A hudna cannot be
violated. Even the Crusaders concluded hudnas with their Muslim enemies.
The day after the assassination, Israeli peace activist Gershon
Baskin, who had been involved in mediating Shalit’s release, disclosed that
he had been in contact with Ja’abari up to the last moment. Ja’abari had
been interested in a long-term cease-fire. The Israeli authorities had been
But the real remedy is peace. Peace with the Palestinian
people. Hamas has already solemnly declared that it would respect a peace
agreement concluded by the PLO – i.e. Mahmoud Abbas – that would establish a
Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, provided this agreement were
confirmed in a Palestinian referendum.
Without it, the bloodletting
will just go on, round after round. Forever.
Peace is the
answer. But when visibility is obscured by pillars of cloud, who can see