Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hillary Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu on the Gaza operation

I think it's safe to say that Hillary Clinton articulated complete support for Israel's operation against Gaza, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets Israeli PM Netanyahu 11/20/2012:

Ari Shavit writes in End the war while you're ahead Haaretz 11/19/2012 that the current conflict started producing diminishing returns for Israel on about Day 3. Or maybe even negative returns:

The first day of Operation Pillar of Defense was quite successful. The Hamas military chief was assassinated and Hamas' long-range rocket capability was impaired, sending the radical Palestinian group into shock. The second day went pretty well too: Iron Dome proved its worth, Israeli civilians proved their steadfastness and Israel showed that it still enjoys a fair amount of international legitimacy and domestic cohesion. ...

If the operation had ended four days ago, the message that would have been received in Gaza, Beirut, Damascus and Tehran would have been clear and sharp: Israel has excellent intelligence, decisive aerial capabilities, resolute leaders, brave citizens and surprising international support. It's not worth messing with Israel. You'd be better off letting it live its life without provoking the country or awakening it again from its slumber.

But just as in 2006 [Lebanon] and again in 2008 [Gaza], Israel did not stop in time. Israel did not quit while it was ahead. And so, over the past three days, the impressive achievements of Operation Pillar of Defense have faded away while the operation's negative consequences have become more clear-cut. Israel's ability to strike at Hamas militants from the air was significantly reduced, while the harm it caused to innocent civilians significantly increased.
And the likely result? "Israel must now decide which of two bad options is better: a tough cease-fire or a bad ground war. There will be no clear victory in the Gaza Strip."

Aaron David Miller takes note of how the current military operation is highlighting the increased prominence and influence of Hamas in Palestinian politics (How Hamas Won the War Foreign Policy 11/19/2012):

Tensions and differences [among the Palestinians and their allies] still persist. But the Arab -- really Islamist -- Spring has created a major new realignment.

The real diplomatic coup for the Palestinians isn't Abbas's effort toward winning statehood recognition at the United Nations. It's the victories and growing influence of Islamists in Arab politics, which have given Hamas greater respectability and support. Two of Israel's most important Middle East friends -- Turkey and Egypt -- are now running interference for Hamas as their own ties with the Israelis have gotten colder. And these new allies aren't outliers like Iran and Syria. They are friends of the United States and very much in the center of the international community.

It's testament to the weakness of Abbas and the PLO that it is Hamas's rockets, not Abbas's diplomacy, that has placed the Palestinian issue once again on center stage. The Palestinian president is nowhere to be found. [my emphasis]
He concludes with the state of the longer-term non-peace: "The conundrum is crystal clear: Hamas won't make peace with Israel, and Abbas can't. The way forward is much less so."

In Brain-dead on both sides Foreign Policy 11/19/2012

On the whole, this latest series of clashes reveals the utter lack of imagination and strategic foresight on both sides. It is a pointless exchange of violence that will not alter the basic strategic situation one iota. The fighting may enhance Netanyahu's chances for reelection, but he was likely to win anyway. It may further enhance Hamas' stature and underscore the impotence of the Palestinian Authority, but the latter's growing irrelevance was already understood, if not openly acknowledged. But it brings neither side closer to achieving its core objectives. [my emphasis]
In The myth of Israel's strategic genius Foreign Policy 11/19/2012, he calls attention to the danger for the US of taking Israel's flawed strategic approach as some kind of model, saying that the current "foolish" Gaza operation is "part of a long pattern rather than an isolated incident. And one obvious lesson is that U.S. leaders shouldn't allow U.S. Middle East policy to be overly influenced by an ally whose strategic judgment is often even worse than our own."

Robert Danin looks at the perspective the Islamist government of Egypt appears to be taking in the current situation, which of course is still highly volatile, in The Crisis in Gaza CFR.org 11/20/2012:

I think it's shown us that there is durability to the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. When this crisis erupted, Egypt withdrew its ambassador for consultations, which is the minimum diplomatic step one can take to express displeasure. And throughout, the Egyptians have played the key role as the intermediary, being able to both, you know, talk to Hamas as well as the Israeli government. And you have Israeli and Hamas mediators in Cairo.

So Egypt has emerged as the -- as the central point here -- the fulcrum here for diplomatic activity. And so it shows us that the peace treaty is intact, but it's -- but -- which is not to say it's not under strain. And I think one of the reasons that the Egyptians were very keen to avoid a ground offensive is very much for fear that if there's a ground offensive and then consequent violence and bloodshed, that this will then lead to popular pressure on the Egyptian government to abrogate the peace treaty or at least take steps in that direction. And that's something that the Egyptian government, even under the Muslim Brotherhood, does not want to do.
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