Ted BelmanThe author is a retired attorney and the editor of Israpundit. In 2009 he made aliya and is now living in Jerusalem.
Gaza - Israel's strategy
Israel wants to destroy the tunnels and rocket launchers, but not Hamas because Hamas serves Israel’s interests by keeping the Palestinian Arabs divided (the reconciliation agreement notwithstanding) and to maintain order in Gaza. With Hamas in power Israel has a party to hold responsible.
Israel does not cut off the flow of electricity to avoid the backlash from the world, but Israel has a better card to play. The infrastructure in Gaza is falling apart. Electricity supply is intermittent. Sewage is a mess. But the lack of water is Gaza’s Achilles heel. Israel at the moment does not supply any water. Sooner or later Hamas is going to try to get the world to force Israel to supply their water needs and at that time Israel will insist on demilitarization in exchange. She will not allow Turkey to deliver water via tankers, he said. (I believe, easier said than done. The pressure on Israel to permit this humanitarian aid would be enormous.)
Iran is very upset with their proxy Hamas for starting this war and not only because Iran has invested billions in underwriting the cost of the tunnels and the supply of rockets and rocket building materials. Its purpose in doing so was not to finance a mini war, but to have the threat of an attack by Hamas hanging over Israel’s head to inhibit Israel from attacking Iran. Now that threat has been neutralized and Iran’s investment squandered. (I and others have long argued that Israel should take out her enemies, Hamas and Hezbollah, one by one at a time of her choosing rather than have to defend herself on all borders at the same time.) Iran may not be so quick now to rebuild Hamas, but Qatar is waiting to fill its shoes.
The “Arab Spring” has yet to visit Iran but it will, even though Iranians are not Arabs, but ethnic Persians who who constitute 51% of the population. Ethnic strife will surface, aided and abetted by Saudi Arabia and Israel. The major minority groups consisting of Kurds (7%) Azeris (24%) and Gilaki and Mazandarani (8%) already have good relations with Israel. Their populations are growing while that of Iran is in serious decline.
The US withheld from Israel, evidence of how extensive the tunnel infrastructure was and Israel now knows that they knew about it. This is not what one would expect of friends.
There is a major difference between the EU and the US. The EU is very concerned about the growing Islamist threat to Europe and sees Hamas as part of it. America, not so much. The EU sees Hamas as connected to the al Nusra organization fighting Assad in Syria. Both of them are backed by the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey. Many Europeans have joined al Nusra or other Islamist groups and on returning to Europe pose a growing threat. The EU has now come out in favor of the demilitarization of Gaza but has not presented a plan for implementing it.
The US is doing all it can to support the Muslim Brotherhood and its proxies, as does Qatar. They want to rescue Hamas and return to the ceasefire of 2012. The suspension of flights instigated by the US FAA is thought to be a political gambit initiated by Kerry to give him leverage to get Israel to agree the terms of Hamas.
The most significant proof is that the US withheld from Israel, evidence of how extensive the tunnel infrastructure was and Israel now knows that they knew about it. This is not what one would expect of friends. As for what is behind Obama’s embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood, he attributes it to the fact that Obama is a Muslim and an exoficio member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Perhaps Obama even sees himself as the Caliph of any future Caliphate.
US and Qatar have a symbiotic relationship. The US has two major military bases in Qatar and the Brookings Institute which has excessive influence in the US State Department also has a branch in Doha, Qatar's capital city. Qatar and the US worked hand in glove to destabilize Libya and kill Qaddafi who no longer posed a threat to the US. Qatar is a major financier of Islamist groups all over the Middle East, including Hamas, and in Libya. Recently the US sold them arms for $11.4 billion. No doubt these arms are for distribution.
Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Israel are vehemently opposed to giving Hamas any victory. They want it demilitarized and neutralized. Saudi Arabia slammed the door on Kerry and Qatar. So did Egypt. Emotions are running high.
Meanwhile Assad has succeeded in making Syria a Shiite country albeit a smaller one. He destroyed the Palestinian refugee camps and caused many Sunnis including the Palestinian "refugees", to flee the county to Lebanon and Jordan and Iraq. The demographic balance in Lebanon has therefore changed and Hezbollah is not as dominant as it was. Also Saudi Arabia has given the Lebanese army $3.5 billion dollars so that it could take on Hezbollah. That battle is yet to be fought, perhaps in conjunction with Israel who will join in the fray.
Syria and Iran have had a hand in building up ISIS. They want ISIS to be as ruthless as possible so that Syria is justified in fighting them. Iran wants a greater presence in Iraq and creating threats to the Shiite community is a good way to ensure this. Saudi Arabia on the other hand wants to see the breakup of Iraq so that Iraq can’t threaten them as it did under Sadam Hussein. So Saudi Arabia is also supporting ISIS. Israel for her part said she was ready to recognize Kurdish independence. In this regard both Saudi Arabia and Israel are defying America who is wedded to a unified Iraq.
Kerry is in town to see if he can force a ceasefire. He will be as unsuccessful in this endeavor as he was in trying to force a peace agreement.
Judea and Samaria and the Peace Process.
Netanyahu is guided by two principles namely, 1) never make an offer and 2) don’t start a fire, a diplomatic one that is. The Right in Israel wants him to stop playing defense and go on the offensive. They want him to start annexing some or all of the land and to ramp up settlement construction.
Though there was considerable pressure on him to draw a map or abandon settlements, he refrained. As for the second principle, he refuses to demand Israel’s rights to Judea and Samaria and prefers to stress our security needs instead. The present Gaza conflict has greatly strengthened his hand in this.
He refuses to extend Israeli law to Area C and even to just Gush Etzion, a "settlement" area near the green line and near Jerusalem on which there is almost total consensus because its lands were lived on by Jews before 1948. Doing such things would bring the wrath of the international community down on his head. He prefers to quietly go about building here and building there including in Jerusalem. Slow and steady wins the race in his view. The Right is frustrated with his timidity.
In a recent speech, he redefined what he sees as the two state solution. Put simply, for him, it does not result in a fully sovereign state for the Palestinians nor in Israel giving up control over Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley. That’s a start.
After all, the status quo isn’t bad. Israel controls all of Area C, the Jordan Valley and the eastern part of Jerusalem. She also controls the Holy Basin and the Temple Mount. What more could she want? I took issue with that stance. For one thing she could want to prevent encroachment into Area C spear headed by the EU. But she is turning a blind. She is allowing Arab construction to take place there financed by the EU. This is unacceptable. Secondly, by not approving the Levy Report and making it part of Israel’s policy, he is not confronting the deligitimacy of Israel due to the “occupation” and the “illegal construction”. The Levy Report concluded that the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply and that settlements are not illegal.
Recent polls show that 70% of Arab Jerusalemites want the area to stay in Israel. Look for Israel to start spending more money on the eastern part of Jerusalem in order to make her sovereignty there omnipresent and to ensure these Arabs will want to stay under Israeli sovereignty i.e, that the city will remain undivided.
Many Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria are emigrating. (I believe about 20,000 per year.) He believes, as I and others, including Moshe Feiglin, do, that Israel should encourage this emigration by keeping life in Judea and Samaria somewhat difficult for them. Netanyahu and Bennett think otherwise. Meanwhile Israel is winning the demographic battle. Her fertility rate is higher now than that of the Palestinian Arabs.
Trade is blossoming, unemployment is low, the deficit is manageable, the economy is growing and investors are beating a path to Israel's door. What can be bad?