Global, Israel, Justice, Politics

For the Sake of Peace, Pray for the IDF

Here’s my thesis: The best thing that can happen for peace in the Middle East, today, is a decisive military victory for the IDF in Gaza – not an immediate ceasefire. Now that you’ve read that, take a minute to get angry, yell at me, tell me I’m wrong, and the like. Good. Next step, let me explain myself.

I am not going to discuss the question of whether this operation was a good idea, or a beneficial one. I honestly don’t know. I hear arguments on both sides, and I’m not convinced either way. That’s a question for historians, political scientists and ethicists. The question that we must ask ourselves is, “What to do now?” What is the best thing that can happen today? What ought we tell our elected representatives?
Right now, a lot of us on the left are pushing for a ceasefire. There are plenty of good reasons for this, including the suffering of both the Palestinian and Israeli people. Also, as has been pointed out, time and again, every act of violence on either side hardens the hearts of the victims, and lessens the prospects of peace in the future. There is also the pragmatic concern for Israel. If the war continues without a ceasefire, Israel risks making a fool out of itself, a la the Second Lebanon War. All of this made sense to me, and I agreed, until Israel launched the ground assault.
With that attack, the Israeli government rolled a scary pair of dice. The stakes are huge. A loss means an emboldened Hamas, a further erosion of Israel’s deterrent capability, and perhaps most clearly it means that Binyamin Netanyahu becomes the next prime minister, with a huge mandate. For the past while, Netanyahu has been running as a tough guy. He’s taunted the government daily, telling them that they’re not doing enough to protect Israel’s southern residents. Every rocket that was fired meant a new vote for Bibi. This pressure, perhaps more than any other one, is what forced Israel’s hand this winter.
On the other hand, success means the facts on the ground are changed. The South is safer – for the time being, Israel’s deterrent capability is enhanced, and Hamas is further isolated and weakened, which in turn emboldens Fatah. As for the internal politics, polls released this week already showed Bibi’s decline, with Labor suddenly turning itself into a serious contender.
I’ll give you another way of looking at this too. Henry Kissinger has an interesting take on the ’73 war. His idea is that after the resounding loss in ’67, Egypt was terribly embarrassed. It needed ’73 to reestablish its own confidence. After that victory, Sadat was then able to engage with Israel and sign the Camp David peace treaty. I wonder if this war can function the same way as ’73. If Israelis feel that they have the ability to defend themselves against aggression, then they will be more willing to compromise and sign a treaty. If, on the other hand, Israelis still feel weak and vulnerable, there is no way that they will be willing to further jeopardize their security.
So, here’s the deal. It’s not clear which way this war will go, but military success means that the ground is set for a possible peace settlement. A premature ceasefire guarantees a strategic loss for Israel, and the end for any potential agreement. The worst thing that we can do for Israel, for Palestine, and for peace in the region is ask our congressmen to press Israel for a ceasefire. It is counter-intuitive, it hurts, but just as in pursuing war, in pursuing peace we must always keep strategy in mind before contemplating tactics.
Peace is not something that will happen over night. It is a difficult and long road, and we must always hold on to that hope.

7 thoughts on “For the Sake of Peace, Pray for the IDF

  1. IMHO, your argument is coherent, cogent, and well stated. Although I would add that while it is unclear why Israel escalated into this operation on December 29th, 2008, I believe it was inevitable. The situation on the ground was untenable. Hamas was arming itself with longer range missiles, as is evidenced by their use in reaching Beersheva.
    Whether this all out war was, at this time, the right strategic move or not, I do not know, and, like you, I have no way of knowing, today. I do believe, however, that given the trajectory of events, this outcome was written and sealed a while ago.

  2. You write:
    “If Israelis feel that they have the ability to defend themselves against aggression, then they will be more willing to compromise and sign a treaty. If, on the other hand, Israelis still feel week and vulnerable, there is no way that they will be willing to further jeopardize their security.”
    This is one of the dumbest statements I have had the misfortune to read.
    With whom will the Israelis sign a treaty? Hamas? When there is a Palestinian presence that is willing to negotiate, Israel will be at the table (and is with Abbas). When the Palestinian presence wants only the destruction of Israel, even at the expense of its own children, Israel will defend herself.

  3. History, who are you kidding? Hamas offered an extension of the ceasefire in exchange for opening of the blockade. Israel refused. The international community has offered to broker to two ceasefires now. Israel refused.
    Israel is playing an elections game with lives when it should be playing it with diplomacy.

  4. Your comments are incredibly ignorant, not just stupid.
    Victory with invading and murdering civilians in Gaza.
    Your only ‘victory’ smells of the ‘final solution’ thinking that is so deep in Western culture.
    Only when you try to understand your own crimes and the injustice you have helped inflict on the Palestinian people will there be ‘victory’.
    Israel and its fanatics keep thinking they can collectively punish Palestinians into totally getting on their knees and agreeing to be slaves. Heroically, the Palestinians have resisted.
    If the people in the Warsaw ghetto had rockets–they would have used them.

  5. Your analysis is too formulaic and structural, and that is why it is completely wrong. Political science punditry won’t explain this situation to you because anti-colonial struggles are totally antithetical to the field of Political Science. You completely mis-comprehend the nature of Palestinian resistance to the occupation since 1948. It’s not about Hamas. It’s not about Fatah. Neither of those organizations existed in 1948, and more will arise if either of them are destroyed, as long as the occupation continues and Zionism, the theory of Jewish supremacy in the land of Palestine or biblical land of Israel, reigns. Even if the IDF “wins” against Hamas, meaning it destroys Hamas, Israel will never win with the Palestinians, who saw their mothers, brothers, fathers, sisters, cousins, daughters, sons, neighbors, doctors, teachers, traffic officers, and friends die at the hands of Israeli aggression, whether those people were militants or not. Don’t forget that, because the Palestinians never will.

  6. Don’t forget that, because the Palestinians never will. Military operations don’t create “facts on the ground.” They create wounds that will never disappear and will never heal.

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