Smart people write about Israel, Palestine, Gaza, Hamas, and Operation Pillar of Defense.

Matt Duss in The American Prospect, “Israel’s Airstrike Gamble”:

In other words, a policy with the stated goal of weakening Hamas in Gaza has not only had the effect of strengthening its rule there but also resulted in the proliferation of tunnels through which terrorist groups have been able to obtain weapons.

In any case, if the past is any guide, Hamas will still be there after the fighting has died down. After more rockets have been fired and bombs dropped, and more people have died, Israel will claim that “deterrence has been re-established,” and Hamas will declare victory by virtue of the fact that it had, once again, faced down the Zionists’ military might and survived.

Israeli Middle East analyst Avi Issacharoff in The New Yorker, “From Gaza to Tel Aviv”:

The operation is actually a gamble for the Israeli Prime Minister. If he manages to force Hamas to agree to stop shooting, and to put an end to all rocket firing carried out by smaller organizations in Gaza (primarily those associated with Al Qaeda), it would be a great achievement for Netanyahu—one that would likely guarantee his win in the upcoming election.

On the other hand, if missiles continue to fall on Israel, and more specifically on Tel Aviv, as they did on Thursday evening and Friday afternoon, the Israel Defense Forces will be dragged into a long, complicated ground operation, which would lead to both Palestinian and I.D.F. casualties.

…[Operation Pillar of Defense] was a meticulously planned attack, based on stunningly detailed intelligence information, that resulted in a minimum of civilian casualties and the destruction of most of Hamas’ missile stockpiles. An hour after the operation began, Hamas found itself without its most admired senior commander and with limited capability to hit central Israel.

…The fact that Al-Jabari would have travelled almost out in the open throughout Gaza, without bodyguards, proves that senior Hamas militants felt nearly immune from Israeli attack. In the end, Hamas allowed itself to be dragged by smaller organizations, like those that identify with Al Qaeda, into a dangerous conflict with Israel, the end of which is still not in sight.

Janine Zacharia in Slate, “Why Israel’s Gaza Campaign Is Doomed”:

In four years, Israel’s playbook hasn’t changed. Nor did the Palestinian rockets ever truly end. But in the intervening years the world has changed. Most significantly, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who could ignore anti-Israel sentiment in his country, is gone. His successor, Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, may have more sway with Hamas, but he also has less power to resist Egyptian calls to sever ties with Israel.

…Israel is growing ever more isolated just as its regional position becomes more insecure.

…An Israeli ground response “would be the best thing that could happen to Hamas,” the former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, Ami Ayalon, told Israel’s Channel 10 news Thursday night. “Hamas’s strategy is to draw the Israeli army into civilian areas, kill lots of Israeli soldiers, and declare victory.”

…It’s time to declare Israel’s policy toward Gaza and Hamas a failure. This is not an anti-Israel statement. Rather, it is an honest acknowledgment of the facts, which are simply too numerous to avoid.

Israeli human rights activist Sari Bashi in Open Zion, “No To Collective Punishment In Gaza”:

International humanitarian law or the law of war and occupation are called customary laws and become binding because so many nations follow them. Why do so many armies see themselves as barred from engaging in collective punishment? Because it doesn’t advance any military goals. It doesn’t enhance Israeli security. It only makes civilians suffer.

Despite Israel’s withdrawal of settlers and permanent ground military positions from Gaza in 2005, it continues to exercise control over Gaza’s crossings. That control creates obligations, under the law of occupation, to allow people in Gaza the kind of access necessary for normal life, including the ability to market goods in the West Bank and Israel and to travel to the West Bank. International law allows combatants to fight combatants. It does not allow armies to punish civilians in retaliation for the acts of militants.

…Creative, responsible leaders know that soldiers and guns will not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and cannot bring lasting security to the Israelis and Palestinians living between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.  Only when we stop recycling policies that repeatedly fail, at great expense to civilians, can we open space to find a different way. Israelis and Palestinians deserve that.

Elisheva Goldberg in Open Zion, “Hard Left and Too Soft”:

Israel is left (pardon the pun) with a liberal camp that, on the one hand, is alienated, moralistic, and almost purely demonstrative, and, on the other hand, is almost pure ring-wing mimicry. The left in Israel needs to have its own political conversation, one that engages and is a part of a broader political universe. Until then, it won’t feel “Israeli.”

Former American negotiator Mark Perry in Open Zion writes in “Another Ceasefire Another Assassination” about his own role in nearly achieving a ceasefire in July 2002, only to have Israel assassinate the last, crucial signatory (Salah Shehadeh, then head of Hamas’s military wing in Gaza, the same role filled by Ahmed Jabari until Israel killed him on Tuesday), literally as he was about to be given the document for signing:

An Israeli F-16 dropped a one ton bomb on Shehadeh’s home in Gaza City. The Israeli bomb killed Shahadeh and fourteen other people, including Shehadeh’s wife and daughter. Seven people who lived next door, all innocent, were also killed. The then Deputy Chief of Staff of the IDF, Major General Dan Halutz later said that had he known that innocent people would be killed in the bombing, it would not have been ordered. I know otherwise. Later, he added: “What do I feel when I drop a bomb? A slight bump in the airplane.”

The next morning, as I walked from my hotel near the Damascus Gate to a meeting of the ceasefire team, I was approached by an Israeli official who we’d been dealing with. He smiled at me. “Ah, the naïve American,” he said, in greeting. “You had rough night.” I said nothing, but he continued: “You know Mr. Perry, you don’t seem to understand. We don’t want a ceasefire.” And he walked away.

Israeli international public opinion analyst and strategic consultant Dahlia Scheindlin in +972, “Gaza escalation: There was another way”:

 I can’t help considering just for a moment an alternate scenario.

Just over one year ago, the Fatah leadership presented its statehood bid to the United Nations. Had Israel not blocked the effort hermetically – forcing America to kill the process by steadfastly viewing statehood as an anti-Israel notion, what might have happened?

We can’t know. But Israel could have realized that Palestinian statehood basically along 1967 parameters was in its national interest.

Scheindlin presents a very reasonable and ever conservative analysis of how this circumstance might have played itself out and then writes:

In this context, realistically, the escalation, rocket fire, targeted assassination, mass civilian trauma on both sides we see now, might still have happened. There is also a possibility it might not have happened. It took me 10 minutes to play the scenario out in my mind, but I guess the Israeli government didn’t have that kind of time to waste before September 2011. So excuse me if I am not impressed by the argument “ein brera” (there is no choice). There are choices, and if we do not take them, we’ll have to remember that the next time people die.

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