Monday, December 24, 2007

Gambling with Violence in Gaza

The Guardian tells, with a scandalized undertone:

It is increasingly clear that Israel's policy in Gaza is not simply to halt the rocket fire but also to depose the Hamas movement. Yesterday Haim Ramon, Israel's deputy prime minister, confirmed that his government wanted to topple Hamas.

"We are fighting Hamas and are seeking to weaken its control of Gaza, and bring about the end of its reign there. Hamas should hand over control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority," he said.

A number of comments to this:

1. I can understand a principled position whereby violence is always an unacceptable tool of politics. People with this position should be called upon to condemn the Palestinian insistence on using violence to promote their goals at least as much as they condemn the Israelis, with no ifs and buts. I would disagree with them, alas, but on grounds of realpolitik. In a perfect world, I'd agree with them fully. (Actually, in a perfect world we'd never have to have the discussion at all...).

2. The Guardian folks aren't principled in that way. Not even in this article, which isn't bad by Guardian standards. Israel, we're told, is not interested merely in a cessation of attacks ("by makeshift rockets"); not a word about the Palestinian insistence on shooting the rockets in the first place.

3. Having had my swipe at the Guardian (yes, it makes me feel better) it does need to be noted that the Israeli gamble here is a bit fraught. At the moment we vaguely feel we're winning. In a series of successful attacks on Palestinian "militants", we have managed to kill only terrorists or fighters, and no civilians. The leaders of the militants or fighters are beginning to feel the heat, and may be suing for a reprieve; if by not giving it to them we can drive them further underground, perhaps even force them out of their positions in Gaza - well, that's certainly a legitimate goal of war, and we should stay the course. But what happens if anytime soon we accidentally kill 12 civilians, and then have to desist from our pressure with the rockets still raining in, what then? Or what if the Palestinians figure out a way to tilt the balance back in their favor: wouldn't it have been better to stop now in return for a lull that won't be offered then?

4. All the fools who endlessly preach about how violence can never bring any positive results should kindly note that the facts say otherwise. Violence will never make the Palestinians love us. It will also never convince the Israelis to move "back to Russia", as Dr. Rantisi once suggested to Ariel Sharon before Sharon had him killed. But sometimes one goes to war for less than total victory. Actually, for as long as humans have been doing history, violence and wars have been bringing results. The tricky part is making certain that it's the results you want and not the ones the other side wants.

5. Using force to get rid of the Hamas control over Gaza is a legitimate goal to strive for. True, they were elected in democratic elections (and then helped themselves along with a wee bit of violence, which brought them what they wanted, see previous comment). But that's just the point. The Palestinians are free to make their own choices... and to pay the price for them, too. If having a Hamas government is painful and they decide they still want to have it, fine. The fact that the Palestinians want a government that wants Israel to disappear doesn't have to mean that Israel must disappear.

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