Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Say No to a Cease Fire

I've taken to watching CNN and Fox News clips of the war online.  It's odd to see people diving for cover in places you've gone for a casual Shabbat walk, eerie to watch your own country reported "objectively" as if it were some overseas war.  But I can't help but feel a bit disconnected from it.  I drive home from work, do laundry, go on a date, and come home to flip on the news and think, "Wow, Israel must be a really scary place to live."  Then I remember I live in Israel. 

I suppose there's not much to say about tactics, except to say that this war, so far at least, seems to be run far, far better than the last one.  Instead of brash generals giving private interviews to media outlets instead of leading their troops into battle, the army has remained tight-lipped through the whole affair.  The message has been so well-controlled that everyone is just sitting around speculating what those bright flashes and enormous columns of black smoke mean.

So far, there have been a few fatalities, mostly from friendly fire, and while each of these ruined lives is an inestimable tragedy, there no major disasters or blunders to report, at least for the Israeli side.  On the Arab side, there was, of course, that errant shell that hit a weapons stockpile hidden under a UN school which killed a few dozen noncombatants (and a few combatants as well.)  Some incident of this sort was inevitable with the Arabs' tactic of using human shields, but it's unfortunate it came so soon.  The incident will probably be remembered as the moment world opinion swung in favor of Hamas, and now the pressure is building to wrap things up and get out.

The main diplomatic push is for a cease fire, or a lull of some sort, and I have to ask: why?  Oh, sure, a cease-fire would allow Livni and Barak to come out of this with a piece of paper to show as a "diplomatic achievement" for the sacrifices made.  Despite the last eight years of conflict, the rulers of Israel still have not managed to kick their fetish for pieces of paper with Arab signatures on them. 

The argument is that because the Arabs abandoned their cease-fire, forcing them to sign one would be a humiliating defeat for Hamas, and a major accomplishment for Israel.  But history has shown that the Arabs will always claim victory, regardless of the outcome.  If Israel were to sign a cease fire agreement, then tomorrow, Hamas warlords will crawl out of their bunkers and declare to the world, "We fought the Jews to a standstill, and they begged us for a cease-fire!"  And if there is no cease fire, they will claim, "The Jews begged us for a cease fire, and we told them to get lost!" 

This whole game reeks of the 90's, when Israel tried to play mind-games with the Arabs and offer them carrots and sticks to modify their attitudes toward Jews.  It just doesn't work with a society so rigid and fossilized in the dark ages.  Furthermore, cease fire agreements always involve some sort of international force to step in between the parties, like UNFIL on the Lebanese border.  This not being their homeland, these international soldiers have no motivation to fight to enforce their mandate.  International forces generally just stand back and let the Arabs do what they please, and then run away if the situation gets really hot.  Cease fires also constrain Israel's ability to respond, since the Arabs are never held to their agreements but Israel is always held to its.

If Hamas chooses not to attack Israel, it won't be because they feel honor-bound to observe a cease fire they signed with a non-Muslim entity.  No, what would restrain them is the fear of Israeli smart bombs collapsing the roof over their heads.  Therefore, the ideal exit strategy would be to simply exit, with no diplomatic achievements or symbolic bragging rights.  Leave Hamas beaten and bleeding to pick up the pieces of Gaza, always afraid where and when the next blow will land.

When the time is right to leave, Israel should just make an announcement, "Our primary objectives of responding to violations of our sovereignty and weakening Hamas are met.  While we do not relinquish our historic claim to Gaza based on our biblical mandate, or our legal claim based on the League of Nations Mandate, Israel is concluding major combat operations for the time being and withdrawing.  We stand at the ready to act with a disproportionate and violent response, at a time and on a target of our choosing, should Hamas carry out violent actions against Israel or its citizens.   Have a nice day."

Of course, a government that could say something like that is still a generation or two away, but I have confidence we'll get there.

1 comment:

NormanF said...

I, too believe Gaza is part of the Land Of Israel and some day, the Jews will return for good. For now Israel must decimate Hamas to the point where they will be afraid to attack Israel again. They will never love the Jews so the only thing that will constrain them is the use of force not a piece of paper. Perhaps one Israel's enemies will love their children more than they will hate the Jews. Until that time comes, Israel must be vigilant and be ready to react with massive force if so much as one shell is fired in her direction or one homocide bomber terrorist tries to breach the fence in order to mass murder Jews. Israel of course has nothing to gain and everything to lose by treating Hamas as a legitimate combatant. It isn't and will never be.