Jewish Journal


27 things to consider about Gaza (including a short dictionary of useful clichés)

by Shmuel Rosner

November 16, 2012 | 9:27 am

Israeli military vehicles amass near the Gaza border on the third day of Operation Pillar of Defense, November 16, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

1. On the one hand: been there, done that. This round of violence is not much different than previous ones.

2. On the other hand: nothing stands still in the Middle East. During the 2008-9 Operation Cast Lead, Egypt was still under Hosni Mubarak; today it is not. In fact, strained relations between Cairo and Jerusalem might be one of the more troubling outcomes of recent events (see Eric Trager on that, and read Mike Herzog on what needs to happen for Pillar of Defense to achieve its goals).

3. The dictionary of useful clichés #1: The real question is how to stop.

4. The introduction of rockets to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is a step up in the range of rockets, but truly, the blood of residents of these cities (myself included) isn’t redder than the blood of the residents of other cities.

5. The dictionary of useful clichés #2: The real war is about public perception.

6. The “Twitter war” is the least dangerous component of the conflict, but still gets a lot of attention (see Koplow on the IDF’s mistakes in fighting this war). It is also the part of the war in which there’s never any urgency to reach a truce.

7. The dictionary of useful clichés #3: The operation will not end until its goals are met.

8. The goal of the current operation – unlike previous ones (see David Horovitz)  – is quite unambitious. Israel doesn’t aim to topple Hamas, reoccupy Gaza, get rid of all the rockets, change strategic realities. All it seeks to achieve is a cease-fire that is more durable.

9. What are Hamas' goals? That’s a tricky question. Their real goal is not to be seen as weak, not to surrender too fast.

10. Egypt is key, but what does President Morsi want? “Let's get the Egyptians to start a massive shuttle diplomacy to rein in Hamas attacks. If they manage to do this we in Israel will have averted a war and all its costs while Morsi could say that he is now the biggest power broker in the region”, writes Meir Javedanfar. That’s good advice, assuming Morsi actually wants to assume such role.

11. The dictionary of useful clichés #4: The problem of Gaza has no easy solution.

12. The role of the U.S.: Pressure Egypt to play a positive role, pressure Turkey to play a positive role, help Israel prevent another round of Goldstone-type trouble.

13. Obama is no longer running for reelection, so political considerations are not going to play a major role in the way he handles this crisis. This will be an opportunity for him to reintroduce himself to the public as an indisputable supporter of Israel – and for Republican opponents to consider giving him some well-deserved credit for doing the right thing.

14. Netanyahu thanked Obama profusely for his support, and he really seemed as if he means it. He also seemed to want to pull the American president to his side. Just to make sure he’s really there.

15. The dictionary of useful clichés #5: Israel has the right to defend itself.

16. Note this: When a paper writes that, “Israel unquestionably has the right to defend itself against rockets fired by militants in Gaza” there’s always a “but” coming (in this case, the “but” comes from the LA Times). Truly, the writers of such articles should be more honest about it. It is not “unquestionable” that Israel has this right – in fact, the whole purpose of the actions of Israel’s enemies is to cast doubt on Israel’s right to defend itself.

17. The dictionary of useful clichés #6: Israelis and Palestinians must go back to the negotiating table.

18. And speaking of the LA Times article - there’s nothing less relevant to the Gaza operation than the call for renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Yes, it would be great if negotiations resumed, but Gaza is a different story. 

19. Whether this will tempt President Obama to reengage the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – as Daniel Kurtzer would like him to do – I’m not sure. Probably not. But if Obama was planning to spend his next four years in office not thinking about the Middle East, Pillar of Defense is a useful reminder that presidents don’t get to decide what they do and don’t do – they are forced into action by events.

20. Proof: Friday morning, the Washington Post elevated the Gaza story to the top of its website homepage. The fiscal cliff and Petraeus were pushed downwards.

21. Forget all the sophisticated analysis and read this to be reminded why this operation was probably inevitable.

22. And don’t forget that the people of Gaza are suffering.

23. The dictionary of useful clichés #7: This war is about the coming Israeli election.

24. Israel politics: I’ve already explained that I see no problem with politics playing some role in the decision to launch an operation in Gaza two months before Israel’s Election Day.

25. One can argue that the operation is in fact quite risky for Netanyahu, politically speaking. When his most likely rival, Ehud Olmert, gets a meager 11 mandates in recent polls, rocking the boat might not be Netanyahu’s best move. What if something bad happens? What if Pillar of Defense is not successful?

26. In other words: Having to win reelection in two months, Netanyahu has to make this operation work.

27. The dictionary of useful clichés #8: What would you expect your government to do if rockets were constantly being fired at your city?

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