Is another Arab Israeli war about to break out?

November 19, 2012

Is another Arab Israeli war about to break out in Gaza? News reports of the last week suggest that is at least a possibility

 Sometimes global events seem to confirm the fatalistic view that as everything changes everything remains the same.  This week, [Nov 10-16  2012] the escalating bloodshed in Gaza and Israel seems too familiar to offer prospects of a meaningful peace process between Israel and its Neighbours.  

Too many war initiatives

There have been too many war initiatives followed by peace initiatives over too many years.

What the news reports are saying

The gulf between ‘maps’ of opposing views is well-illustrated in the following quotes taken from the BBC News Service and Reuters.

 Independent Jerusalem-based Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds

When Israel decided to assassinate Ahmed al-Jabari and continue its raids into Gaza, it chose to set the region ablaze militarily and politically… At a time when Hamas and the other forces expressed readiness to abide by the truce, the Israeli government made its party and electoral considerations top priority and thus decided to escalate the situation

Mordechai Kedar in the mainstream Israeli newspaper Maariv:

No doubt the liquidation of Ahmed al-Jabari is an earthquake in Gaza and around it… Israel should send clear messages to Hamas leaders: they cannot tour the world as diplomats by day and behave like terrorists by night.

Military correspondent Aluf Benn, in the Israeli broadsheet Haaretz:

 

The assassination of Jabari will go down in history as another showy military action initiated by an outgoing government on the eve of an election… Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is interested in neutralising every possible rival, and Defence Minister Ehud Barak is fighting for enough votes to return to the Knesset. A war against Hamas will wipe out the electoral aspirations of the ditherer Ehud Olmert… and it will kick the ‘social and economic issue’ that serves the Labour Party off the agenda.

 

Nidal al-Mughrabi, Reuters

 Israel is losing popular support in the ‘new’ Middle East, analysts say. In an earlier clash, the three-week winter war of 2008-2009, many Palestinian rivals blamed Hamas’s rocket-firing bravado for bringing Israel’s military might down on Gaza.

That war ended with over 1,400 Palestinians in early graves and a territory scarred by bombing, shelling and invasion. Israel lost 13 lives in the lopsided battle, and Hamas licked its wounds.

This time is different. The Arab Spring has changed the Middle East, and Hamas has more powerful weapons.

“Hundreds of civilians may be killed if the Israelis invade,” says Ali Al-Ahmed [a Gaza resident]. “But once they leave, rockets will follow them home, so they would fail.”

Leaders we deserve?

The maxim that we get the Leaders we deserve is tested daily.  Rarely is the test carried out under such tragic circumstances.


Netanyahu, Obama and the masks of command

May 21, 2011

Dennis Ross

When leaders speak publically they often have to address more than one audience. This explains why they have to wear the mask of command. Even more complicated is when leaders meet to discuss the fate of nations

The meeting

The BBC reported the meeting this week [May 19th 2011] between the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the USA.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected US President Barack Obama’s call for peace with the Palestinians based on pre-1967 borders. After tense talks at the White House, a defiant Mr Netanyahu said Israel was prepared to compromise but there could be no peace “based on illusions”.

The video clearly shows each leader wearing a (metaphoric) mask of command. Their words said one thing. The body language of each suggested something different.

Beyond the masks of command

Beyond the masks of command were two humans struggling to deal with dilemmas requiring superhuman efforts. The complexities are evident. The issues are simplified even if wrapped up in a label such as the Israeli/Palestinian peace process. Mr Obama speaks to those advocating a tougher line with Israel, and those opposing such a line. Mr Netanyahu could be seen as addressing somewhat different audiences, including those in and beyond Israel supporting a policy based on the pre-1967 borders, and those opposed to any such changes. Sometimes the simplification is made into hawks and doves, but who are the hawks and who are the doves?

Among the key players: enter King Abdullah and Denis Ross

Other key influences were revealed at a meeting this week addressed by King Addullah of Jordan. The New York Times reported that

King Abdullah II of Jordan gave his assessment of how Arabs view the debate within the Obama administration over how far to push Israel on concessions for peace with the Palestinians.
From the State Department, “we get good responses,” the Jordanian king said, according to several people who were in the room. And from the Pentagon, too. “But not from the White House, and we know the reason why is because of Dennis Ross” — President Obama’s chief Middle East adviser. Mr. Ross, King Abdullah concluded, “is giving wrong advice to the White House.” By almost all accounts, Dennis B. Ross — Middle East envoy to three presidents, well-known architect of incremental and painstaking diplomacy in the Middle East that eschews game-changing plays — is Israel’s friend in the Obama White House and one of the most influential behind-the-scenes figures in town. His strategy sometimes contrasts sharply with that of a president who has bold instincts and a willingness to elevate the plight of the Palestinians to a status equal to that of the Israelis.

Easy for journalists to campaign

The highly respected English journalist Robert Fisk writing in the Independent has dismissed Obama as duplicitous and weak for failing to act decisively over the fate of the Palestinians. But it is easy for journalists to campaign as if there were no dilemmas of leadership. They do not have to offer strategies within the complex and extended processes involved in diplomacy and military adventures.

A more balanced view of the complexities of the situation was provided by Al Jazeera, quoting Mr Fisk as providing one strand of the argument.