The Current Hamas-Israel War – An Israeli Perspective

Hamas may finally force the issue on Israel and simply lead Netanyahu do what he does not want to do, and this is to go all out against Hamas.

hamas-israeli-israelIsraelis like to throw to their Western partners, particularly the Americans, the claim that “they do not understand the Middle East,” so it continues, “let us explain to you” … and then the inevitable dialogue of the deaf.

First, because so much of what is happening in the Middle East is really beyond the intellectual/cultural/ psychological horizons of many in the West, particularly liberal-minded people, and much more so, those in the academic community.

But beyond that, the problem is, or maybe it is not a problem, the Israelis themselves are part of the Western world. It follows that there is no need for the Israelis to preach to others, then to get what these others advise about the desired course of action, and when that does not work, to complain about the advice…

Complicated? Maybe, but then welcome to the Israeli frame of mind.

Israel has had enough experience to know that any round of hostilities with the Palestinians needs to end with a clear-cut victory. If not, the Palestinians are the universal experts in turning partial defeat into a complete victory, and that means that any ceasefire achieved without such a clear victory becomes the beginning of the count down towards the next round.

In western thinking, adopted by Israel, preaching to the West notwithstanding, partial victory has assumed the proportions of a cherished token of moral and cultural superiority over the other side. Here it is, that we, the civilized westerners, really mean well towards our enemy, so we are in the business of sending messages, trying to explain, to convince that aggression does not pay off, and could lead to bad results for the aggressors.

On so many occasions we maneuver ourselves to believe that messages can be enough, but then we tend to forget “something,” in fact, everything and that is what really matters, which is, that we need to convince the other side. But alas, how sadly they have their own notions about victory and defeat.

Let us go back to the two previous rounds of the Gaza aggression and Israel’s response in late 2008-09 and 2012. By all “objective” accounts, Hamas was badly beaten. Surely the innocent, poor Gazans suffered, and suffered a lot. My heart goes out to these people, as they deserve much better.

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But their leadership decided that “our” notions of victory were irrelevant, and celebrated a “victory.” When that happened, the count down to the current round started. And while it is always the case that opening hostilities is contingent on more than one consideration and interest, it is also the case that the Hamas leadership, whether civilian or military, decided that another round of aggression would serve them well.

That said, where is Israel? Judging by the decision to accept the Egyptian plan for a ceasefire, it seems that Israel is repeating the unhappy ending of the previous two rounds.

There is a welter of rationals as to why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon make this decision. If, as I believe, it had mostly to do with Israel’s wish to be on a par with the new Egyptian leadership, it was definitely a valid justification. But there is another paramount consideration to take into account, and this is how the other side views it. We may already know the answer, as Hamas broke the ceasefire. We already know that Netanyahu ordered the IDF to respond, but not to destroy Hamas militarily.

Hamas may finally force the issue on Israel and simply lead Netanyahu do what he does not want to do, and this is to go all out against Hamas. Going all out is easier said then done, and it is not necessarily a full scale ground invasion, but this is a discussion for another article…

Will Netanyahu live up to the challenge remains to be seen but he and his cabinet need to remember that what will not be done now, will have to be done sometime later.

In conclusion, destroying Hamas militarily is good for the peace process, and if Netanyahu opts for that to happen, he will also have to reign in on his right-wing militants, led by Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman. The Israeli premier will need to resume talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and serious talks will inevitably mean major political concessions, which will then will not be taken to be a sign of weakness.

Josef Olmert received his PhD at the London School of Economics, and is an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina. He has published extensively on the Middle East, and participated in Israeli-Syrian peace talks. Read other articles by Josef.