Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gaza: Winners and Losers

Eight days of fighting or rather mutual bombardments between Gaza and Israel changed little. Apparently the fighting began because Hamas decided to violate the unwritten rules and not only be more permissive of another jihadist organizations attacking Israel from the Strip but make some attacks of its own. In an election campaign this was intolerable for Israel and Jerusalem decided to respond by a targeted killing of the Al-Kassem Brigades (Hamas's military wing) commander Ahmed Jabari. This in turn provoked Hamas into responding with an all-out barrage of rockets and missiles including the long-range Iranian Fajr missile. This resulted in Israel responding by bombing suspected rocket storage sites and other Hamas military targets as well as tunnels used by smugglers.  

The main results are that Jabari left his position as commander possibly sooner than he expected, but in the manner that he anticipated, and that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided to take another break from politics, this time possibly a final one. Hamas was not able to decisively intimidate Israel and vice versa. In fact, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may conclude from this that the response from Iran's allies to an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would be tolerable. 

Here is APN analyst Yossi Alpher's summary of the winners and losers.

A majority of the Israeli public, (article is in Hebrew) by an almost two to one margin, was disappointed by an early Israeli ceasefire and wanted an invasion of Gaza by the IDF. Expect these voters to vote for the Israeli Right in January--for Likud Beitenu, National Union, and the Jewish Home parties. The use of moderate force never seems to benefit centrist Israeli politicians because it simply demonstrates that there is no military solution to Israel's Arab problem and much of the Israeli public refuses to accept this and so supports those parties that promise the use of even greater force. In the February 2009 elections it was Kadima that lost out. Now it is Barak and Netanyahu. Barak split from Labor to form his own faction as so many military politicians have in the past ranging from Sharon in 1976 and 2005, Dayan in 1980, and Weizman in 1981. Barak probably expected to end up in the Likud, but with it moving further to the Right, this was impossible. So Barak returns to the private sector to make large speaking, consulting and influence peddling fees. Having served in all the top positions in government for which he is qualified (PM, defense, foreign, interior) he is forced with the choice of either stepping down in the future to take lesser posts or retiring permanently. Rabin gave him a precedent for stepping down to be defense minister after having served as prime minister, but any lower might be considered to be beneath his dignity. Netanyahu has been left isolated in the Likud as the settler representatives of the Radical Right triumphed in internal Likud elections to win the realistic seats. Gone are Benny Begin and Dan Meridor.

What next? Don't expect much action in Gaza in the next few months as Israel goes to the polls on January 22 and then has to form a new government from the resulting parties. (Here is the latest Ma'ariv poll in English.)  If Netanyahu really does plan to attack Iran he will keep things quiet with Hamas and Hezbollah, but if he is merely bluffing or trying to maneuver the U.S. military to do Israel's job for it, he will probably come down heavily on Hamas for any ceasefire violations once his new coalition is established after the elections. Hamas will probably attempt to rebuild and benefit from its new status of respectability in the Arab world.

I would like to congratulate Stratfor for their free analysis of the war to those getting their weekly free articles and to American for Peace Now's News Nosh daily compilation of the Hebrew press in Israel.


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