Sunday, March 09, 2008

Endgame in Megiddo?

Sam Kiley - The Observer

Faced with a doomsday scenario, Israel must sit down with Hamas

Quick to celebrate, and quick to erect the green flags of its movement outside the home of the Palestinian who murdered eight Jews in Jerusalem last week, Hamas is setting the agenda for politics in the region and a trap for Israel.

It is a doomsday scenario and goes like this: Hamas claims responsibility for the Jerusalem murders (which it apparently did on Friday), continues to rain rockets into the Israeli towns of Ashkelon and Sderot, Israel's government orders a massive invasion of Hamas-controlled Gaza to 'topple' Hamas. So far, so local.

But while Israel is flattening Gaza and carrying out Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilna'i's threat of a shoah or (near) holocaust, Hizbollah launches a massive attack on Israel in the north with modern rockets supplied through Syria by Iran. The US navy, which recently moved three battleships close to Lebanon's shores, is ordered to help defend Israel and fires cruise missiles into Hizbollah and Syrian army positions. Iran retaliates. The rest is ashes.

A bit far-fetched? A narrative for one of Tim LaHaye's 'end time' Armageddon prophecy novels, which sell in their millions to America's Christian fundamentalist audience? Maybe.

Since Israel's disastrous invasion of Lebanon in 2006 in response to rocket attacks and the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by its fighters, Hizbollah has been itching for a rematch. When Imad Fayez Mugniyeh, Hizbollah's military chief and author of dozens of terrorist attacks, was assassinated last month, the Islamic movement promised bloody revenge.

Hizbollah has no doubt been flooded with military hardware from Iran, where Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made no secret of his desire to destroy Israel. He also shares some of the fantasies of extremist Christians that the end is nigh, that this is desirable, and that a messiah (or mahdi) will rise out of the ashes of a final battle between good and evil at Armageddon (a real place, now called Megiddo, in northern Israel).

Even if Hamas and Hizbollah's ambitions remain more mundane, trapping Israel into a massive attack on Gaza remains a significant threat to the Jewish state, not least because in a US election year another Middle Eastern conflagration will strengthen growing American fears that Israel is not a strategic asset in the region but a liability.

Hamas remains popular on the West Bank, and dominant in Gaza, as much for what it stands for as for what it is not. It is not the Palestinian Authority or Fatah, the movement founded by Yasser Arafat, which has been in on-off talks with Israel since 1993. The negotiations, from a Palestinian perspective, have yielded nothing, but have produced a class of sharp-suited professional talkers, President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat among them.

Hamas, meanwhile, has been 'martyred'. Aid from the EU and the US intended to keep the administration of the Palestinian territories alive was cut the moment Hamas was elected in 2006, and is now only channelled to the West Bank, which is under PA/Fatah control.

Since Hamas took over from the PA/ Fatah in a civil war in Gaza last year, the enclave of 1.5 million people has been under a strangulating siege imposed by Israel in response to the Islamic movement's almost daily rocket attacks. Gazans feel collectively punished for the actions of Hamas and are often more likely to support the organisation.

Ahmed Yusef, senior adviser to the Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, (who is in hiding from Israeli attack) said Hamas wanted negotiations with Israel. Although it is committed to the destruction of the 'Zionist entity', he said 'we could put that to one side for five or 10 years and see how peace worked out'.

This is hardly an olive branch. Hamas has been labelled a terrorist organisation by the US, the UK, and most of Israel's backers. Yusef said: 'So what? Negotiations are between enemies, not friends.'

But Hamas's desire for negotiations does offer Israel a way out of Hamas's doomsday trap, and, according to a recent poll in Israel's leading daily newspaper Ha'aretz, 64 per cent of Israelis agree. They said what was until recently unthinkable - that Israel should talk to Hamas.

If Israel defied Washington and talked to Hamas, Palestinian support for its rocket attacks, which in any case cause much more suffering to Gazans than Israelis, would naturally wane and that could lead to the ceasefire the whole region so desperately needs.

11 Comments:

At 1:19 AM, Blogger Bar Kochba said...

Arabs in Gaza danced and gave out sweets as the cold-blooded slaughter of 8 innocent boys learning Torah in a yeshiva. Hamas called it a heroic act, essentially encouraging it. The Hamas charter calls for Israel to be obliterated by Islam and for the annhilation of the Jews. (This is not hyperbole. This is a fact). Such actions are evil. One does not negotiate or tolerate evil- one eradicates it.

 
At 5:49 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Bar Kochba:

Israel has the right to defend herself against attack, no question about it.

But on one of your blogs (if not all) you sport a banner with the areas of Gaza and West Bank blacked out and the accompanying text: "End the Occupation of Jewish Land". So presumably, after Hamas has been dealt with you propose to annex the West Bank, which you see as Jewish land. That would be the basis for an enormous injustice and assorted blood bath.

And if you succeeded at realising this pipe-dream, you'd find an old and self-serving map somewhere that would justify making inroads into Sinai, possibly Southern Lebanon and parts of Jordan.

Already some West Bank settlers are vowing to create new illegal settlements, one for each victim of the shooting. This way they can continue their illegal expansion, all the while maintaining they're on higher moral ground. And here was this old agnostic thinking hypocrisy is a sin... silly me!

 
At 9:05 PM, Blogger Bar Kochba said...

You have repeated this same nonsense of Jewish expansion over all of the Middle-East a few times now. I want to correct you. According to Jewish law, Israel should stretch from the Nile to the Euphrates. Besides that, any land conquered can be annexed. However, Israel will never and should NEVER start a war for territory. If a war does start, however, it should be made clear to the enemy that any land liberated will not be given back. It is insane for the Arabs to start wars with Israel, lose territory, and expect it returned. A victor does not give land back to a loser.

You call Israeli settlements illegal. Why should be illegal for a Jew to live in Judea and Samaria any more for a Jew to live in Canada, Europe or the US? I do not see how this is a matter of not having the moral highground. Jews have every political, historical and religious right to live in Judea and Samaria and there is no valid reason for Jews to be denied that right simply because they are Jews.

 
At 1:43 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Bar Kochba:

You are in fact a total hypocrite. You define Israel as you see fit according to 'Jewish Law' (which has no bearing in international law), then claim OTHERS talk about Israeli expansionism.

'Besides that, any land conquered can be annexed'

Not under international law. Not anymore since a long time.

I have never said that Jews shouldn't be allowed to live in Judea and Samaria but to do so they will have to accept Palestinian rule, period.

'... simply because they are Jews.' is the sort of paranoid invective to which I've grown entirely accustomed from the Ultra Far Jewish Right. Always willing to imply anti-Semitism, right? Right...

 
At 8:42 PM, Blogger Bar Kochba said...

You have said numerous times that 'there are no religions of peace' becasue Torah-nuts like me will use Judaism as a pretext for constant expansion. I was just explaining to you why that thinking is flawed.

Gert, can you name me any country that gave back land conquered in a defensive war? Stephen Schwebel, formerly President of the International Court of Justice, notes that a country acting in self-defense may seize and occupy territory when necessary to protect itself. Schwebel also observes that a state may require, as a condition for its withdrawal, security measures designed to ensure its citizens are not menaced again from that territory.

According to Eugene Rostow, a former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the Johnson Administration, Resolution 242 gives Israel a legal right to be in the West Bank. The resolution. Rostow noted, "allows Israel to administer the territories" it won in 1967 "until 'a just and lasting peace in the Middle East' is achieved," Rostow wrote.

See this post: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Blogs/Blog.aspx/3 about the Two State Final Solution.

'I have never said that Jews shouldn't be allowed to live in Judea and Samaria but to do so they will have to accept Palestinian rule, period.'

If that is the case, then why do you insist on refering to Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria as illegal.

BTW, cut out the condescension.

 
At 1:19 PM, Blogger SnoopyTheGoon said...

Er... if I may intervene in that heated (as usual) discourse:

"The US navy, which recently moved three battleships close to Lebanon's shores, is ordered to help defend Israel and fires cruise missiles into Hizbollah and Syrian army positions."

Any resemblance of possible stopped right before this sentence, I have to say. This one, not to mention the ridiculous "Iran retaliates." is right outta this world...

Ehehe... I always blame Israeli press for being so provincial. Have to take a closer look at some British papers too, I see...

 
At 2:24 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Bar Kochba:

"You have said numerous times that 'there are no religions of peace' becasue Torah-nuts like me will use Judaism as a pretext for constant expansion. I was just explaining to you why that thinking is flawed."

You haven't explained that at all, quite the contrary. How else can a statement like "According to Jewish law, Israel should stretch from the Nile to the Euphrates" be interpreted than as the desire for expansionism?

"Gert, can you name me any country that gave back land conquered in a defensive war? Stephen Schwebel, formerly President of the International Court of Justice, notes that a country acting in self-defense may seize and occupy territory when necessary to protect itself. Schwebel also observes that a state may require, as a condition for its withdrawal, security measures designed to ensure its citizens are not menaced again from that territory."

Twaddle and sophistry. Israel has occupied the territory captured in 1967 and has held on to it for 40 years, in contravention to international Law. That's the long and short of it.

"According to Eugene Rostow, a former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the Johnson Administration, Resolution 242 gives Israel a legal right to be in the West Bank. The resolution. Rostow noted, "allows Israel to administer the territories" it won in 1967 "until 'a just and lasting peace in the Middle East' is achieved," Rostow wrote."

The US is Israel's greatest ally. It's not hard to find some American twit here or there that will provide a pseudo-legal justification for your plans, when in reality the case is clear: Israel must withdraw to more or less pre-1967 borders.

"If that is the case, then why do you insist on refering to Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria as illegal."

Because under international law they are considered illegal, THAT'S WHY!

Personally, I can see Jews living in Judea and Samaria, as well as Gaza, assuming they accept Palestinian rule (and that that rule would be just and non-discriminatory).

"BTW, cut out the condescension."

I haven't even started yet. You, the settlers and their supporters deserve nothing BUT condescension and ridicule because it's you, as well as the intransigent hot-heads on the other side, that will ensure this conflict will go on for another hundred years, while all the while not achieving anything at all. You belong essentially to a minority of trouble makers, who believe they have God on their side. For this, you are creating misery for many Jews as well as Arabs. And then you claim to be a righteous and moral person... Don't make me laugh, with your old books and your old maps and your old bullshit...

 
At 10:13 PM, Blogger Bar Kochba said...

Settlements have never been an obstacle to peace.

From 1949-67, when Jews were forbidden to live on the West Bank, the Arabs refused to make peace with Israel.
From 1967-77, the Labor Party established only a few strategic settlements in the territories, yet the Arabs were unwilling to negotiate peace with Israel.
In 1977, months after a Likud government committed to greater settlement activity took power, Egyptian President Sadat went to Jerusalem and later signed a peace treaty with Israel. Incidentally, Israeli settlements existed in the Sinai and those were removed as part of the agreement with Egypt.
One year later, Israel froze settlement building for three months, hoping the gesture would entice other Arabs to join the Camp David peace process. But none would.
In 1994, Jordan signed a peace agreement with Israel and settlements were not an issue. If anything, the number of Jews living in the territories was growing.
Between June 1992 and June 1996, under Labor-led governments, the Jewish population in the territories grew by approximately 50 percent. This rapid growth did not prevent the Palestinians from signing the Oslo accords in September 1993 or the Oslo 2 agreement in September 1995.
In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to dismantle dozens of settlement, but the Palestinians still would not agree to end the conflict.

Of course, the Arabs were killing Jews long before Israel even came into being. What was bugging the Arabs during the pogroms of 1920-21 or 1929 when hundreds of Jews in Jerusalem, Hebron and other cities were massacred? The "Occupied Lands" of '67?

 
At 12:36 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Bar Kochba:

Firstly I have to thank you rather profusely. You see, whenever a non-Jew points to the occupied territories, usually then lands a flock of Jews who'll tell the perpetrator in no uncertain terms that Israel is not an expansionist nation. And you see, by and large I completely agree with them. But you and your buddies make it so abundantly clear that among Jews too there exist strands with rather grand designs for Eretz Israel. And so I only have to point to these wholesome clusters of Jewish blogs that advocate exactly what you advocate. You're rather splendidly making my case for me. For that, I thank you...

++++

All your talk of peace agreements is just hot air: the truth is that you and many with you (but only a troublesome minority, I hasten to add) seek to establish, to use your parlance, an Israel that "stretches from the Nile to the Euphrates", probably Arab-free. In that respect you completely mirror those on the other side that seek to establish a Jew-free Islamic state of Palestine. Well done, you resemble your worst nemesis like peas in a pod!

"Of course, the Arabs were killing Jews long before Israel even came into being. What was bugging the Arabs during the pogroms of 1920-21 or 1929 when hundreds of Jews in Jerusalem, Hebron and other cities were massacred? The "Occupied Lands" of '67?"

For every Arab-on-Jew massacre you can name I can name a Jew-on-Arab massacre. As always you can only see things from one side.

And no, at the time of the atrocities you mention there were no occupied territories but how does that create a rationale for holding on to them? It doesn't, nor is that the argument you're making.

You should simply come out clean and say it loud: you want an Israel that is much larger than pre-1967 borders, stretches deep into Arab territory, presumably Arab-free and a theocracy to boot.

You, Mad Zionist and to a large extent sadly my friend Eitan, belong to a particular streak of Ultra Nationalism. You can find these in any culture, country or even county: they want it all and always end up with nothing.

You've chosen a nickname after a great Jewish commander, yet the most you've achieved is Repetitive Stress Syndrome on your index finger from tapping away at that keyboard of yours: a dedicated member of the 101 Keyboard Warriors...

 
At 12:28 AM, Blogger Bar Kochba said...

Gert, you are far more sanctimonious and self-righteous than me. Try actually reading what I write instead of making obnoxious and patronizing statements.

I, like any other Jew, have no designs on expansion. When the moshiach comes, Israel will take its promised borders. In the comtemporary days, we must never start a war for land.

I mention the pogroms of 1920-21 and 1929 just to show that the Arabs do not hate Israel because of the so-called "Occupation" but simply because they are Jews and they do not want them on what they consider Islamic land.

Israel should not return Judea and Samaria because that would put every single Israeli city in Arab rocket range and would destroy the economy. It would be suicide and indefensible. But to be quite honest, Israel should never give the land back simply because it is ours. Jews have lived in Judea and Samaria long before any tribe could claim England or France or any white man stepped onto America. You would never give your house up to a thief who claimed it.

 
At 1:18 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Bar Kochba:

"I, like any other Jew, have no designs on expansion. When the moshiach comes, Israel will take its promised borders. In the comtemporary days, we must never start a war for land."

You already have: 1967. Please don't tell me that it was a "pre-emptive defensive war", as it is now abundantly clear the war served a dual purpose. Or do you think the capture of Jerusalem was "defensive" too?

"I mention the pogroms of 1920-21 and 1929 just to show that the Arabs do not hate Israel because of the so-called "Occupation" but simply because they are Jews and they do not want them on what they consider Islamic land."

Up to recently the Palestinians were among the most secular of all Arabs, so your fart about "Islamic land" is typical of someone obsessed with religion. But to you they don't exist anyway. Nonetheless, just about every country in the whole wide world, including about 50 % of Jews, accepts they too to have a legitimate claim to part of the land.

"But to be quite honest, Israel should never give the land back simply because it is ours. Jews have lived in Judea and Samaria long before any tribe could claim England or France or any white man stepped onto America. You would never give your house up to a thief who claimed it."

Palestinians lived there too and in quite large numbers for centuries. Modern day Israel is a very recent phenomenon. In history, kingdoms and empires get built and lost. Israel is one of the very few notable exceptions where a lost kingdom was restored in modern day times. But to you it's never enough. Without the slightest shimmer of doubt, even if your wet dream of Nile to Euphrates came true, you'd find another map here or an archeological dig there that would justify further expansion....

"Gert, you are far more sanctimonious and self-righteous than me."

That coming from someone who is undoubtedly in favour of the wholesale expulsion (if not worse) of Arabs from the West Bank, Gaza and Israel proper that, Bar, is really, really rich...

 

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