While Israeli PM Netanyahu has been trying to downplay the importance of the Goldstone report, denigrate its principal author, and generally discredit the UN Rights Council’s whole venture of commissioning it, acknowledgment of the report’s real importance has come from unlikely source: the hawkish American-Israeli commentator Yossi Klein Halevi.
Back in August, it turns out, Klein Halevi had already judged that,
- The Goldstone report may well mark the end of Israel’s limited wars against terrorist groups. Israel cannot afford to continue to be drawn into mini-wars against terrorists hiding behind their own civilians to attack Israeli civilians, given that each such conflict inexorably draws the Jewish state one step closer toward pariah status. Limited victories on the battlefield are being turned into major defeats in the arena of world opinion.
Hat-tip Jim Lobe for finding that.
I happen to agree with Klein Halevi’s broad judgment on this point. (If we set aside his use of a designations like “terrorist groyups”, “hiding behind their own civilians”, etc… I mean, that is boiler-plate for people like YKH.)
Still, his core judgment there– that Israel may, for political reasons, no longer be able to undertake massive military assaults against neighboring populations of the kind it undertook in 2006 and late 2008– seems to me a sound and very important one.
There are a number of reasons why I agree with that. One key one is that those assaults were only possible because Israel received total political/diplomatic shielding for those actions (and significant support in terms of arms supplies, too) from George W. Bush’s Washington.
But he is no longer “there” for Israel any more. I do believe that in this respect, the presence of Obama in the White House marks a difference from the days of GWB.
Meanwhile, though, another trend has been occurring in world affairs, as well: the noticeable lessening in the global power balance the former Uberpower, the US. (As I noted in my IPS piece yesterday.)
Next time, if a belligerent Israeli leader wanted to launch an atrocity-laden assault of that nature– against the population of Gaza, or East Jerusalem, or Hebron, or Lebanon– I truly do not believe any US president could shield him from the speedy intervention of international bodies. And the revelations of the Goldstone report (as of all the previous reports on the suffering of Gaza’s people, as widely disseminated both during and since the 23-day assault) have aroused a new kind of conscience and strong disquiet among many, many US citizens, including Jewish Americans.
So while I’m not saying “another Gaza” is impossible, I agree with Klein Halevi that it seems increasingly unlikely. Partly because of Goldstone’s work. But most because no power in the modern world can behave as Israel behaved in Gaza last winter and not have its actions widely publicized, and not have those actions subjected to deep popular revulsion all around the world.
Hullo! We are no longer in the 19th century!
In his piece, Klein Halevi was casting around for ideas of things the Israeli military could do, if the “Gaza option” (or the “Dahiyeh Doctrine” as it is also known) no longers looks like an effective strategy. The suggestion he makes is a strange one:
- [This] untenable situation may well leave Israel no choice but to return to the post-1967 policy of preventing altogether the presence of terror enclaves on its borders. Better, Israelis will argue, to deal decisively with the terror threat and brace for temporary international outrage than subject our legitimacy to constant attrition, even as the terrorist threat remains intact.
Now, I think the only possible reading of that is that he is urging the Israeli military to strike even harder, deeper, and more decisively next time round, rather than being– as he had claimed they were– so very half-hearted and pussy-footing in 2006 and late 2008.
But regarding the 2006 assault against Lebanon, that is certainly not the case. Klein Halevi wrote,
- Israel’s two unilateral withdrawals – from Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005 – both resulted in the creation of terror enclaves on its borders, negating long-standing strategy. The policy of prevention was replaced by a policy of containment.
That policy of containment was expressed in the 2006 operation against Hezbollah in Lebanon, and by this year’s operation against Hamas in Gaza. In both those mini-wars, Israel opted not to uproot the terrorist enclaves, hoping that the partial flexing of Israeli power would deter further aggression.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Olmert and Halutz’s war aim in 2006 was– as I documented here— nothing less than the destruction of Hizbullah, through a combination of two (over-lapping) strategies: both direct physical destruction, and inflicting such harsh physical punishment on the whole of Lebanese society and its national infrastructure that the Lebanese people would “turn against” what remained of Hizbullah, repudiating it and dismantling it completely.
Well, that didn’t work, did it.
So 30 months later, when Olmert launched the second of the two horrendous assaults with which his name should forever be linked, he and his people were careful not to promise more than what they were confident of achieving. This time, not the complete “destruction” of Hamas, but its downgrading to a point where its capabilities had been considerably reduced. But oh, they were still trying as hard as they could for both decapitation and destruction… Which, once again, they failed to attain.
So now, Klein Halevi, judging that neither of those assaults was successful, is arguing for something even harsher next time.
I wonder what’s been smoking? His prescription is completely unrealistic if Israelis want to retain even a sliver of respect from the international community– or, to win any acknowledgment or cooperation from its neighbors.
Unrealistic or not, though, his prescription still constitutes extremely dangerous incitement, and should be treated as such.