Goldstone’s mission gets key acknowledgment

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.

11 thoughts on “Goldstone’s mission gets key acknowledgment

  1. William Burns

    It looked to me like Halevi was advocating the permanent reoccupation of Southern Lebanon and Gaza, rather than the Israeli Army attacking and then going home.

  2. Eurosabra

    Why aren’t you happier Helena? If YKH is right this is the end of the Jewish State, and its replacement by death, exile, and Hamastan. The reinstitution of the Jews’ normal status as homeless exiles and slaves of every oppressor is in the offing.
    Or “we” could utterly destroy the genocidal Hamas and Hezbollah organizations. Hobson’s Choice, the only choice given the Jews, when not Sophie’s.

  3. Howard

    The Goldstone report is laden with pure fictions, factual errors, outright fabrications of points international law, double standards, outright refusal to investigate evidence bearing on Israel’s innocence, refusal to investigate the evidence of Hamas actions that were directly relevant to Israeli actions, invalid use of information that was not available to field commanders at the time to improperly indict field commanders, use of certain Gazan witnesses so unreliable as to be laughingstocks if they were not taken seriously by this document, baseless characterizations as to the motives of individual soldiers based on no evidence at all, acceptance of debunked Israeli urban myths as “facts,” “proof” by *analogy* rather than by evidence, incident boundaries that were blatantly selected so as to exclude Israel’s right to defend itself and even attempts to claim that international law denies Israel’s right to exist.
    This report is IRRETRIEVABLY broken. It is a political document from start to finish. Its only purpose is to attack Israel. It does nothing at all to promote human rights anywhere in the world, and it does nothing to uncover the truth of the incidents that it supposedly documents.
    The UNHRC will attack Israel no matter WHAT Israel does; even if Israel were to somehow wage an absolutely mistake-free campaign to defend itself, the UNHRC would simply go to Hamas, receive a bunch of lies, believe in them utterly, not investigate their verity, and attempt to indict Israel for war crimes. And no, Helena, the result won’t be a cessation of military responses to Hamas terror attacks, because Israel knows that to fail to respond simply leads to more carnage down the road. No country – NO COUNTRY – can ignore ten thousand rockets fired at it forever.
    Honestly, the primary danger here is not so much to Israel or the US or other democratic powers, though there is certainly danger for these powers. No, the chief danger is that the UNHRC, whose irretrievably broken nature was already crystal-clear, is further destroying the idea that human rights organizations are anything other than political animals. And that’s a tragedy. Human rights organizations have so much to contribute in this world. There are some extremely bad actors out there, and human rights organizations could help to thwart them and eventually bring them to justice. But they can’t do that if nobody can trust them because they have proven themselves to be political “hired guns.”
    The boy has cried wolf again. How many times can anyone afford to believe the boy?

  4. William Burns

    Helena: Just because it hasn’t worked in the past doesn’t mean they won’t do it again.
    Howard: Nice example of a sweeping denunciation without a single fact.

  5. Helena

    William, you’re expecting Goldstone’s denouncers to come up with any actual factual refutation of his findings? None of them has yet.
    Howard’s bombast is a prime example of the fact-free diatribes launched against Goldstone’s report. As an example of the genre, it is pretty hilarious. (Except, of course, that the actual suffering inflicted by all the acts Goldstone documented– on both sides of the firing line– was not funny at all.)
    but where do people like “Howard” come from? Why do they bother?

  6. Salah

    Howard’s brain …No Fly Fact Zone

    “So why did the Israeli government boycott the commission? The real answer is quite simple: They knew full well that the commission, any commission, would have to reach the conclusions it did reach.”
    Uri Avnery (Israeli peace activist, and former Knesset member), “On the Goldstone Report” Sept. 19, 2009


    Palestine winning the legitimacy war
    by RICHARD FALK, is a professor emeritus of international law and practice at Princeton University.

  7. Eurosabra

    Actually, 2006 was an attempt to destroy Hezbollah “on the cheap”, with long-term occupation of any part of Lebanon precluded from the outset, and intensive use of theater-level munitions via air (of the type Hezbollah dropped on Haifa) also precluded a priori. The timing and tempo of combat was dictated partly by Hezbollah’s tremendous success in protecting and concealing its forces, leaving tit-for-tat destruction of infrastructure as one of Israel’s strategic options, cf. the Haifa railyard of IsRail, Beirut airport, etc.
    It is entirely possible that Northern Israel will suffer such destruction during Hezbollah’s next offensive that military, instead of political, considerations will dictate Israel’s next move, and with EVERY previously-tried post-2000 option failing–from withdrawal, to “balance of power”, to “limited war”, to the 1969-style Beirut Airport involvement–back when the Gendarmerie could rein in the Palestinian groups–Israel may be back at square one and decide that 1949-style occupation and EMPTYING of a buffer zone is necessary.
    I really think Hezbollah should be happier about posing an insoluble strategic dilemma and existential threat to Israel, even if it costs Lebanon all the (Shia?) infrastructure and habitations south of the Litani. Alternatively, they could go back to a balance-of-deterrence calculus, but the temptation to grab or kill Israelis may be too great.

  8. Howard (again)

    Hello, Helena.
    In my comment last night, I attempted to respond to each of your criticisms/questions regarding my original post. Writing the comment took some little while. Would you please consider un-deleting the comment?
    I don’t believe that that comment was either lacking in supporting information (which was apparently your issue with my first comment) or offensive in tone – certainly not in comparison to the outright nasty comments made about my brain at 1:24 and 5:35, and which have not, as of this moment, been blocked.
    Thanks.

  9. DancingOpossum

    Really, you really think having Obama as president will make a difference? Why do Obama supporters continue to believe this in the face of all the contrary evidence?
    Obama is, if anything, worse on this issue than Bush was. And I say this as someone who thought Dubya was the worst president ever (although Obama is in strong contention right now). Obama’s state department was quick-on-the-double to condemn the Goldstone report at Israel’s behest, he has allowed Netanyhu to make an utter fool of him by publicly defying him on settlement freezes with zero consequence, and his remarks about the massacre in Gaza were utterly cold-blooded.
    Think back: It was actually Dubya–yes, Dubya!–who warned the neocons to back off on threatening to invade Iran and stop talking about it. He was also starting to get serious on settlement freezes. It’s Obama, now, who is warmongering as fast and furious as the worst neocon’s biggest wet dream, and soon we’ll be at war not only in Iraq and Afghanistan (oh yeah, Mr. Antiwar!) but also in Iran. Sweet!
    Please. The blinders that some liberals wear for Obama render me stunned.

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