JWN revived; Israel’s wars described

My apologies to loyal JWN readers that I haven’t posted much recently… Indeed, for most of the past three or four months I have been seriously AWOL as a blogger. It happens. I got really busy with Just World Books– and also, over both Thanksgiving and Christmas, with family things. (I’m writing this from San Francisco airport at the end of a fabulous family get-together in the Bay Area and Northern California. Fun to share Christmas festivities with so many Jewish in-laws… )
Anyway, talking of great blogging comebacks, did you see that bernhard of Moon of Alabama has taken up his keyboard again! That, after an 18-month hiatus. Hurrah!
When I’m not blogging, I miss it. This time, I even got to feeling that I almost lost my voice.
No time to lament that, however. This week is the start of the 22-day-long second anniversary of Operation Cast Lead– a.k.a. # 11 in the long, sad caravan of wars of forced regime change that Israel has launched against its neighbors since 1948. I used to describe Cast Lead as #5 in Israel’s wars of forced regime change… Then I realized I should also count a bunch of Israel’s earlier wars, nearly all of which had amongst their key geostrategic goals a forced change in the political regime of one or more neighboring countries.
So here’s my list:

    #1: Israel’s instigation and participation in the Tripartite (Israeli-British-French) assault against Egypt and Gaza in 1956, which had the goal of overthrowing Nasser. It failed in that goal.
    #2: The “Six-Day” war of 1967, which had the goals of seizing the West Bank from Jordan and hopefully also overthrowing the regimes in either Egypt or Syria. The first goal was achieved, the other two not.
    #3: Israel’s involvement in backing Jordan’s King Hussein in his anti-PLO assault of September 1970, which brought into place a very different kind of regime in Jordan– though still one headed, as before, by Hussein.
    #4: The military aid Israel gave to the campaign that the Lebanese Falangists and their Chamounist allies mounted against the PLO in Lebanon in 1976. This one was, essentially a standoff.
    #5: The direct Israeli military assault against Lebanon in 1978. This one aimed at putting pressure on the Lebanese to expel the PLO. It failed at that– but Israel did establish the Insecurity Zone deep inside south Lebanon in which it was to remain for a further 22 years.
    #6: The even bigger Israeli military assault against Lebanon in 1982. This one aimed both at direct elimination of the PLO’s self-defense capabilities in Lebanon and at pressuring the Lebanese to expel what remained of the PLO. It also aimed at installing a dependent, pro-Israeli government in Beirut. It achieved the first two of those goals but its attainment of the third of them was much more fragile and short-lived– lasting only until Pres. Amin Gemayyel made his peace with Syria in February 1984. Meanwhile, of course, Israel’s occupation presence in a huge chunk of south Lebanon fomented the birth of Hizbullah….
    #7: The large Israeli assault against Lebanon in 1993– this time, with the aim of pressuring the Lebanese to repudiate Hizbullah. Didn’t work.
    #8: The large Israeli assault against Lebanon in 1996– once again, with the aim of pressuring the Lebanese to repudiate Hizbullah. Didn’t work.
    #9: The large Israeli assault against all PA institutions in the West Bank and Gaza in 2002. This one aimed at directly destroying the PA’s ability to deliver any services to Palestinians and resulted in the dismantlement of just about all the infrastrcture the PA had built up since Oslo. It left a state of anarchy and hopelessness from which Hamas was to emerge much stronger than before…
    #10: The truly massive Israeli assault against Lebanon in 2006– once again, with the aim of pressuring the Lebanese to repudiate Hizbullah. Didn’t work.
    #11: The truly massive Israeli assault against Gaza in late 2008– with the aim of pressuring the Palestinians to repudiate/overthrow Hamas. Didn’t work.

… Well, I plan to write a bunch more about these wars– and the very evident trend they reveal, wherein Israel’s attainment of ever greater, more capable, and more lethal military capabilities has been matched by a decreasing ability to realize the geostrategic goals it seeks through its wars. Simultaneously, of course, we have seen Israel’s big superpower protector also launching a couple of large wars of forced regime change in the Greater Middle East over the past decade, and neither of those resulted in a geostrategic victory, either.
That’s the good news. The bad news is the continued suffering of Gaza’s people and the rest of the Palestinians both inside and outside the homeland.

18 thoughts on “JWN revived; Israel’s wars described

  1. annie

    thanks helena, i am bookmarking this page as some of these wars i am unfamiliar with. i look forward to you writing more about them and the ‘very evident trend they reveal’.

  2. Jack

    Yes, welcome back. I had almost given up my daily check on the blog. Glad I didn’t. Always a great site to learn from all sides.

  3. Wow

    Wow, is this article the neo-nazi take on things?
    Talk about an author twisting history!
    Did you goose-step while writing this shit? You manage to take everything that’s happened and in totally dishonest fashion twist it into Israel-bashing insanity.
    Which Hamas members advised you on this shit?

  4. Wow

    If Gaza does not want war from Israel, Gaza shouldn’t allow Hamas terrorists to control it.
    If Lebanon does not want war from Israel, Lebanon should not allow Hezbollah terrorists to partially run it and launch attacks from it.
    Egypt does not do these things, so Israel does not attack Egypt.
    Jordan does not do these things, so Israel does not attack Jordan.
    Of course, you will not address the insane islamic fundamentalists who surround Israel and the wars against Israel, or the anti-Jew discrimination in the entire Middle East outside of Israel. You’ll just bash Israel, in dishonest, exaggerated, unfair fashion.
    Apparently one can be a far-left peace activist and also be a terrorist-appeaser, as long as those terrorists attack Jews/Israel.

  5. Eurosabra

    The whole point of #1 is that is was a last fling, an effort doomed to failure in a world with Soviet nuclear weapons, which its practitioners might have noted as such with a little more awareness and intuition.
    #6 was Israel pretending to be Syria, and failing. Somehow I think Syria was quite happy with how well it controlled Lebanon. How Assad pere memorialized Kamal Jumblatt is conversation with Walid. How Assad fils memorializes Rafik Hariri in conversation with Saad. “What a man your father was.”
    I seriously hope anyone thinking about offering you a mainstream Middle East forum to talk about regime change and Israel hesitates because of the evident bias you display. Unless you want to argue that Bashir Gemayel rules Lebanon for Israel to this day.

  6. Helena

    Interesting to note that all that “Wow” can do here is hurl childish name-calling and invective whereas Eurodude– for all our differences– at least engages with some of the substance of the post. Looks like “Wow” never got the years-old memo that notes that calling anyone who criticizes Israel a Nazi is an empty, long-discredited form of rhetoric that serves only to identify someone who uses it as a personal incapable of presenting any rational form of argument?
    Eurodude, I take what I think is the case you’re trying make re #1– but saying that “the point” about the Tripartite Aggression of ’56 was that it was a doomed last fling of the two colonialist powers and their oh-so-willing Israeli collaborator doesn’t speak to what their geostrategic goal was when they launched it… Which perhaps you would agree was the toppling of Nasser?
    Dismissing the 1982 war– which left 19,000 Palestinians and Lebanese citizens dead, the vast majority of them civilians– as merely Israel “trying to be Syria” doesn’t do justice to the scale of that war and its costs, I think. And here, again, you’re not challenging my contention that that war– which like the 1956 one, was very clearly one of choice for the Israeli leaders– was launched with the goal of regime change in Beirut front and center.

  7. Eurosabra

    I think you ascribe too much ambition, power, and competence to the IDF, and I tend to believe Martin Van Creveld when he writes that 1974-78 was a period of “holding the line” of Israeli influence in Lebanon, and I think 1982 is the only example of real attempted regime change, if only because you have to occupy the capital, control the infrastructure, and have a friendly head-of-state in the wings. 1967 and 1973 saw the mobilization of sufficient Soviet forces in the Eastern Mediterranean (prior to the outbreak in ’67, and prior to late October ’73) that an Israeli crossing of the Jordan, the Hauran or Lower Egypt west of Port Said and Suez became unthinkable.
    That said, I think the French Army, according to every ex-para I interviewed for a thesis, believed that Nasser’s overthrow was the key to retaining French Algeria and they were the ones pressing for it, with Israeli involvement as a pretext. MIchael Oren considers Israel’s goal in 1956 to be the restoration of regional deterrence and an unforeseen result the preemption of some discussions of cession of the Negev to Egypt or Jordan that were taking place in the Eisenhower administration.
    “Pressurizing” assaults to turn a population against the local ruler only work in cases like the Rashid Ali regime in Iraq, where there is a crisis of legitimacy, and I believe that from the perspective of Palestinians and Lebanese Shia, Hamas and Hezbollah are the most legitimate regimes possible for Lebanon and Gaza because they explicitly promise “No Israel, no Jews” to their populations and the Jews of the Levant. Which kind of renders the breadth of Jewish identity irrelevant; there are mad variants of the PFLP which speak of “indigenous Jews” but they are marginal compared to Hamas.

  8. ron

    #2 – wrong. the aim was to break the backbone of arabs nationalism and the Egyptian/Syrian leads of the arab world. they sucecedded in that. the west bank was a bonus given to them by the americans.

  9. annie

    Palestinians and Lebanese Shia, Hamas and Hezbollah are the most legitimate regimes possible for Lebanon and Gaza because they explicitly promise “No Israel, no Jews”
    somebody isn’t doing their homework. or maybe it’s a result of reading oren the ‘cough’ historian.

  10. Eurosabra

    Well, I’m not going to try a single-state Palestinian-dominated government over Eretz Israel on for size. You could sell me a State of Israel in which Muslim-identified Israelis become much more coherent political bloc, because I trust the Israeli Islamic Movement to play by the rules a lot more and because a lot of the Triangle’s 1949-50 experience involved becoming Israeli at Jordan’s expense rather than their own.

  11. David

    Certainly #1 was a war of choice but Helena you also consider both the 67 war and Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 82 wars of choice. Whether Egypt would have attacked Israel in 67 or not cannot be known but the steps Egypt took, closing the straits, kicking out the Sinai UN force and other actions were not only sufficiently threatening but they forced Israel to maintain a level of alert that was not sustainable. Similarly before 82 Israel had a daily barrage of rocket and artillery fired at it from Lebanon. How was that going to stop without Israeli action? The above also goes for #10 and 11.
    I don’t know what you think Israel could have or should have done but there aren’t many other options.

  12. Eurosabra

    I don’t regard the list as credible and it is excessively cynical about Israeli motives, but one approach is to see what military and social policy changes in the various actors need to take place to bring about the primacy of statecraft over military signaling like the latest gunfire from Lebanon. Obviously Helena feels that large-scale wars of maneuver on Arab soil are bad, and cynically I would say that is because they preserved the state of Israel (’56, ’67, ’73) and Syria’s large Soviet-style army practices constantly for a nation-ending war in the Galilee, where the only difference would be that the shoe is on the other foot and Israelis fare even worse in Syrian hands than vice-versa. That this is not a credible threat now does not mean that Israelis’ defeats of it in ’67, ’73, and ’82 were bad things. Sinai is a credible example of how one takes large apocalyptic wars off the table, and so far those measures have not been credibly pursued by either side along the Blue and Purple Lines.

  13. kassandra

    Glad to see you back, Helena, together with the usual gaggle of Israel-inspired geese. To be “excessively cynical of Israel’s motives” is a non-starter. This is a country whose fundamental beliefs are based on chosenness and exceptionalism, that believes international law does not touch them — how can anyone ever display anything but cynicism towards such an entity?

  14. J K

    David:
    Similarly before 82 Israel had a daily barrage of rocket and artillery fired at it from Lebanon.
    No, David, it didn’t. Anybody who told you this is a professional liar.
    In the preceding months there were ZERO rockets and artillery fired at Israel from Lebanon, while Israel was desperately searching for a pretext for war and trying to provoke retaliations by bloody attacks. They eventually were successful in provoking a comparatively perfunctory response after the Argov assassination attempt.

  15. David

    J K,
    You are correct. I am mixing up my dates. Between July 1981 and June 1982 the PLO observed a cease fire on the Lebanonese border. The 26 Israelis killed and 264 injured during that time period were from attacks in other places.
    You may consider that “desperately searching for a pretext for war and trying to provoke retaliations by bloody attacks” I would call it self defense. Or at least I did at the time.
    I whole heartily supported Israe’s invasion before it started. As you imply, everyone knew it was coming. However once the Israeli army started moving the PLO just withdrew out of reach and after just a few weeks it became apparent that it was a mistake, a military solution was not attainable. The lesson has stuck with me ever since, military force has limits.
    Unfortunately my final point still stands “what do you think Israel could have or should have done”? Eurosabra said it better “[what] military and social policy changes in the various actors need to take place to bring about the primacy of statecraft over military …”?

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